Sunday, March 02, 2008

the happiest place on earth . . .

. . . is home, as far as I'm concerned! I was never so thrilled to pull into our driveway, stagger through the back door (having just spent 10 hours in the car) and be enthusiastically greeted by my spazzy little dog. (Thanks, Yellie and Krispin, for keeping her alive and well). Disneyland (which I'll write about in a moment) just can't compete.

The VERY best thing about coming home yesterday was: Lindsay and Penelope came with us! Yep, Linds finally heard the Lord's voice saying, "Come up here (to Oregon)" and she heeded the call. So our empty nest is once again filled with our oldest daughter and her yellow tabby cat.

So back to Disneyland . . . it was our one day of vacation out of the last six. The road trip was basically a rescue mission to snatch our daughter from the clutches of seedy LA (actually, she lives in a really nice part of Long Beach and has amazing friends. It was just time to move on). Linds was too busy to accompany us, so Greg and I headed off to Disneyland without her on Wednesday--our very first visit to the Magic Kingdom sans children.

My husband loves Disneyland. No offense to Micky, but it's not my favorite place. Let me explain . . .

I remember taking our kids to Disneyland after we'd spent a week at a rustic camp in the San Gabriel mountains. At Camp Featherstone, we'd hiked, thrown rocks into the creek, spotted wildlife and roasted marshmallows over the firepit. Jonah and Lindsay ran about like wild Indians the whole time and loved every minute of it.

The following week, we took them to Disneyland. True to his autistic nature, Jonah hated every minute of it. By mid-morning, he was so over-stimulated by the noise and the crowds and the cotton candy (big mistake!), that he dissolved into a sticky, sobbing mess. Jonah hated the rides. The Disney characters frightened him. His only source of comfort was the occasional drinking fountain. Only he didn't drink from the fountains--he'd crouch next to them, pressing his grubby, tear-streaked face up against the cool metal sides. Jonah could hear some kind of faint fan-like sound emanating from the fountain's innards and it soothed his anxious heart.

Maybe experiencing the Magic Kingdom with Jonah ruined it for me--I've never enjoyed it since. My first panic attack paralyzed me during the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. The Haunted Mansion creeped me out with its light-hearted treatment of death and the demonic. The cost made me fussy and the crowds caused clausterphobia.

Over the years, my disposition toward Disney has not improved. As a youngster, I loved roller-coasters. About 15 years ago, however, my adrenal glands decided they could do without the sensation of free-fall. You know that feeling you get when your "car" clickety-clacks to the highest pinnacle of the ride and them plummets straight down at break-neck speed? Well, my body defaults to panic mode about half-way up the torturously slow climb to the top and sheer terror sets in as my stomach defies gravity during the inevitable plunge. It really wrecks me and I avoid this sensation at all costs.

But because I really love my husband, I agreed to go on Splash Mountain with him last week. And I may have finally conquered this silly fear.

My sense of dread began to build before we even entered the park itself. It took us a good 20 minutes to negotiate the parking structure--then we were funnelled through a security check before we could purchase our tickets. Next to the entry gate, I spotted a large yellow sign that warning park-goers about the toxic effects of certain chemicals scattered throughout the Magic Kingdom. Before I ever stepped foot in Disneyland, I was feeling a bit stressed about visiting the "happiest place on earth."

It turned out to be a lovely day, though. Perfect weather, short lines and manageable crowds lifted my spirits. I loved the Matterhorn and Space Mountain (they don't have the steep drop, just fast action and lots of curves. I can handle that). I cruised through Pirates and the Haunted Mansion without a hint of anxiety. In fact, I was doing so well that I glibly agreed to go on Splash Mountain. But panic set in while I was still standing in line.

Greg was oblivious. Excited as a little kid, he climbed into our floating log, unaware of my sense of impending doom. He raised his arms in defiance to gravity as our boat began it's ascent while I latched onto my husband.

If you've ever ridden Splash Mountain, you know that the log ride climbs for a bit, then levels out and lulls the riders into complacency as it meanders through passageways lined with crooning critters. The log boat is then hoisted higher still and the cycle repeats itself while the furry decoys try to take your mind off what's coming. But I knew--and even the sweetest little bunny seemed ominous to me as we zippidee-doodahed around another bend.

And then we started the final ascent. As our log left the water and began the slow climb to the top of the ride, I seriously fought the urge to climb out of the boat! As I took deep breaths and begged God to deliver me from this unreasonable terror, I noticed a six-year old child sitting in front of Greg. She was laughing and completely unconcerned about the death-plunge we were about to take. She was actually waving at the demonic woodland creatures who beckoned us to our doom.

"Lord, if a little kid can do this without being petrified, then so can I," I prayed. As we chugged to the top, I decided I'd go for it and even raise my arms during the drop. (It was a valiant thought, but the photo taken by park photographers tells the real story. You can see Greg, hands raised and mouth opened in a delighted scream. But all you see of me is my two white-knuckled hands, clutching his chest. My head is not visible, presumably tucked between my knees!)

But, I survived--and to tell the truth, it wasn't that bad. Because I was so tightly scrunched behind my husband, I didn't even get wet. Greg had no idea what a miracle had just transpired when I said to him, "Hey, we should do that again!"

We didn't. But when we left that evening I realized that I'd actually had a lot of fun and no longer hated the happiest place on earth.

In fact, I'm looking forward to taking my grandchildren there . . .


Cori said...

Your Disneyland stories resonate with me! As I went for the first time on the 23rd. I agree with the demonic woodland critters on Splash Mountain! :) And I loved Space Mountain. Overall it was a great day, though my feet were KILLING me and we had lots of rain showers and still lots of people. But it was worth it to say I have been there... :)

Who links to my website?