Thursday, December 27, 2012

Holidaze Travel

First an apology: this is getting up late, as I was busy with the holiday season. But you were similarly busy so you didn't really miss me, did you?

Oh man do I love Christmas time. I'm like the reverse Grinch. I hate everything else all the time but put some lights on a tree and I'm all big eyed wonder. And carols! And all the glittering everything! From wrapping paper to sequined tops! (How did we decide sequined clothing is appropriate for the holidays/New Year and then Easter is all pastels? Who made that a thing? Why can't I wear sequins to Easter brunch?) Christmas trees with ornaments! Puppies in windows for adoption! All the baked goods ever! Tidings of good cheer!

(Amended: I like holiday lead up. I'm over the actual holiday and dealing with my family and just spent 20 minutes on the phone venting to my dad how everyone is an inconsiderate asshole and I'm moving to a cabin in Montana and never talking to anyone again. *Exasperated sigh*)

In that vein, I was lucky enough to spend a week at...wait for it...Disneyland. With my family. Now, in theory that sounds AWFUL. Me, my brother, stepdad, mom, brother's girlfriend, and her almost five year old. Lines and lots of children and artificial happiness. If you know anything about me, this sounds like the opposite of fun. But it wasn't!

Okay, at first it was and I will completely cop to being the one to have a meltdown on our first full day there that has to do with family dynamics and sibling rivalry. But because I am a self aware person I, in a way I am sure they didn't, analyzed what was going on and why I was upset and after apologizing (and being told my apology wasn't good enough. FAMILY!) I got over it and we moved on.

The reason this ended up being fun is two fold:

1. The five year old and I kinda love each other. If you follow along you know I don't really like children. But it's more specific than that: I don't like ill mannered children. The kind who run around and whose parents want to negotiate with them forgetting they are the parents and thus in charge. Really most of my problem is with parents and as not a parent I get to be all smug and am like, "Control your little jerk! Geezus!" And I don't like babies. They're floppy and useless. Apparently because I was born female I'm supposed to see a baby and something is supposed to click in my brain and I'm supposed to go, "DAAAWWW BABY!" I do the opposite of that. "No, I do not want to hold your ball of dough, please take it away before it vomits on me."

But when they're like three to six and kinda smartassy though not on purpose and not self aware and totally genuine, before they get all pre-adolescent like? Those kids I can hang out with. They're basically snarky adults without realizing that's a thing. And yet also full of childlike wonder and excited about absolutely everything. And clever.

And this five year old is well behaved and clever. She had a minor meltdown when on the shuttle from the airport to the hotel but I understood that. She'd been on her first plane ride EVER and hadn't been told where we were going. It was all a surprise. So I get that the stress of it all had her meltdown a little bit at that exact moment. Any other time I spent with her the whole trip, she was fine. A little bit of whining here and there but I'm not the one who had to parent her. Mostly she acted like...a kid.

She adopted me pretty immediately. She sat next to me in the ride from the house to the airport, climbed over me at the end of the plane ride after I gave up my window seat for her (unheard of in my world, I love having the window), insisted I sit near her on the shuttle. Oh, and she doesn't call me by my name. She calls me "purple jacket" because I was, predictably, wearing a purple LSU sweatshirt at the airport and though we've met a few times before, she didn't remember my name.

Because I am the family spinster, I volunteered in our three bedroom suite to take the room with the double beds with her so that my brother and his girlfriend could have their own room. The first afternoon we got there, while everyone else took a nap, I, who could have also used a nap, headed to the pool with her and her mom. My mom was shocked I was so good with her. Like I said, I don't universally hate children, it's a case by case basis. My dislike of them generally also doesn't mean I don't know how to deal with them individually when I do like them. And this one was far more entertaining than anyone else I was with, so why not go watch her ride a waterslide over and over? Who else am I gonna hang out with? I mean, really.

She'd wake me up every morning by chattering to herself about how she wasn't tired anymore, usually around 6:30. I'd flick on the TV for her and we'd watch Phineas and Ferb (that show is really funny) and one morning I had her watch the better part of Mary Poppins. One night my mom came in to say goodnight and the 5yo went on some rambling story about...I don't even know what and I looked at my mom, perplexed, and my mom says, "She's trying to stay awake." Ohhhh. This is how little I'm around children.

The best though was on the final full day. I sent her off to her mom's room on the one day we weren't rushing to get early admission to the park. I then hop in the shower. As I turn off the shower I hear a knock on the bathroom door and the 5yo says, "Umm, purple jacket?" "Yeah?" "My mom went to the gym, can you take me to the Ariel ride?" I laugh and say, "Yeah, sure."

Now, because I'm an adult my brain thought her mom had been on her way out the door, the 5yo said she wanted to ride the ride and her mom said, "Ask Lisa to take you." This didn't seem out of the realm of events and so I quickly acquiesced to her request.

What REALLY happened was her mom went to the gym, said, "Stay here and be good for (my brother)." He got up to go to the bathroom and as soon as he closed the bathroom door, she made a run for it back to my room and asked me to take her into the park. My saying yes to her was followed quickly by my brother appearing and going, "What are you doing?" to the 5yo. I got played. I'm totally okay with this.

I told her I needed 20 minutes to get ready. After I got dressed and walked back into the living room part of our suite, where she'd been left alone, I find her sitting in the drawer to the dresser in there. Of course. Because I'm not the parent, I just laugh hysterically and tell her to come on, as we trudge into California Adventures (which needs to be renamed Southern California Adventures, as they've stripped all the Northern California features from it) to go on Ariel.

I think she rode the Ariel ride like 8 times total. I know I rode it 3 times, at least. It's a good thing it's a pretty great ride. To which I unabashedly sing the songs as we ride along, and she waives to passing animatronic figures.

She loved absolutely everything and would keep asking, "Is this real?!" I quickly figured out to ask her what she thinks on the matter and she would always say, "Yeah, it's real!" Nothing quite like having a kid grab you for comfort when scared on the minor fall on Pirates to make you realize you're the adult in the situation. And to make you feel useful. (We'll be back to misanthropy after this post, promise.)

The 5yo is used to having her three insane same age-ish male cousins around and sharing attention with adults so it was a completely different experience for her having five adults basically pay nonstop attention to her. Pretty sure we she liked this. So. Yeah. Take a kid you don't have to actually parent to Disneyland and it's a lot more fun/a distraction from hanging out with your family for forced fun.

(5yo digression: because she calls me purple jacket, I decided she should have her own purple jacket. I came home and found an on sale LSU sweatshirt at a site I already had a groupon for. I bought it. But of course I was like, 'Yeah, she's kinda that size, sure' and clicked purchase without checking the sizing chart or thinking too hard about it. The size I got would fit like a ten year old. Oh well. She'll grow into it. Eventually.

Then on Christmas night, I go to hang out with her in the back bedroom where she's watching cartoons. This is after going to Napa for her fifth birthday party a few days before Christmas, which caused her to yell, "I knew you'd come for me, purple jacket!", and seeing her briefly, though we were both exhausted, on Christmas Eve. (I did discover that kids in the house are an excellent excuse to duck away from the inane adult conversations, btw, giving my introverted self a break from the chatter.) I hop on the bed and am laying next to her but haven't said anything or bugged her, we're just chilling, watching stupid Disney channel shows, when she says, "Ummm you know what? I love you." Now THAT'LL make me go "DDDAAAAWWWWWW" way more than any floppy baby. She was so completely sincere about it without prompting by anyone or any external forces I was a bit taken aback, I gotta say. Kids, man. So much less filtered than us adults. Kind of amazing.)

2. The second reason the trip wasn't horrible is that Disneyland does all the glittering everything! Now, it's not as well themed as it's sister park in Florida where every hotel has a giant gingerbread house, but it's still a lot of Christmas. The entire property is treated like a giant set and is decorated to match the holiday, complete with piped in gingerbread scent most of the places you walk.

The most impressive gingerbread house in Disneyland was inside the Haunted Mansion, which is redone at the holidays in Nightmare Before Christmas decorations. It is 9' tall, lights up, and has a floating ghost dog. I can't even ever get gingerbread cookies to taste right. (I do, however, do an excellent gingerbread cake.)

Aside from carols being sung and garlands strung across Main Street (prompting my mother to say, "Do you think we could get the neighbors to agree to do that?"), they have special lightings of the castle, holiday themed fireworks displays, and do something called the candlelight processional. For the latter, every evening a celebrity narrator tells the birth of Jesus story, accompanied by a top notch orchestra and a couple hundred choir singers. It. Is. Amazing.

And I, because I'm a planner of vacation things, knew that when we were there Dick Van Dyke would be narrating the story. Did you catch a couple posts ago where I said I loved Mary Poppins? Or that I borrowed the DVD from the concierge to watch while we were there? Yep. I was SO excited.

As someone not often moved by things (though gutted by a 5yo), this did it. It's that sort of church feeling without having to sit through mass. It's a bit preachy on the birth of Christ story, to be fair, but come on! A huge choir singing Christmas songs while Bert from Mary Poppins narrates and an orchestra plays? People would pay good money to see such a production! (And we did, because park admission, woof.)

But what moved me while watching it, as I clenched my teeth because I'll be goddamned if I cry in public, was that it was moving everyone else. After my stepdad's idiotic, "This feels like church" I noticed my mom wiping her eyes. And even my stepdad, after the trip, in conversations with my mom she let me know "That turned out to be one of his favorite things." I win.

The night we saw Dick Van Dyke, it also happened to be his birthday, which everyone in the crowd seemed to know so they yelled Happy Birthday to him and sang. When I got to dinner, I was curious and googled it. He turned 87. He's been married for a year. His wife is 40. I was not expecting to learn that. Way to go, Dick! (Alternately: that's really creepy.)

All that said, the point being: if you're gonna do Disney with your family, you might as well do it at the holidays when it's at its best. And if you're really lucky, do it the week before the holiday break when the crowds are almost non-existent. Longest ride wait was about thirty minutes, most far less than that. (Curse you Peter Pan ride for always having a line! Always! And only being 45 seconds long! But unable to resist you at all ever! Because flying over London and then Neverland in a pirate ship!)

I can't even imagine the meltdowns going on this week with the kids out of school crowds... Especially considering the Stanford and Wisconsin football teams were in the park today in preparation for the Rose Bowl. (Here all week, folks. Tip your waitress!)

Hope you all had a Merry Christmas or at least got drunk enough to ignore your families!

No comments:

Post a Comment