“I’m so happy!” Andy beamed up at me with a face that radiated pure joy. His little brown eyes twinkled, and his smile was so big and so sincere that I was about to turn him toward his grandma so she could see his genuine, pure happiness since she was the mastermind and benefactor of this trip. And I was wondering how much Disney Corporation would pay to have that quote and adorable face on video.
“I’m so happy that I’m tall enough to go on the ride!” Queue screeching-to-a-halt sound effects. Because the day before there had been tears. Twice. Because he hadn’t been tall enough. Because even though he had eaten his healthy heart out to get from 38 to 40 inches, which would get him on _most_ Disneyland rides, he fell just shy of the 42 inches required to get on a few of the others. Never mind the fact that he probably would have been terrified of the rides (as he was of most). It was the closed door that affected him and his hungry, tired 4-year old soul.
Disneyland is a peculiar place. There is so much joy, so much fun, so much happiness and anticipation and excitement. But it runs parallel with so much discomfort. The standing in line in the blazing sun on throbbing feet with a tired, petrified 4-year-old while wondering when you should sit down to shell out another $50 for a mediocre lunch because the lunch you packed was already devoured as a 10:00 snack. And then it ends, because you sit down on the ride and see such joy as they point at the characters with stubby fingers and stare wide-eyed at the amazing engineering that has brought the story and the characters to life. It is worth every penny and every sore foot and even every tear.
Having spent so many summers of my childhood in southern California, I’m perhaps too familiar with Disneyland. Too familiar with the run to your favorite roller coaster. Too familiar with the long lines. Too familiar with simply what to expect. And it was hard to pull myself back from the eager 10-year-old still alive and kicking inside me in order to take each Disneyland moment a little more slowly and try to experience this new world from the eyes and steps of novice 4- and 6-year-olds. To stop for the photo ops with Disney characters, to forgo the fastest rides, to seek out the gentlest and brightest rides. It shouldn’t have surprised me that our perceptive 6-year-old, in answer to my question “What are you most looking forward to about Disneyland,” said something to the effect of: “I’m looking forward to seeing what it feels like and seems like inside.” And so I tried to remember just to embrace the atmosphere, even when all my 10-year-old self wanted to do again was race back to the line for Thunder Mountain.
Where my memory failed me was in recalling the darkness of so many of the rides, both the literal and figurative darkness. As we got on our first ride, boarding a a flying Peter Pan pirate ship and venturing into a dark room lit up only by little tiny stars, I could think only of how our kids would handle the darkness and the scariness. And it only goes downhill from there. Snow White is petrifying. Alice in Wonderland is really freaky. And even Dylan came out of Winnie the Pooh saying it was kind of scary during Pooh’s dream – going through a room full of mirrors and fluorescent magical creatures. And so the Storybook Land Canal Boats, It’s a Small World, and the Monorail were among the favorites. And despite the odd Pooh dream, Winnie the Pooh made it to the top five, as well. Though I have to hand it to Dylan, who, though absolutely petrified on the Halloween-ified Space Mountain, declared hours later that it was one of his favorites. We have an adrenaline junkie in the making.
Meeting all our expectations was Dylan’s excitement at seeing Cars Land in California Adventure. This is the kid whose second word was “car” and who has been a Cars fanatic from birth. His excitement at walking through a real life Radiator Springs and seeing Lightening McQueen in the parade was worth all the exhaustion. And he was so thrilled with the opportunity to get in every sort of car imaginable – the best being the Radiator Springs Racers, which we managed to get on three times in one day!
Another special experience at Disneyland was the opportunity to share it with our new crew member, Sara, who is joining us from Denmark for a few months. The kids took to her like little magnets, and Dylan would ride next to no one else. Not even over jet lag when we started our first day, Sara was a trooper and made it through more than I would have!
In the end, the tears, fatigue, sweat, and foot pain don’t negate the happiness. Rather, they spice it up. They make it flavorful and memorable. And we’re so grateful to my parents for giving us this opportunity to make these memories together. We will not soon forget them. Dylan is already ready to make more, however, and was asking today when we would be going back to Disneyland again. Sorry, kiddo. It’s going to be a long time. But let’s now go make some more fun and memories in Mexico for the time being!
(Where are we now? We’re in Dana Point installing our solar panels and waiting for Hurricane Rosa to get out of the way. We’ll probably spend a few days at Catalina Island, then a week or so in San Diego before crossing the border.)