Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Happiest Place On Earth

My family never went to Disneyland. There are many ideas as to regarding why. Most likely it was the money. I'm also assuming that to my parents, nothing sounds relaxing about waiting in line in the sun for fast rides and getting wet while on the fast rides. $6.00 ice cream cones and silly hats with mouse ears that you will never wear again probably didn't help.

Instead, we borrowed parishioner's summer homes in exotic places like Panama City Beach. We visited churches and bookstores along the way until we reached the home where we would play Chutes and Ladders and watch cable television on someone else's dime. We would visit the seaweed covered beach every day until get so burned we couldn't even stand by the window.

Vacation in my childhood home was a time to get away from home and see the ocean. And if the ocean was covered in seaweed and dead fish…well, at least we got away from town for a few days.

When I got married, Austin and I took a fabulous trip to Canada for our honeymoon. I was born in Montreal and hadn't been back since I was a toddler. We had a great two week leisurely stroll through bakeries and nighttime carriage rides by Notre Dame. It was fun, and it was different. We weren't just getting away; we were going somewhere. Does that make sense?

Life happened and we didn't have the funds to go on a vacation again until last summer. We saved up for MONTHS to pay for plane tickets, modest hotel accommodations, and tickets to The Happiest Place on Earth. Oh yes, I'm talking about Disneyland.

My sister and her husband have been married now for ten years. Throughout their married life, they have probably been to Disneyland more times than Snow White. Although I couldn't fault them for having a fun vacation, I didn't really 'get it'. After all, they didn't have a child until four years ago. Where was their maturity? What was the deal with all the pirate guns and overpriced sweatshirts?

Moira saw a commercial for the Disney parks, no doubt, on the Disney Channel. And life was not going to be complete for her until she was able to see this wonderful place with her own eyes. We looked at pictures online, saw the map of the park, and looked at youtube's smattering of home videos of the famous Main Street Parade. Still, nothing was going to quench her thirst for cartoon trees and flowerbeds shaped like mice.

I didn't really consider going to Disneyland. After all, we had a small income and didn't have a home, and really….Disneyland? Would we have enough fun to warrant the cost?

I had a really strange (and now totally conquered) habit of creating trips online and sending them to Austin, just short of the 'purchase trip now' option. I sent us all over the world, sometimes in the best resorts I could find. One time, just for fun, I created one for Disneyland. I was amazed at how very affordable it could be. I sent it to Austin, along with a walking tour of Ireland and a shepherdess guided tour of the oldest dairy farms in Austria.
Austin sent me a Gmail chat window…

Are you that bored? Dairy farms?, The Disneyland one we could do if you are interested…but dairy farms sound boring, and plus you are lactose intolerant.


Well, sorry…I just don't really fancy going to see sheep.

No, not that part. We could GO?!?

We've been putting money aside for a vacation. I told you that! Don't you listen when we talk about finances? I knew you weren't listening. If you can get good flight prices, we can go.

Clickety-clickety-click, I had our Southwest itinerary.

And without putting much thought into it, the Cagle family was going to Disneyland.

We told Moira by pulling up a video of The Parade. She was ECSTATIC. So were we!

As luck and coercion would have it, my sister's family was there at the same time. It was good to go with some Dland veterans. They KNOW what they are doing. Tyson should work at Disneyland. I think he would be a good candidate to give tours on that boat ride where you see hippos in the water. I don't remember what the ride is called…but still, he would be great.
Moira packed two costumes for our two days in the park. I'll never forget her happy giggle and wide eyes when she looked down Main Street towards the castle. And then, of couse, was Toontown. What kid (or adult, I was soon discovering) wouldn't love Toontown? Everything is bubble-like and colorful and…let's just admit it…whimsical. And everybody needs some whimsy in their life.

We did all the stuff, from Peter Pan's ride to It's A Small World (I call it It's Not A Small Ride) and of course some mad souvenir purchases. We had asked Moira to save all her coins and dollars she received from birthday cards and helping to clean up the kitchen. My Mom, who I think secretly yearns to have her picture taken with Mickey, gave each of the girls Big Money to spend. We let them spend their money however they wanted. And a year later, they still want to wear their Disneyland sweatshirts all the time.
It was, as it promised, (one of) The Happiest Place(s) on Earth.

And I couldn't figure out why. Sure, it is always fun to see your kids smile when they see Minnie Mouse's shoes IN THE FLESH!


I thought about how I'm kind of anti-Princess. My girls LOVE the Disney princesses. They revere them as goddesses. They are in movies, they wear sparkly dresses, and their hair never gets messed up. I can't explain to them that the ladies have brains made of fluff and let men do everything for them. Can Ariel vote? Did Sleeping Beauty save herself? And Pocahontas? She just irritates me (the character, not the real person) Every time I see Pocahontas, I feel bad about not recycling or buying range-free eggs.

I remembered one of my favorite hours at the park. My sister and I had the three girls while Tyson and Austin went to ride the 'bid kid' rides. I let each girl pick out something from the crazy cool magical candy shop on Main Street. They all chose a big hunk of chocolate, in various forms. We sat outside under a red and white striped umbrella, and felt that Southern California breeze rustle through our Mickey Mouse ears.

It felt…relaxing….other-worldly (if you've been there you know what I mean)…and fun. It was a vacation. We spent time as a family, we enjoyed the laissez-faire walk through Fantasyland, and ended the night with a grand send-off. Who could ask for anything more?

We are lucky enough to be going again in a few weeks. This year we are staying for three days, and on each day different family members will be there. We miss our family so much that sometimes it hurts to even talk about it. Disneyland and family definitely go together, at least for a few days! I can't wait to buy Kendall, Marcus, and my soon-to-be-debuting Niece some ears.

I might be more excited than Sabra is about seeing Mickey's house. I am already in the market for a new Disneyland sweatshirt, because I've worn last year's model all the time. I want to share churros with Kendall and take Moira to meet Cinderella. And Marcus NEEDS a pirate gun.

I've decided to ease up on those Princesses. Moira and Sabra will love them for a time, hero-worship them for such a short season. They will go on to emulate singers and actresses, and (hopefully) other women of quality and sense. I don't think that my kids are stupid enough to base their life's goals and ambitions on Sleeping Beauty. They are young, they enjoy the sparkles and tiaras and the idea that Some Day….their prince will come. I'm not going to take that from them. In fact, for now, I'm just going to encourage it. Better to have too much hope than not enough, right?

My family goes to Disneyland. We go to get away from home, and we go…to go! For a few days we will absolutely surrender to the false notion that we are indeed at The Happiest Place On Earth.

Where else can you wear mouse ears and be cool?

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