This last week, my family and I packed up the mini-van and made the nine-hour trek to the mecca of commercialism and childhood fantasy, otherwise known as The Disneyland Resort. As a child, my parents only took me twice, once when I was four and again when I was ten. Being the loving parent that I am, I have lived under the daunting pressure that I would never allow this travesty to occur to my children. Every child should have multiple memories of The Happiest Place on Earth. As such, we have been a total of five times since my oldest daughter first turned three and was old enough to actually enjoy her visit. (In reality, it was more about her height than her age. We waited until she reached 40″ and was able to ride on a majority of the rides.) That was 10 years ago and other than the first two visits being within a year of each other, we have returned roughly every three years, each time introducing another of our children to the park that Walt built. This visit was our youngest’s first and will likely be the last time I see the park for the first time through one of my children’s eyes. That reality makes me a little sad.
But anyway, over these last ten years, I have learned quite a bit. When I was in my twenties, I had a much more romanticized view of Disneyland that has dimmed with time under the scrutiny of reality. With this visit, I was struck by several observations, most of which I will share with you now. Keep in mind, not all of these are necessarily Disney related, they are just observations that I happened to make during this last week while at Disneyland.
1. Why do rabidly political people watch the convention of the party they oppose? This observation actually started the week before during the Republican convention when I noticed a plethora of negative statements coming from my Democratic friends on Facebook. At the time, I couldn’t help but wonder why someone would be so masochistic as to do this to themselves. But as I tend to have more Republican friends than Democrat, it wasn’t until this last week that I really began to take notice of this trend. I saw status updates that referred to people yelling at their television and hurled insults in capital letters of LIAR, IDIOT and JERK all while I was trying to enjoy a sweltering day in Southern California with 30,000 of my closest friends. All the while, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What did you expect him to say? Were you hoping for ‘You know, I watched that Republican convention last week and everything Mitt Romney said sounded spot on. He’s right, I’m gonna quit now and turn the reins over to somebody who actually knows how to work within the private sector.’?” I mean, really. If I wanted to watch somebody I absolutely couldn’t stand, the Dallas Cowboys played football on Wednesday night and are much more enjoyable to boo from the comfort of my own couch than Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. I’m just saying.
2. No one makes parting with your hard-earned dollars more enjoyable than The Disney Corp. I paid over twenty dollars for wizard hat complete with Mickey ears for my seven-year-old son and didn’t bat an eye. That same kid will beg for a full-size bean burrito when we go out to dinner at a Mexican food restaurant and I will freak over the additional $1.75 knowing he will leave half of that burrito on his plate. There is a good chance he will never wear that hat again now that we are home, but it was worth every cent to see him running around the parks in that over-sized hat. Maybe it’s my intense desire not to see him get any older than he was in that moment that took the discomfort out of having a large vacuum hose inserted into my back pocket and all of my last paycheck (and my next one as well) being sucked away into the void of corporate profits. At least I own Disney stock. With my measly 56 shares, I should see a negative 5000% return on last week’s investment.
3. No one does synergy like Disney. We stood for over an hour, shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers, waiting for a water and light show called World of Color. Twice!!! I would do it again in a heartbeat. Because intertwined with the perfectly timed jets of water and brilliant colors on display was a recap of several Disney classic animated movies and Pirates. And there is no euphoria in the world like sharing a nostalgic trip through your childhood and your children’s childhood with a group of fellow Disney fanatics large enough to fill a football stadium. I must have mentally noted to myself no less than five times that I needed to watch a particular movie again. I intend to start tonight with Tangled.
4. Nothing can replace the feeling you get when you take your four-year-old daughter on The Little Mermaid Ride and have her get off and yell, “That was Awesome!”
5. Nothing worries me more than the fact that my four-year-old daughter is much more interested in wooden guns and plastic swords than any other toy available to her in the toy capital of the world. At least she wanted a pink Mickey hat. I think I smell a Quentin Tarantino movie plot.
6. It’s amazing to me that I can forget the pain and agony my body is in right now to the point that I will return to the place that did this to me. The last time I went to Disneyland three years ago, I got shin splints. On a previous trip, I caught such an awful cold I could barely function. Today, my hips feel like they have been hooked directly to a car battery and are being shocked with pain at regular intervals. Somehow, I will forget all of these things enough that I will undoubtedly return. I’m sure the memory of a cute little boy in an over-sized hat, complete with Mickey ears, has something to do with it.