That big, hurt look was for me because I suggested that maybe we didn't have to go to Disneyland this spring break. By our reckoning, my wife and I had been in the happiest place on earth at least twenty times together, with the largest portion of those visits coming after our son was born. Some years included more than one trip to the House of Mouse, back in the heyday of our indulgence, saving our nickels and dimes for a stay that would last more than one day, since there was always something left at the end of a trip that we wished we would have stopped and done.
Lately, we have been more strategic. Time and money have been harder to wrangle as our family has grown into other areas of fascination. We have made two days of travel wrap around one action-filled day in the park. This was something I used to swear I would never do, but in order to get our collective fix, we have surrendered some of our more loosely held beliefs. Yes, it is still nice to be able to hunker down and have that day that is merely walking through the attractions without actually feeling as though you had to stand in line. That one less desperate day that made us feel like we could look at things and watch the people swarming around us. Those were the people who had to get to the next ride, or needed to get back to the hotel to take a nap, or were leaving on a plane in just a few hours. Those were the ones with that look in their eyes that I recall as "Disney Desperation." I did not want to be that family: the one on the forced march to Tomorrowland, kids squirming, parents growling. My son's spring break from college gave us just enough time together to make it down to Anaheim and back up to his dorm before his classes started. We didn't have the luxury of a three-day park hopper. This would have to be fast and dirty.
Of course, there isn't a lot about Disney that is either of those. Mostly, you spend a lot of time waiting in a very pleasantly polished environment. Knowing this, my son and I were up early on that Magic Morning, choosing to skip the wait in front of our hotel for the shuttle, preferring to hoof it on over that half mile to the front gate where we still found ourselves parked behind other visitors who had similar designs on being the first inside to relax. My wife was left back with the luggage and the car. She took care of base camp, loading up and securing things while I treated our son to as much Disney as either one of us could take.
And for the first two hours, we moved quickly from one short line to another, feeling a sense of accomplishment with each two minute experience that came after a line we rationalized as being totally worth the wait. It was worth it because we were on Spring Break In Disneyland. At one point, we happened upon Goofy, who was taking a photo with a couple girls. It was an opportunity to test the lingering phobia my son has maintained about people in costume. Even in the happiest place on earth, standing with those characters with over-sized heads made him nervous in the extreme. For many years, we simply avoided this challenge because there is almost always a line in which to stand for the photo opportunity. On this day, there was none. The girls retrieved their camera from the attendant cast member, and suddenly there we were: steps away from that thing we had been missing for all those years.
There was some initial hemming and hawing. The beginnings of an excuse and then it was over. At first, my son wanted to be the one taking the picture of his dad standing next to MIckey's best pal. The cast member encouraged a father and son shot, and my son surrendered his phone to him. As he approached the towering figure, my son offered Goofy his hand. Goofy would have none of that. He pulled him in for a great big Disney hug. The stunned smile on my son's face is genuine in the picture that I will treasure forever. It was his insistence that brought us there in the first place, and now we had met our biggest Disney fear and conquered it. My wife caught up to us soon after that and we spent the rest of the day, til after sundown, after the fireworks, after our legs would carry us no further. It was a Disney-enhanced day.
Will there be a time when even that day in the park is too hard to arrange? Possibly, but for now we have those new memories of our little family coming together for that break from our reality. Another in a series.