He was walking in front of me on the crowded Disneyland’s Main Street. He was with his wife and three young children. At first glance you would think the black T-shirt the father was wearing was stylish in its simplicity. No Mickey or Minnie artwork adorned his T-shirt. Other than the words, the only artwork was what appeared to be Tinker Bell Pixie Dust sprinkled over the large white Disney font type, which read, “Most expensive day ever.”
If we were in a bar, I would have bought him a beer.
My adult daughters Nikki and Brenna made me realize half the fun of a trip to Disneyland is planning what to wear. My daughter-in-law Yvonne joined in on the fashion fun. The other half of the fun is listening to my daughters talking about their memories of my wife Susie and I taking them and their twin brothers Sean and Aaron to the Magic Kingdom when they were children.
When I was growing up in southeast Bakersfield, Disneyland was our once a year summer vacation. And yes, my grandmother made all seven of my brothers and sisters and I wear the same shirts and blouses she hand made.
We never ate in Disneyland. For lunch we all got our hands stamped at the “Return Only” turnstiles and headed to our blue station wagon in the August hot parking lot. Our greatest fear was that you touched your stamped hand and erased or smeared the mark visible only under Disney’s ultraviolet light lamp.
We pulled out the ice chest out of the station wagon and while my grandmother made us sandwiches, we talked about the next rides we planned to enjoy. After a quick lunch, we each held our breath as we took our turn and placed our hand underneath the ultraviolet light to see if we could get back in. We always seemed surprised when we all made it through.
For our recent Disneyland trip, rather than take separate cars, I rented a passenger van so all 10 of us could ride together, like my brothers and sister did many years ago crammed into our station wagon. Whenever possible, together is important for me.
On our trip to Disneyland, we entertained ourselves with Disney trivia questions. Each correct answer was awarded a quarter. Everyone was guessing. “What color are Mickey’s shorts?” ‘What is the name of the Lion King?” And the hardest to answer, “Name Snow White's seven dwarfs.”
I also asked that we have a picnic in our hotel room when we arrived the night before Disneyland. Having the evening picnic for all 10 of us in our hotel room brought back memories of having lunch in the Disneyland parking lot with my brothers and sisters. It wasn’t quite the same, but close enough.
As my children recounted their memories of past family trips to Disneyland during our evening hotel room picnic, I sat back and enjoyed each story as a gift to me and to their mom. We may not be able to see you, Sue, but we can feel you.
There are too many memories for me to recount on this Disneyland trip.
Here is one I won’t soon forget.
He was like a National Football League referee signaling a first down. My 7-year-old grandson Ariyon, who we have nicknamed Ry Ry, was our official Disneyland navigator. Right, left or straight ahead, with the authority of a flight deck crew member signaling the jet pilot for takeoff, he took his role seriously while having fun. My son Sean, his wife Yvonne and my grandchildren Cameron, Haley and Ry Ry were annual Disneyland season pass holders. They know their way around the Magic Kingdom.
This Disneyland adventure was a much needed getaway, an escape from the daily rigor and emotional weight life can bring to us all. And like all of you, we have had a lot to bear. As a father, I relish any chance to see the veil of adulthood lifted from my adult children and have them be childlike again. And childlike they all were.
It wasn’t quite one of “most expensive days,” but thanks to Mickey, Minnie and Goofy, it was truly a memorable one.