Friday, October 3, 2008

I Heart Disneyland (Holy Crap)

We have officially broken the vacation jinx, getting through an entire week in Southern California without needing to call 911, visit an ER, or have Little A admitted to the hospital to be tethered to an oxygen line. This differs markedly from the previous two vacations that were cut short by medical emergencies. It's just so freaking normal, I almost don't know how to process it. Oh wait, I remember -- YAY! We had such a great time!

So, Disneyland. I'd never been there before. I believe there are two types of Americans: those that naturally embrace all things Mickey, and those that squint and back away from the cartoon empire as if it emits toxic fumes. Prekids, I was a big Disney hater. The parks, movies, DVDs, and merchandise tie-ins are so massively hyped that it seemed like a huge, embarrasingly obvious racket to me. I just didn't get how anyone would want to go there. It didn't help that since DH is in the entertainment industry, we know people who have worked for The Mouse and oh, the stories of hardcore corporate craziness I have heard. So going to Disneyland in my twenties or early thirties made me grunt and roll my eyes. It was not going to happen.

Of course, motherhood changes you. Alters your body, makes you accept things you never thought you'd accept, makes you utter ludicrous statements on a regular basis. Just the other day I found myself saying "We do NOT wash each other's butts!" Shortly before that, "You cannot marry daddy. He already has a wife." But even though strange announcements are fairly routine around Chez Wabi, this latest one still feels odd when it comes out of my mouth:

I am a convert. I love Disneyland. I want to go back.

Now, I expected Big A would want to move there. She's almost five, deep into that frilly princess stage. (Ah, the princess stage. This is another one of those things I was initially horrified by, but now just find routine.) And Little A is a generally affable little imp, so even though she is too young to know the various characters and stories involved in Disneyland attractions, I guessed she'd like it all.

But me? I figured I'd just grit my teeth and be there on the girls' behalf. The lines were going to bug me, I knew I'd be hot and annoyed by people in the crowds. I didn't expect that I'd find going to Disneyland so pleasant myself: That walking by the uber-romanticized buildings on Main Street would still feel cozy and fun; that the parades would be delightful to watch, and that the rides would be as fun for me as the girls. And the lines? With a little planning, they turned out not to be a big deal. In a nutshell, I discovered that despite the nonstop merchandising and inflated prices, despite the fakeness of every single thing there, I had an authentically great time anyway.

I read somewhere that Disneyland averages 30,000 visitors every day, and that as many as 50,000 are in the parks during the summer and on other holidays. But the interesting thing was that I didn't see a lot of the typical ugly scenes of family stress/hunger/tantrums/arguments that one usually witnesses with that many people hanging around together. I wonder why it is that everyone seemed to be on such good behavior (my family included)? Is it park engineering? People's expectations? Some sort of happy gas?

If anyone has any theories on this, I'd love to hear them.


Sara said...

It's simply the happiest place on earth. It has become no less magical for me as I've gotten older.

Dulcemija said...

Awww . . . you should have told me you were down. We have annual passes and my kiddos have been bugging me because we haven't been in . . . (I know, I know) a month. It would have been nice to meet up! I'm so happy you and your family had a terrific time :)

Rosepetal said...

I agree with you on the merchandise tie-ins etc. - they're so blatant. I don't like getting Disney clothes for my son for example.

But I went to Disneyland a few years ago with a friend and her kids who were aged 4 and 6 - and they LOVED it so much - for the 4 year old the actors dressed up WERE the characters. She was so overwhelmed when she met Snow White she couldn't speak! I went on that space flight simulation thingy with the 6 year old and she REALLY believed we had taken a flight in space. So I think it's the fact that it's with kids that makes all the difference - I could see the magic through them.

Of course now the 6 year old is a cynical ten year old and the moment has gone.

Glad you finally had a good vacation.

Wabi said...

Aw, Dulcemija, I'm kicking myself that I didn't mentioned before that we were going ... next time I'm down in the LA area, let's definitely try to meet up!

Rosepetal, you're so right about how a huge part of the fun is seeing the way kids of a certain age completely buy into the reality of the characters. DH actually played with that a little bit, too. When we got home, he photoshopped images of Tinkerbell into a handful of photos we'd taken at Disneyland. He did it so that Big A was always looking slightly away from where Tinkerbell was standing or hovering. Now Big A keeps telling people, "Tink was RIGHT THERE! She really loves hanging around me!" Too cute.

Lori said...

I can't tell you how HAPPY this post made me! See, the Disney magic continues! I LOVE Disneyland too and often feel it is something I have to admit in hushed whispers. We have always had the most wonderful family vacations there. My 13 year old still thinks it is the greatest place to visit in the world and I think that is so sweet.

We love it and I'm glad to know someone else has drunk the Kool Aid and can join me in my unabashed Disneyland-love.