My best friend's daughter Marley turned 9 recently, and her birthday wish was to celebrate at Disneyland with her best friend, my daughter Ruby. Marley had wanted the same thing several years ago, and Ruby went with Marley and her parents, letting Sam and me off the hook. We enjoyed a quiet weekend of Sleeping Beauty-esque sleep, and then some more sleeping when we were done with the first leg of our sleeping. We might have had sex, too, but most likely not. We probably just tacked that 10 minutes onto the orgasmic sleep we were having.
This time around, though, our families met in Anaheim for dinner at Downtown Disney (read: an overcrowded mall), a hotel overnight and then a day in the park from which I'm still recovering more than two weeks later. Such is the sacrifice I'm willing to make. Who would I be to deny my child and her friend the extravagant extravaganza of a birthday visit to the Las Vegas for Littles? Or, more affectionately called (by me), the West Coast Armpit of America? I'm not one to beg off simply because it's too exhausting or too crowded, what with a National Cheerleading Convention and the entire state of Oregon in town. Did you know that state has one spring break for its entire population?
Boot straps, people—I pulled myself up by them.
Actually, I wore my New Balance running shoes, which is against everything I believe in as far as my personal uniform is concerned. Running shoes are for running, after all. But desperate times call for realism, and this is how I know that A) I'm old and B) there's no end to my previously stated sacrifice.
I can't speak for my friend Rachel but, that day, I made it my mission to eradicate the word "no" from my vocabulary for the entire 24 hours. I wasn't about to ruin the Happiest Place On Earth by channeling Maleficent. I wanted to be The Special instead, heretofore known as Mom of the Year. Would m'ladies desire popcorn? An ice cream? A Mickey Mouse-shaped beignet? Yes? How about dozens of them?
It really was a joyous day filled with mostly great moments if you don't count the closure of a whole bunch of rides, including the one my kid had been talking about for two weeks prior to our trip. And if you don't count how I accidentally terrorized her by taking her on the Haunted Mansion. "Nah, it's really not that bad," I said to a woman in line who asked about it.
"You should see the kids who come out of it crying," Rachel's husband said to her, sarcastically. We had a good laugh about that one. Ha ha! Yes! Children weeping after the projected ghost rides in the carriage with you! Oooooooh, scary! Ahem.
Ears covered, balled up like a potato bug and sobbing uncontrollably through the entire thing would be an accurate description of Ruby in the Haunted Mansion. But the child persevered, happily finding the magic all around her.
Speaking of, I should admit right now that I go to Disneyland steeped in existential conflict. The non-conformist in me knows that place is a cesspool of the human condition (an overwhelmingly white human condition, mind you) worthy of the most serious people-watching. To get the most bang for my buck, I'd need to enter the front gates, park my derriere on a bench at the end of Main Street and watch the world go by for 10 hours.
Where else on Earth can you see a man with facial tattoos pushing a stroller and wearing a Donald Duck hat? Or generations of rosy-cheeked families padding by one after the other like rows of Russian nesting dolls? Or a Michael Scott-type in pleated khaki shorts and a Tommy Bahama button down gumming the World's Largest Chicken Leg while waiting in line for a root-beer float?
Where else on the planet are you repeatedly passed in a snaking line for a ride down a fake snaking jungle by a family of six that's headed by a mother with one tooth? Dentists everywhere should be ashamed when the price of a single porcelain veneer costs more than amusement-park entrance tickets for a brood. I recognize that life is all about choices, and in solidarity with the plight of LoneTooth, it wouldn't take much for me to blow off a mere cleaning in favor of It's A Small World. (Dr. Yoo, if you're reading this, I pinky-swear I'll make a dentist appointment this month.)
Despite this homosapien tragedy unfolding in the park, I'm instantly triggered, in a tearfully happy way, from the moment I smell popcorn and lay eyes on Sleeping Beauty's Castle at the end of Main Street. That's because I went every summer with my parents in their calm pre-divorce years—before the overwhelmingly heinous pre-divorce years. It's one of the few places I remember being happy as a child.
Specific memories are vague and pretty well overshadowed by one particular summer visit, during which several teenage girls wearing bell-bottom jeans slipped in a puddle of my brother's post-Mad Tea Party vomit. They were terrorized. I can picture it vividly, the park custodian who arrived a moment too late with his broom and dustpan cringing in awe of the sight. Or—maybe that's a mental image created by my mother's retelling. Memories are tricky like that.
But it doesn't matter. I hope my child and her friend someday look back on this most recent exhausting day with an overall sense of glee, abandon and, yes, happiness. And I hope, too, that the next time they decide to go, they're old enough to let me just sit on the bench and watch it all unfold. That, or let me stay home to sleep.