I was going to hate Disneyland.

by Janelle Hanchett

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.


19 Comments | Posted in Sometimes, I'm all deep and shit..... | October 30, 2014
  • Vivienne

    I am so sorry for Lucy’s family. My heart breaks.

  • Johanna

    I’m cuddling with my 2 yo right now and crying silent tears. Sending love and light her and her family’s way.

  • Nicole

    Fucking cancer. Fucking fucking FUCKING cancer. WHY? Why do you take the babies? Our babies.

    Thank you for reminding me to hold my babies close tonight. Every night. I always know it, but sometimes I need a reminder.

    Also, I went to Disney World when I was 9 weeks pregnant with my first baby and I swore that I would NEVER, EVER take her there. I was up and down adamant that our vacations would be at cabins in the woods and chalets in the mountains. Ya. Next summer? Road trip to Disney Land… 🙂

  • Sherry


    Sending love to you and your friends.

    As someone above wisely said, “Fucking cancer.”

  • Lizzie Lau

    RIP Lucy
    This is a chilling reminder to be grateful and be present.
    I rode the teacups with my daughter when she was 3 no less than 10 times. Seeing Disneylandia through the eyes of a toddler is magical.

  • Phyllis

    I cannot imagine the loss. When I think to complain about my life, something reminds me just how fortunate I have been. My prayers go to the family and friends of that beautiful angel.

  • Dani

    Just reading that was like a smack in the face, I can’t imagine how it must have been to live it. And I can imagine even less how it feels to be that parent, saying goodbye. I’m so sorry.

  • Beth

    Janelle – I don’t know you.. but I wish I did..

    You’re writing moves me to tears at times and this heartbroken family made me think of a film that had me in tears for its in your face honesty of life.. like you.. If you ever find the time in the chaos.. watch Broken Circle Breakdown.. its raw life..

  • Marie Rossiter

    RIP to lovely Lucy. A beautiful angel gone too soon.

    I can imagine how you felt sitting there reading the news. The pain, the guilt, the futility of it all.

    I hope you take comfort that your trip and that time with your kids is a memory they will cherish forever; those moments were genuine and not fake or false in any way, no matter how surreal the surroundings may have seemed. All we can do is take one day at a time, remember to be grateful for the time we have and to make the most of it. Your post is a sad, but wonderful reminder of that. Thanks for the reality check.

  • Stacie

    This makes me feel sick to my stomach. When I was pregnant with my daughter I spent most of it worried that she had a health issue (a long story). I remember feeling so isolated. Feeling like I was the person that people looked at and then felt grateful about their own lives and their healthy children. It’s so hard. So hard.

    By some miracle, all the tests were wrong. My daughter was born 100 percent healthy. It is the greatest miracle of my life and a huge wake up call. Though I still find I need the reminder sometimes, so thank you for that.

    I feel so badly for your friend. I can’t even put it into words. I hope she finds a good circle of people who have gone through what she has. Because it’s so hard to feel alone in your feelings and experiences, and it’s so hard to feel like your life is what people look to to remind themselves of how good they have it.

    Beautiful writing. I always get so much out of your blog entries.

  • Megan

    Firstly, I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t even imagine the devastation that family must be going through, and also how hard it must have been for you to try to wrap your head around all of those emotions.

    I took my son to Disney World last week, and I went in feeling sort of the same way. He’s 4, and he was FLOORED. Absolutely couldn’t handle the amazingness of the place, could barely allow himself to blink lest he miss something. He and Pocahontas are now an item. I spent most of the trip nearly in tears just watching him. Just being able to take him for the 4 year old he is, just watching the awe. Even watching the characters with him, how they let him talk to them as much as he wanted and hug them as many times as he needed. I thanked every one, and hoped that they knew how much I meant it. It was a wonderful trip. I barely remember how tired we all were, how crabby and hangry we got. I got a picture of him on the teacup ride that I wish I could share here, because it just perfectly embodies the whole trip. The look of pure, unadulterated joy on his face is … everything.


  • Shannon

    rest in peace sweet beautiful Lucy, Janelle your words are beyond perfect even though nothing in the situation with Lucy seems right, it is a lesson for us to hold on to what we’ve got with both hands and a whole heart

  • Sherry

    I can’t think of a better tribute to Lucy than for you to embrace all this life has to offer and that includes the magic of Disneyland. Bravo.

    And I concur with what a wise person once said…fucking cancer. Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.


  • Chris

    I dropped Acid in Disney Land 🙂

  • Jaana

    If you ever go again, look me up! I do Disneyland vacation photography and work with families visiting from all over the country! It’s so fun. And I’m willing to collaborate with bloggers. Glad you had a great day!

  • Grouchiegrrl

    My thoughts and whatever non-believers have instead of prayers are with your friend.

    I was reading the first part of your post and thinking that I had a small sense of that last night, when I got roped into taking my 2 year old and his ‘neighbling’ trick or treating. Which, you understand, we don’t really do in Oz. But a few blocks in my suburb have started decorating and having apple bobbing and the like, and encouraging kids to come. I expected to loathe it.

    But it was wonderful. Such a lovely community feel to the whole thing. The effort everyone put in, the joy in the kids. Watching my son when he worked out that what people had been giving him to put in his bucket was lollies and chocolate, and how he was totally re-invigorated when he worked that out. Sure it was a late bedtime, but it was absolutely worth it.

    And were anything to happen to him, it would be the memories and photos and stories of nights like last night, and the fun the kids had that would, hopefully, allow everyone who loves him to get through.

    My love and thoughts to you too – as this is bad for you too.


  • Wendy

    Hugs to you and your friend from afar xx

  • Nikiya Schwarz

    The way you have written about this juxtaposition, with so much heart and transparency, is why I keep reading your blog. Thank you for saying it all out loud. Thoughtfully. Honestly. And beautifully.

  • Jennifer

    I have no words for what your post has made me feel, and yet this is the first time after reading dozens of your posts that I’ve felt inclined to comment.

    I’m sorry, so sorry for your loss and for Lucy’s family’s loss. Death is heartbreaking, in particular when it happens before someone has experienced something like Disneyland, or a pony ride, or their first day of school.

    Damn. Not fair.

    Hang in there. You’ve made all of us hang on a little tighter to the ones we love.