Yesterday, I wrote about my lifelong love affair with Disneyland. It's no surprise that when my friends at the Park invited me to attend this weekend's "Family Media Day" to experience the 2010 Halloween Time, I RSVP'd immediately -- and was looking forward to going.
There was just one problem: My family.
Mixed Marriages: Those Who Love Disney and Those Who Don't
The invitation included four Park Hopper passes, which is great, because it allowed my only child to invite a friend -- two, if my husband declined to go. You see, he does not share my love of all things Disney.
"If I'd known you hated Disneyland, I wouldn't have allowed you to marry her," my sister told him recently. She has been talking for months about coming down here just to visit the park, and so I was hoping she and her youngest daughter would join me on Saturday. Unfortunately, they had other commitments on Saturday.
So I told my daughter she could invite two friends, and that made her happy -- until I warned her that she would have to allow me to hang out with them. I was unprepared for her reaction to this: She wanted NO PART of having ME with her.
This is normal, and I'm glad she is growing up to be a confident and independent young woman.
But you know something? Teenagers suck.
"You'll slow us down," she cried. And then she embarked on a campaign to convince her dad that he had to come with us. After a couple of weeks, she wore him down.
The best-laid plans don't always play out. We decided to put our dog in the Disneyland Kennel Club, which is a great solution for anyone who needs someone to watch a pet while visiting the park. ($20 for the day! How great is that?)
There was just one problem: The kennel requires proof that your pet has current rabies and distemper vaccinations. I had carefully made a copy of the certificate our vet had given us in June when we got Mac his booster -- I just hadn't been careful about reading what the certificate said.
It only covered rabies. I had not brought the paperwork that indicated Mac was vaccinated for distemper, too. The Disney "cast members" at the Kennel were polite, but firm: without proof of both vaccines, they couldn't take Mac.
So Gareth drove the dog back home to the San Fernando Valley. We decided that he'd meet us back in the park in time for dinner. That way, he'd be able to enjoy the fireworks, too. It wasn't a great solution -- but it was the only one that made sense.
I caught back up with my daughter (she and her friend had already been on four rides while her dad and I figured out our options). The Disney folks had given me a schedule of events for the day that included a reception for their media guests at 10:00. The description stated that their would be temporary tattoo artists and face painters. Knowing how disdainful my teen has become at all things childish, I told her I'd hit the reception without her -- she was free to go.
The Glass Half-Full
I decided to wait a bit before hitting the reception. Wandering around the park child-free was an opportunity to explore attractions that don't have as much kid-appeal. I could take photos without someone complaining that I was keeping her from getting on the next ride. It might actually be fun.
So I headed over to Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, which I had not seen since I was about the same age as my daughter. I lingered around the exhibits and the documentary showing the history of Disneyland Park (which brought back tons of memories; remember that I have been a regular visitor for 50 of the place's 55 years). I marveled at the upgraded technology of Lincoln's animatronic replica.
I went on Pirates of the Caribbean (my daughter had already done so without me). I made the time to watch the Disney Street Party. I rode It's a Small World.
"She ditched me," I laughed. I tried to be cheerful, but as the day wore on, I couldn't pull it off any longer.
There's something about waiting alone in a long line full of families and couples that's downright depressing. I tried not to pay too much attention to the laughing, hugging, happy people around me. I was grateful for Twitter for giving me some reading material.
Actually, the Damned Glass is Broken
It's a Small World is a loooooong ride... by the time it was done, I was questioning my very existence.
I had this awful realization that my days of enjoying Disneyland with my daughter were now officially over, and with a husband who hates the Park, I might never visit again -- at least, not until I have grandchildren. And by that time, I may be too old to enjoy it.
And then I started brooding about all the other empty-nest issues that I've been trying to ignore. How I left the workplace to be a stay-at-home mom and that was the right decision. I think I've been a good mom and I'm proud of the daughter I've raised.
If I were a younger woman, I would be very tempted to have another baby right now. Of course, that's not a solution -- nor an option.
My daughter will be off to college in four years, and then where will I be? I should go back to work. I just don't know what I'm qualified to do any longer. Right now, the job market is terrible (especially in California). It might be better in four years.
But I'll be 58 years old then - who is going to want to hire me?
Some Family Contact
I should mention that my daughter and I were in continual contact by phone and text during the day. She excitedly messaged me that she spied a celebrity while in line for Thunder Mountain Railroad (Matthew Morrison of Glee! And she got a photo to prove it!). We did connect back up for meals (as long as I hold the purse strings, I know she won't stray far).
And I called my husband at home several times to see how he was doing: not great either, it turned out. He had psyched himself up for a day with Mickey, and thanks to me, he ended up having to drive to and from Anaheim TWICE.
We rode only one attraction together: Soaring Over California (at California Adventure). This is the only ride he actually likes, so I made a point of waiting for him. It had a 30-minute wait, and after a long day of observing other couples and families in line, I was really happy to be there with my husband.
Except that he wasn't happy. I tried to make conversation, but he wasn't talking. We spent most of the wait in complete silence.
The group behind us was boisterous and cracking each other up with funny stories about people they knew. The family in front of us included a little girl who looked around four years old. She reminded me of my daughter when she was little and loved being with us. They seemed a happy family.
I sadder and lonelier than ever.
I started to cry.
I was at Disneyland, the Happiest Place on Earth, and I had tears streaming down my face.
My husband doesn't know how to handle crying. For one thing, he's a man and he's got those man attitudes about women and tears. But to make matters worse, he's British with a real Victorian streak, and culturally, his people don't like to show emotion. (And so of course, he married a Cuban American Jew.)
"Now, what's wrong with you?" he asked in exasperation.
I apologized - for the upteenth time - for screwing the day in the first place.
"I'm not mad at you," he said.
Well, he seemed mad. He wasn't talking. This is a man who is usually very communicative. If he's not talking, then something feels very, very, wrong.
"Really, I'm not mad," he repeated. "I've had a bad day, too. And I'm worried about leaving the dog alone for so long."
The dog. My husband adores our dog. Sometimes, I think he loves that dog more than he loves me.
"Well, Megan is number one. And then Mac [the dog]. And then Biscuit and Smokey [our cats] and Cooper [our cat that died five years ago] and the goldfish. And after that, I guess I love you."
So that broke the ice, as did the Soaring ride, which features an exhilarating montage of breathtaking California scenery. We crossed back to Main Street to view the fireworks (which were as spectacular as I'd expected). The girls actually returned from riding the rides and we all watched the show together.
And when it was over, and I announced we were going home, my daughter didn't even give me a lot of grief. "You've been here for over 12 hours," I reminded her.
On the drive home, she fell asleep in the backseat.
Just like she did when she was little.