When we walked into Disneyland I looked around and thought “I have either entered the happiest place on earth or the axis of evil, but it sure is clean!”
I’ll admit it. I was skeptical. The price alone made me hate it. Then you add princesses and rides and masses of humanity and I figured the DMV on a Friday afternoon would be more fun.
But my kids really, really wanted to go and Mac and I felt some sort of American Obligation to take our kids to the big D-land. We put it off approximately 12 years, the age of our oldest daughter.
The problem is, within moments of walking through the front gate I was having a silly amount of fun. I was embarrassing myself. It was actually kind of irritating, were it not so fun.
I don’t know why exactly. It just was. The kids were walking around on clouds. I got such a kick out of watching them. I was kinda giddy. Mac was too. He may have skipped. We were a couple of kids ourselves.
All the planters were perfect and bright and balanced and shit. The rides were genuinely exciting and amusing. Weird puppets sang catchy tunes. Lights blinked. Things felt okay. I thought it would be a very strange place to drop acid.
I expected the standard amusement park smell of hamburgers, urine, and broken dreams. Instead I seemed to just smell good stuff. And clean. Good, clean stuff.
Yeah, the princesses. The materialism. The consumerism. And the lady yelling “Shut up!” in the face of her toddler, gripping his arm. And the lines. And the stores. And the asshole shuttle driver. And the “red man” (ohmygod) in the Peter Pan ride.
But, my family. My four kids and dad and stepmom and mom. And my brother and sister-in-law and nephews and niece.
Georgia looking up at me yelling “Goofy! He is REAL! He’s right THERE!” Ava and I taking pictures of ourselves on the Buzz Lightyear ride. Riding in the car singing “Don’t Stop Believin'” while Rocket “drove” and cackled. Going on Splash Mountain with my kids and Mac and hearing Georgia roar “That was scary but AWESOME. Let’s do it AGAIN!”
A few moments after returning to the hotel, while we took an afternoon break before heading back to Disneyland, I read a post on Facebook stating that my friend’s daughter had passed away just hours earlier from complications from Leukemia. She would have been 3 years old on November 4.
Lucy Selah, November 4, 2011 – October 24, 2014.
Through tears I looked around at that hotel room over there in Anaheim and I saw the Mickey ears sitting on that table and the Goofy stuffed animal I bought Georgia and the Pooh bear for Arlo, because we took him on that ride, and I felt the disgusting juxtaposition of where I was versus where my friend was, mere hours into her living nightmare.
I was skipping about PleasantVille in virtually pure carefree bliss while she was in a hospital, saying her final goodbyes to her baby girl.
The happiest place on earth.
There’s no way to make sense of that. None. There’s no way to make sense of one day eating Mickey ear ice creams and the next day watching your toddler crush under the weight of disease.
There’s no way to make sense of it and I won’t try. My thoughts were stupid and trite. I have no better ones now.
I thought about Lucy and cried some more and looked over all the pictures of her, the ones we had seen over the months, as she fought for her young life. I thought about her and her mom and siblings and dad and I was glad I wasn’t too good for Disneyland, that I took it in fully for once, that I let go of my old ideas to just be there fully with my family. I get caught up in failed expectations or exhaustion or just good ol’ self-centered preoccupation sometimes, and I miss it. Life. I miss the bouncing blonde heads around me. The action. The pulse and light and sound. It’s really fucking hard to remember.
But that trip to Disneyland had me in it, fully. I was terribly grateful for those couple of days.
I felt it in my bones as I read those words “Our little Goose spread her wings and flew away home this afternoon.”
I wanted to do something, say something, fix something. But I was there, and the only thing to do was keep on going. It all felt silly after that, the lights and puppets and weird sounds. The perfect planter boxes and characters and fireworks. It felt small and ridiculous and false.
But it felt like life, this good, good life – and I saw her face in my mind as I spent $24 on 3 freaking Mickey balloons, just to see the joy in my own toddler, niece and nephew.
I should have bought a fourth, and let it go into the sky, for no other reason than to watch it disappear.
If you feel compelled to help, please consider making a donation to Lucy’s family to help support them through this time.
Her memorial service is Sunday, two days before what would have been her 3rd birthday.
I also want to thank those of you who have already donated. With just one Facebook post on the Renegade Mothering page, over $2,500 was raised. I have long suspected the best humans read this blog. You are proving me right.