Monday, May 19, 2008

Everything I need to know in life, I learned on our trip to Disneyland

Zig-zagging our way through whiplash-like LA traffic prepped us for some of the scarier rides like Space Mountain and Matterhorn. The only difference is on the rides, our fellow riders didn’t cut us off and give us the middle finger.

But it didn’t prep us for the beach. I tried not to stare at all the men in speed-o’s (something a cowgirl from Idaho isn’t usually privy to)—especially the two men in speed-o’s who were having their photo taken with a white bearded man in a multi-colored G-String. For a moment I thought we were on the wrong beach, but then he turned around to face me, and I realized that yes, in fact, we were in Southern California.

Loads of snacks and bottled water were squeezed into even the most obscure of places in the car. The water especially came in handy when Judd kept barking out that he was thirsty. I gladly obliged, congratulating myself for being so prepared. The sound from his lips suctioning off the top of the bottle after he managed to gulp down the entire 16 ounces kept him entertained until we pulled into the Disneyland parking garage. The wide parking area looked equal in size to our 1,000 acre cattle ranch in High Valley, Idaho, except instead of dense forest, there was acres of concrete. I was just about to comment on the large pond I saw in the distance on the concrete, but then I realized it was just a mirage.

I looked back and noticed Judd’s legs kicking back and forth fast enough they could paddle a small boat around Deer Valley Reservoir. “Have to go potty,” he managed to squeeze out in between agonizing groans. His whines quickly morphed into panicked squeals, and I knew we had to do something right away because we were at least one trolley ride and a 100-person line away from the nearest restroom. As I eyed the empty Slim-Jim can I debated. Should we? Is it legal? What if someone sees his naked bum out the window? What kind of mother would take a child out of their car seat with the car in motion? Judd’s screaming in my ear drowned out any other logical question and instead declared exactly what I needed to do. I stood in the backseat carefully holding the empty Slim Jim can in position. Judd looked at me with raised eyebrows. I looked at him and winked. “Go for it.” I started to panic as it looked as if we may need another can. I looked at him, then at the can, then at him again, then at the bottle of water he had sucked dry. Just as I was about to say, “wow,” my face slammed into the back of the headrest. “Sorry,” I hear Sean say. “But I really think this spot is closer.”

After spraying each child with enough sunscreen to burn a hole in the ozone directly above us, we march our way into the place that guarantees our dreams will come true. In one hand, Judd’s tiny fingers, in the other, the Slim Jim can, held six inches from my body. I was positive that everyone around us knew what that Slim Jim can held, their sunglasses really x-ray vision lenses.

As we walked through the pearly gates of fun, we were met on one side by a band with an exuberant tuba player (I still can’t hear middle C in that ear) belting out tunes that made me want to dance like no one could see me. On my other side I discretely watched a lady yell at her 7-year old son, “Are ya gonna cry? Huh? Are ya? Are ya gonna cry?” I wanted to say, “Look lady, it’s Disneyland.” But she wouldn’t have been able to hear me above the band. Besides, I’ve reached that point many times in my motherhood career.

As we muscled our way through the crowd to Space Mountain, a large, curly headed man in front of me sneezes. One second later I feel a mist of wet droplets cling to my face and nearly hyperventilate until I spot a string of misters above my head. A close one for this germ-a-phobe.

We screamed all the way down Space Mountain and for a moment I questioned if I was really seeing stars, or if my head just got jerked in a weird direction and I was “really seeing stars.” As we reached the bottom of the ride and slammed to a stop, Clay and I tripped over each other trying to get out fast enough that we could get in line for another try.

Clay and I shared an interest in the “head jerking, give-me-whatcha-got” rides. And since Sean felt sorry for me that I had never been to Disneyland, he agreed to take Judd and Drew (phobia of heights) on the more delicate rides. Let’s just say, Clay and I danced with death itself. Or at least that’s what Clay thought. Images of Clay and I jerking our way down Thunder Mountain Railroad are indelibly etched into my memories. I looked to my side grinning as I watched him throw his head back. His eyes closed and his mouth wide open in euphoria. The wind ripped through his short, almost white hair as his extended arms flailed in the air above his head. His giggles and shouts of “this is SO awesome!” tickled my emotional funny bone as no longer am I his mom, 24 years his elder, but his partner in daring fun.

At the end of the day, I reflected on our time together. I laughed out loud at the funnies and teared up at the tenders. It was one of the most healing times we’ve ever experienced as a family. Pure fun together. As we walked arm-in-arm back to the car, Judd chased Sean’s shadow, jumping on it as if he were trying to stop it somehow, giggling and squealing after every jump. Laughter that would surely please Walt Disney himself.