My father stayed behind in California with silly things like a mortgage and a job. It was decided by courts and lawyers and official-type people that I would visit my father during summers and holidays. The youngest age a child could travel as an unaccompanied minor on the airlines was five years old. Shortly after my fifth birthday, my mom introduced me to the Delta gate agents and I boarded a plane to California.After take-off, I stared out the window at the clouds and prayed we wouldn’t crash and if we did I thought about how maybe I could help the flight attendants save everyone and then I would be a hero and have my name in the paper, and possibly picture too. It was a long flight, so I played this scenario in my head in several different versions. Fire, no fire, ocean landing, plane breaks in half, plane intact. All versions involved the emergency slide.
When the plane finally landed, my father was at the gate waiting for me. He was holding red and blue balloons. He looked patriotic. He stood there waving at me, like I might not see him or recognize him.For the uninitiated, Garden Grove where my father lived is about a five minute drive from Disneyland. They did not sell lifetime passes, but I’m sure if they had, my father would have bought them for us. Traveling west added three hours to our day, so even though I felt like I had been flying forever, I arrived by noon. My father gave me a big hug being careful not to let go of the balloons, and then he asked me what I wanted to do first, offering such options as swimming or eating lunch at McDonald’s.
“Daddy, can we go to Disneyland?”Of course this is where we went. I loved the Pirates of the Caribbean so as soon as we arrived, we sprinted through New Orleans Square to get there. I never wanted to sit in the front two rows, knowing that we’d get soaked. There was a part of the ride where we got so close to treasure chest of gold and jewelry that I thought I could reach out and touch it. What would I do with all that money? Buy more tickets to California.
We ate lunch at the Blue Bayou and I always ordered the same thing: the Monte Cristo sandwich. It was a ham and cheese sandwich, fried, and served with strawberry jam. Yum! We’d sit there watching the fireflies blink but I never noticed the strings they were suspended from.Another ride I wanted to go on was called Adventure Through Inner Space. While you were waiting in line, you could see other people boarding the ride and being shrunk down to microscopic proportions. For the price of an “E” ticket, the Disney people would shrink you smaller than an actual snowflake, and then later somehow magically restore you to normal size. Traumatically, the ride broke while we were on it. We were already shrunken to a molecule, so things looked pretty grim for me and my father. First the divorce, now this. I started to cry.
This was not the precise moment my father chose to tell me there was no tooth fairy nor Santa nor Easter bunny. It was, however, the moment he chose to tell me if I would just look over there to the right side of the room I would see that there was a full life-sized door and three uniformed technicians who appeared to be working on some electronic equipment.“MOV, if we were really molecules, there would be no door. Don’t worry, the ride will be fixed soon. It’s just pretend. We’re not really shrunken.”
I wanted to believe him, but how did he know? Maybe he was just fooling himself.After what seemed like ten hours but was most likely five or six minutes, the ride started up again. When we got off, I noticed the line was now snaking around the building. I wanted to yell at the innocent people waiting, “Don’t do it! You might not be as lucky as us if the ride breaks! You might remain small!” but instead my father and I got an ice-cream.
The ice-cream helped, but I still felt small.MOV