This was my kids' second time to Disneyland. The last was four and a half years ago, long enough for them to have forgotten a lot and for the youngest to grow so tall that there was only one ride she couldn't go on. (To her dismay; she really wanted to ride Screamer. She's maybe an inch too short and might have slipped through with her shoes on, but Mom is paranoid and wouldn't let her try.)
Much like I did after spending weeks doing Costco book signings, I couldn't help but observe Disneyland and find several amusing things about our time there. A sampling:
I Can't Turn off My "What If" Button
In one shop, the kids made Disney-themed stamped pennies, where the coin is stretched out and pressed with an image. Glass encases the machine so you can watch it happen. As the cylinder rolled across one penny, I couldn't help but picture what would happen if a finger got caught in there and the cracking, oozing damage that would ensue.
I made the mistake of mentioning it to the kids. "Ew, Mom! Stop it with the writer imagining stuff already!"
Sticker Shock Is Relative
When I first passed a churros stand and later a cotton candy stand, I about choked at the $3.50 price tag. And we won't even discuss actual meals, whether in the park or out of it. If I wasn't careful, I could blink and spend a week's worth of groceries on a basic meal for our family of six. But by the third day in the park, spending forty bucks on a few ice cream cones (and on a brand found in our local grocery store) no longer fazed us.
Families that Laugh Together Have the Most Fun
Sure, we had our moments of groaning, eye rolling, and siblings vying for their own space ("She stepped on my toes!"), but for the most part, we had fun. Somehow we hit the Grizzly water rapids ride in California Adventure at just the right time two days in a row, riding it a total of five times. We laughed harder as a family during that one ride than any other.
Mom's a Child at Heart (And Sometimes Has Good Ideas)
I haven't been to Disneyland nearly as often as some people, but in the few times I had been there, I'd never attended the parade. This trip, I insisted we go to one. The announcement elicited eye rolling from the older kid crowd. I persisted. We got a decent spot and waited.
And it was awesome.
My youngest was tickled over and over again when princesses and other characters waved at her (or at least looked like they did). Ariel in particular did notice her, stroked her own red hair, then pointed at my daughter's matching red hair, smiled and waved. Made my girl's day.
When it was over, all four kids agreed that the parade was totally worth seeing.
Souvenir Choices Improve with Age
Last time we went, I cringed when the kids chose lame souvenirs like an electronic toy that mimicked a cell phone and had a calculator, a photo album (never used), and a squeezy plastic thing that oozed worms from a brain. This time, each child wanted to take home something meaningful, and in every case, that ended up being something they'd actually use that would last and they'd have fun memories from.
Dorothy Was Right
As fun as the trip was, when it was time to go home, we were ready. I drove the leg that went through Death Valley and eventually to St. George. Entering the gorgeous landscape of southern Utah sent a sweet surge through me. Home.
Part of the feeling could have been the fact that Death Valley is so dang ugly, but I have to say, southern Utah is gorgeous. (Oh, and I got to see the St. George Temple, which always brings me warm fuzzies for obvious reasons.)
SO MUCH happened on the trip; I could write post after post about it, including all the inside jokes that developed, but I'll end with this, my favorite "what the crap?" moment:
The Masochistic Woman
By day three, my hips, knees, and feet were killing me. (Note to self: call the chiropractor ASAP.) As we boarded the Jungle Cruise, I noticed a woman behind us that didn't seem to fit in. She wore a flowing, plum-colored dress. That alone seemed odd. Who wears flowing gowns in an amusement park?
Worse, the dress was held up by nothing more than a strap around her neck. Hm. Few rides are conducive to dresses, let alone fancy ones like this. And the California sun isn't particularly forgiving on backs and shoulders that are totally exposed to UV rays, which they were thanks to both the dress and her fancy up-do hair.
Huh. I thought. Odd.
Then the kicker: She wore four-inch heels.
My feet were protesting the seemingly endless miles I'd traversed (and the hours I'd waited in lines) in my comfy shoes. Why in the name of Dr. Scholl's was she wearing torture devices on her feet at Disneyland?
It wasn't until I noticed who she was with and how she behaved that the likely reality dawned on me. She and her daughter were with a man and his daughter. Both girls were about the same age. They looked so different from one another, it was clear whose child was whose. Based on body language, the couple didn't know one another that well. She flirted and cooed and at times looked unsure of what to say or do. And both had bare ring fingers.
I'm betting it was a date, and she was trying to impress the guy by looking hot. I'm curious: Did he buy into it? Or did he realize that she's a few Mickey ears short by wearing a get-up she could have attended a wedding in?
People-watching is research. It's a writer's excuse to spy, wonder, and, at times, walk away totally bewildered. It's fun to think of motivations and personalities and wonder why someone does what they're doing.
So I had to think: What if the location of the date was a surprise? Maybe the guy just told her a time, and she got gussied up, only to find out they were heading to the Magic Kingdom. Then the guy was the idiot for not telling her how to dress. So many options.
I was on the verge of blisters and tears with my good shoes. So her poor, poor feet! I'm wishing I could find her and ask if she was hobbling an hour later.
And, more importantly, whose brilliant idea it was to wear such a ridiculous get-up when it was bound to make her one of the most miserable people in the happiest place on earth.
I'm a writer . . . I'm sure I can use that somewhere.