Elizabeth asked me for two things for her eleventh birthday: a copy of the first Harry Potter book and a trip to Disneyland. I hopped online to order the book and find out what park tickets cost these days, and discovered that right now SoCal residents can get a “2fer” ticket (Disneyland and California Adventure on different days) for the same price as a regular one-day ticket. I figured we could just about afford to get a hotel room and do both parks if we, like, ate oatmeal for supper for the rest of the month, so I ordered the tickets and told the kids the trip was a go.
They spent the next three weeks in a frenzy of excitement; they even dug out old souvenir maps of Disneyland and CA Adventure that I’d collected over the years and planned a detailed itinerary. This was the first time both kids were old enough and confident enough to really invest themselves in organizing the experience they wanted to have, and I found their joyful anticipation to be irresistibly contagious.
We invited a few other friends along, but various family illnesses forced them to cancel out. I was disappointed at first, but by the end of the trip I realized that for this particular outing at this particular time, the three of us really benefitted from having the bonding time all to ourselves.
Elizabeth’s birthday was actually on Sunday, but we’d planned to avoid the crowds by going to Disneyland on Monday and CA Adventure on Tuesday. This plan basically failed, because both parks were inexplicably jam-packed both days. I have no idea why and neither did any of the other disgruntled park goers who were muttering about how they’d come during the week specifically to avoid this sort of thing. We didn’t let it spoil our fun though — as soon as we realized that the kids’ meticulously planned-out itinerary would have us standing in line for hours at a time we just started making heavy use of the FastPass system and avoided long lines almost completely.
I have to admit that the first hour or two were awkward for me in a way that I hadn’t expected. I’m not sure why I didn’t see it coming, because loving Disneyland is one of the few things Steve and I had in common. We spent our honeymoon here, and went back every few years to celebrate birthdays and such. It had been more than fifteen years since I’d walked through The Happiest Place On Earth without his fingers laced through mine, or sat in a little boat or whatever without resting snugly in his arms. I wasn’t, like, wishing Steve was there with us this time, because eww, it’s just that he had been part of the whole experience for so long that it felt odd to be there without him. I’m probably not explaining it very well. Never mind.
Anyway, about an hour and a half after we arrived I mentioned some of this to Elizabeth. She didn’t say much, but for the rest of that day and the next she would slip her hand into mine now and then as we walked along, or snuggle up to me as we stood in the occasional line between FastPass rides. In short order I was thinking about how much I love this amazing child instead of thinking about the empty place at my side, and pretty soon the last traces of leftover awkwardness were gone and it was just fun again.
There were definite advantages to having just the three of us there. Strategic decisions were made quickly with minimal deliberation and we were all on the same page as far as what couldn’t be missed and what could be lived without. (Although I confess I do not find that giant floating marble in Tomorrowland as endlessly fascinating as Luke and Elizabeth do.)
Most of the rides have been updated since the last time I was here. The Pirates Of The Caribbean has had some awesome effects added to tie it more into the movies; my favorite one was when the boats floated toward and into what appeared to be a waterfall with Davy Jones’ face projected onto it, talking to the riders as they passed through. I couldn’t see how the illusion was done until I actually went into the “waterfall” and realized that it was just a sheet of white fog with both water AND face projected onto it. Very cool. All of the updated effects on all the rides were very cool, with only one exception: the dynamite-chewing goat had been removed from the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride. I wonder if animal rights activists protested animatronic goat abuse….?
Probably the best makeover was at Tom Sawyer’s Island, which is now a Pirate’s Lair.
Toontown has always ooged me out a little, but my kids revel in its over-the-top weirdness. Elizabeth especially was in her element here.
All in all, a day of Cheshire grins:
And this post is already too long, so I’ll save Day Two for the next one!