It was nice to suspend disbelief and cynicism for a week, but as I told a friend I think I'll be glad to have my brain back, too. Kind of feel as if I've been watching television for five days straight. But I thought I'd share some thoughts about our Disneyland adventure before returning to our regularly scheduled blog programming.
We met a lot of 'em, including a whole host of princesses (princessi?). Most costumed characters were not allowed to talk, and none of us were young enough to believe they were real, so it was hard to get into the whole take-a-picture, get-an-autograph thing. We some of did it anyway. I'd post some pictures for you, but honestly, next to Cinderella, my face looked waaaaay too blotchy and shiny! I would look a little better next to Sully from Monster's Inc, but didn't quite manage to match his stride well enough to catch up and have my picture taken.
The autograph book idea made me laugh: do you suppose, after doing that for days on end, the "cast members" accidentally sign their credit card slips "Snow White" and "Cruela deVille"?
I suspect parents are more into getting their kids to meet these characters than many kids are, although a book I read told about one young boy breaking away and running up to Mickey to fling his arms around him, exclaiming, "Mickey Mouse!" His first words ever. He was autistic.
They say that Disneyland is a place where dreams come true, and I'm inclined to believe it. R. got to go white water rafting (in a way) four times, and several of us took a small plane over the most beautiful parts of the state. We spent time in castles and storybooks, jungles and deserts and caves, the future and the past, and we experiencing life in some people's favorite movies, all in close succession.
On the other hand, many of the attractions are designed to tell a story, and I couldn't always figure out the plot even if I sort of knew it in advance. Things were rushed, disjointed, and confusing, just like real dreams. After all, how do you tell a complete story in just three minutes?
Even though the Haunted Mansion was closed, many of the dreams were nightmares. There were skulls and skeletons galore, and certain death and cars and other vehicles going out of control. I was chased by a yeti and swallowed by a whale and much more. It was all a bit too much like MTV for my taste. I like the long version of things, and I like things to make sense.
This is what I like most about Disneyland. Music and props and shows and people who tell you to have a magical day and celebrate life. I mean, I don't want to live in a Disney-drenched world forever, but I enjoyed it. There was some great dancing, and parades, and fireworks, and I bought myself a CD of songs to take home - some of which I remember listening to on my first record player when I was about six years old. Only now I can put them on my MP3 player and nobody will know I'm smiling because I'm listening to Zippity-do-dah.
Yes, my feet hurt from all the walking, but it's actually a pretty compact place and there's lots of shade. None of us got sunburned or blistered or sick, nor did we get lost or separated inadvertently. It's a pretty well-designed playground, and the sixth member of our party, V., had a good sense of direction and after nine previous trips to the park, proved to be an excellent guide. We sometimes split up but mostly went places together.
I'll admit, we probably weren't the happiest people in the happiest place on earth...
- A., at six and a half, was opposed to anything that involved heights or anything that resembled a roller coaster in any form. She also preferred the few things we found where she could actually "play" instead of being a spectator. So, as I mentioned, she was frequently heard saying that she didn't like the park and wanted to go back to the hotel. There, in her eyes, there were more things to do. But she stuck with the program and didn't scream or cry when she didn't get her way. She's a good kid.
- R., aged nine, liked the scarier rides, especially those that involved getting wet, but between the long lines and the parents who weren't so jazzed about dampness he didn't get all that he wanted. (Also, there was a major tussle about the question of whether he could buy himself a light saber. The answer was yes, but that he'd have to leave it at Daddy's!) There was some complaining and disrespect, but not too bad.
- E., the mom, was stressed out quite a bit, though we did have some genuine laughs from time to time. What I think of as the "real" E. laughs a LOT, and I saw that a bit when we left the kids with their dad and went on some rides they didn't want to do. Life has sent some hard things E.'s way, and this trip was one of them. But she handled being thrown into close contact with S. pretty well. These last five years she's been diligent and mature about keeping the lines of communication open, treating him like an ally.
- S., the dad, was a bit grumpy at times and would have rather been someplace peaceful and quiet, but he managed to suck it up very well. He was great with the kids, showing both maturity and humor, was supportive of E. even in the midst of her outbursts. S. also took us to a "medieval times" dinner and tournament the last night, which cost a pretty penny, but it was great fun, too. Saw some very skillful riding and swordplay ; - ) I think S. felt a little guilty, after, for exposing his son to yet more glorified violence. But keeping little boys from such things may be a losing battle (as it were).
- My hope and prayer was that the major outcome of the trip would be that A. and R. would know that their daddy loves them, even if he only sees them once a year and doesn't always call when he says he's going to - and that he would fall in love with his kids all the more and keep them a priority even after he remarries this winter (that's the plan anyway; kids don't know about it.) And it's nice for me to have had this time and experience with E. and the kids as well.