Late Tuesday night our family returned from the Happiest Place on Earth. No, not Chuck -e-Cheeses, but the other mouse place, DISNEYLAND. I can say without a doubt my husband and I were more excited about this trip than the kids were. How do I know that? Because they didn't know about it. At all. Why didn't they know? Because we didn't tell them until we were sitting in the Denver airport. We had whisked them out of their beds that morning, telling them we were going to Fargo and it wasn't until we were about 30 minutes into the hour drive that the oldest realized it was only 7:15am. And why didn't we tell them? Because first off, this ain't our first rodeo and neither of us wanted to endure 24/7 questioning about Disneyland and would we take an airplane there and where would we stay and are we going to California or Florida and is there McDonalds in California and is there a swimming pool at the hotel and would there be a waterslide at the hotel and would they get to see Micky Mouse and would there be princesses there and can we go inside the castle and if they are REALLY good could they get something and can they go swimming and on and on and on....
Secondly, my in laws offered to take the kids for the night, two nights before we were leaving to aid in my covert packing. To stay at her Grandma and Boppa's house for approximately 14 hours, my daughter packed a suitcase, a "Stuffee" full of crap, two blankets and a stuffed animal. All was deemed absolutely necessary for the overnight stay. Given this, we were not feeling up to paying the overage charges on her 2 steamer trunks that a week in Disneyland would have required.
Finally, we were SO excited to surprise them, out of the blue with something like this. We had a rough spring, as a family, and we wanted some quality, fun time together, just the five of us. I had it all planned out. The travel agent had given us five Disneyland baggage tags. I took three of them and inside them slide the words, "You Are" "Going To" and "Disneyland!!" and placed them inside their McDonalds Happy Meals that we had got them inside the Denver Airport.
My first mistake was not chucking the crappy toys at this point, because when the three boxes were opened, anarchy ensued that all three toys were PINK! The oldest picked up the bag tag, glanced at it and tossed it aside as he complained the happy meal toy was a girl toy. Our daughter gleefully claimed all three of the toys as I repeatedly said, "What are those other things? What do they say?" The youngest dove into his cheeseburger coming up only long enough to thrust his milk at me with a disgusted grunt to convey I should open it for him. When I finally got my daughter to read the three tags in order, I said, "You are. Today. You are getting on a plane to go to Disneyland today!" "Really??" was the reply. "Really?!?" As we confirmed it, our daughter gleefully cheered "Oh good! Then all the toys are mine!!!" Note to self: in the future, food and crappy toys trump everything.
Prior to going I had been going through a mental checklist of responses I should prepare to questions I may get. Things like, "What language are they speaking?" (anything other than English) "What is that thing on his head?" (Sikh or Jewish) "Why are those boys kissing?" (a Gay couple) or "Why is that little girl bald?" (A Make-a wish recipient or any cancer patient.) As it turns out, the questions I got were more like "Why doesn't Pluto wear pants but Goofy does?" (I have no good answer for that) and "Can we go back to the hotel and swim now?" (No, I sold my right kidney to afford soming to this joint, so we are staying.)
I guess I was surprised by their collective lack of questioning regarding things I was seeing which were really out of their realm of normalcy. It made me think maybe I have the most unobservant children on earth. I DID manage to pack two large suitcases without them noticing... But for the sake of poetic observation, and the makings of a good essay, lets just assume they are pretty normal kids. Why didn't anything really phase them?
On the one day, there was a steampunk convention at the park. Steampunk, for those who don't know, is a historical sci-fi subculture which tips its stovepipe hat to the late 19th century Victorian period for dress and inspiration, and looks to a future of technology driven by steam. Think of it as the old west meets gamma rays. What this resulted in seeing, for us, was a lot of corsets and decolletage, a lot of goggles, some really amazing outfits fitted with gears, gauges and pocket watches and a lot of fishnet stockings. I was SURE there would be a gazillion questions, but nada. Not a one.
In any given line, the 5 of us were the minority. We were surrounded by beautiful shades of brown and olive and gorgeous manes of dark hair I envied. Our English words commingled with Spanish, German, Italian and others I couldn't identify, but I savored the lilt of the words as they fell from the mouths around us.
My children just saw people. People doing what people do at Disneyland, wait in lines, eat, ride rides, and bribe their children (I'll buy you cotton candy if you PLEASE LET DADDY CARRY YOU!) They soaked in the experience and what it meant to them, oblivious of those around them. They were present, relishing the experience with each other and with us. They absorbed the sights and sounds, like sticky sun-kissed sponges. They questioned things, details and facts, but not people. They made declarations about themselves ("I'm not into Ducks that don't wear pants." and "I wuv Icky Mouse!") but not about others. I found myself in awe of them. How wonderful this world would be if we all were more able to see life through the eyes of a child. How beautiful it would be to experience the world around us like they do, without the veils of judgement that get hung in our minds as we age? What if we were more concerned about our own experiences then those of others? Maybe the happiness would spill beyond the gates of Disneyland, leaving a winding pixie dust trail and making its way around the world, which is a small one, after all.