Wednesday, April 4, 2012

34. Travel: Disneyland

My parents divorced when I was four.  This was confusing enough.  But then, my mother remarried quickly and we moved across country to Pennsylvania.  I had never seen snow before. 

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.


  1. The Big D -- as I refer to it with kids around school all the time - I grew up in East LA but The Big D was off limits. No money. I went once in high school (my class won a trip there) and got a kick out of it. The next time I went , I was 25 and living in Silicon Vally. Flew down there with a boyfriend but it was so hot and so crowded that we spent a good chunk of the afternoon in the Disneyland Hotel bar! That was fun too!

  2. When I was a kid and devoted watcher of the Mickey Mouse Club, I looked forward to the days they showed films of Disneyland - what a wonderful place that had to be. As an adult I've been to Disney WORLD twice but not to the birthplace of all things magical. Visiting from AtoZ ~

  3. That was so poignant. Thank you.

  4. Wow, I am in awe of your power of memory and the way you told this story.

  5. What an amazing story and a great memory! Thanks so much for sharing. I have never been to Disneyland or Disney World but now as a parent I want to go just as much as when I was a child. I hope when I do go I have great memories that my children will remember into adulthood! Good luck this April!


  6. I've never been to Disneyland but have been to Disneyworld once! It was so much fun!!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. I'm also in the A to Z challenge (even though I'm behind.oops). I'm your new follower!!
    Giggle, Laugh, Cry

  7. My ex-wife remarried and moved the kids 1500 miles away from me. Thanks for sharing your memory of visiting your dad. I'll have to ask my kids about their memories from visiting me.

    Horst Peters

  8. That was a day full of a lot of emotion! It's nice though, that you got to spend that time with your dad.

  9. I too grew up near fact my sister works there now...that ride was the Monsanto! The make out ride in high school :) Little did I know then that there were cameras in each car! How cool to have gone to Disney right after your flight...that was when it didn't cost a week's pay just to get into the park...we also would go for just an evening.

    I will be back for more A-Z April/

  10. I went to Disneyland once and Disney World once. And that was enough for me! But our kids LOVED Disney!

  11. Seeing as I live in Europe I only ever went to Disneyland Paris, and it was rather traumatic... we had to leave my dog at the kennel there (with some lovely people but it was still very upsetting). I loved the Haunted House, though.

    Thanks for stopping by our Book Bunny Blog, MOV! Hope you come by again soon.

    Happy A-Zing,


  12. What an adorable story :) I'm a Pennsylvania local and it's odd to me to think there are people who have never seen snow.

    I look forward to the rest of your A to Z posts!
    Just A Nice Girl

  13. What a lovely story! I often wonder what my girls will remember of their childhood, what stories will stick with them...
    Thanks for the kind comment on my blog - I'm glad to have found this one, I like the way you write!
    Best wishes from a Brit in France who nearly - nearly! - got a job at the EuroDisney Park when it opened (I'd just moved to France) but didn't because she wasn't, apparently, "carefree" enough. Plus ça change...!

  14. I live near Disneyland and we've had passes a few times over the years. I love, love, love Disneyland. Sleeping Beauty is my favorite Disney movie and I collect Sleeping Beauty items.

    What a great memory with your dad! (And I love the Blue Bayou restaurant!)

  15. Maybe your father should have encouraged you by saying that if you guys didn't return to normal size you could live forever in "It's a Small World" and never have to attend school!

  16. Brought back memories of living in La Mirada, CA as a child (not far from Garden Grove). We got to go to Disneyland many times throughout our childhood (back in the days of A through E tickets--there were never enough E tickets!!!

    We also loved the Blue Bayou restaurant, the best "mood" dining around the Disney park.

    I still enjoy going to Disneyland, but also love Disney World.

  17. Hello new blog friends! So grateful you found me on the a to z. I really appreciate your reading my stories and taking the time to comment.

    Have a great day, and I will check out your blogs now too!


  18. Funny, that ride broke down when we were on it too, we were adults, but daughter, mother of 2, was scared and wanted to get off.

    1. maybe we were on it at the same time?!?

  19. I got to go to Disneyworld in 1980 - it was pretty amazing (and the very first space shuttle launch was a week away - and got to see that first shuttle already sitting on the launch pad) I would like to go back to Florida for some park action as there are so many more now - not even an Epcot in 1980...


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