Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An Elephant Never Forgets

Just before Christmas, Peanut's Nonnie and Auntie took her to Disneyland. She enjoyed the first day very much, but on the morning of the second day she vomited right down the middle of Main Street, U.S.A. They hadn't even made it to the statue of Walt and Mickey, and they had to turn around and go back to the hotel. The next couple of days were spent trying to find a gift shop that sold applesauce and figuring out if either of them had extra pajamas for my sickly eight- year-old to borrow. I almost jumped on an airplane to rescue her, but realized that she was with the next-best-thing-to-Mom and relaxed. Well, a little bit. Okay, I called around every 45 minutes or so. Don't judge.

Peanut was actually pretty all right about the whole experience, except for one thing: She didn't get to ride on Dumbo.

Tossing her cookies at the Happiest Place on Earth didn't bother her so much. Nonnie having to spend hours watching cartoons at HoJo's - not a horrible thing. No Dumbo = Catastrophic Event Probably Leading to Needing Therapy in the Future.

For weeks after she returned, she would lay in bed until way past bedtime, worrying that she had somehow offended the flying elephant by not waiting in line for an hour to visit him. "We'll go again someday, right Mom?" She would ask. I would climb the stairs to retire for the evening, and she'd still be up. "Maybe I should ride him first the next time we go to Disneyland."

So, here's the really, really weird part: I had the exact same experience when I was eight, like Peanut. No kidding. I didn't get to ride Dumbo and it blew. my. mind.

My mother was dating my stepfather and in an attempt to woo her, he flew my mom, my five-year-old brother and me to Orange County for a short overnighter - in his airplane. What young, single mother wouldn't be impressed by that, I ask you? Long story marginally short: I didn't get to ride Dumbo and I spend the rest of the evening (no, really it was more like the rest of my life) sobbing in distress. Worried that I might never, ever get the chance to see him again. Of course, I felt compelled to share this story with my mournful child.

My daughter and I are emotional hoarders. I don't mean that we hoard because we are emotional (although, truth be told, that may also be an issue), I mean that we hoard actual emotions: memories, events, words - as tangible as the shoe boxes full of limitless, useless, eclectic items in your Aunt Bertha's closets, that she will really need someday. The memory- mind- movies loop in our brains and weigh us down with as much anxiety as all the Splenda packets, broken shoelaces, and threadbare beach towels that you could collect in a lifetime.

When my husband and I decided to take Peanut and Bean to visit Mickey Mouse and his crew in February, it was the first ride on our list. However, we made it through the first day and neglected to visit the flying elephant.

The boys went back to the hotel when it got dark, and Peanut and I were at the neighboring themepark, California Adventure. We were trying to watch the new water-light show, but we had horrible seats. I heard a voice in my ear, trying to sound nonchalant, "Heya, Mom? Are you bored?" I answered honestly, that I was done with seeing the backside of water. "How about we, uh, go to the Dumbo ride?" Sounds like a good idea, right? It would have been, except that Disney was closing in ELEVEN MINUTES.

Me: I don't think we can get to Dumbo before the park closes.
Peanut: Yes, yes we can. We'll run fast.
Me: I haven't been able to run fast in years.
Peanut: Come on, Mom, think of the exercise.
Me: I don't want any exercise, I'm on vacation. I just want one of those giant corndogs and a Mickey-shaped ice cream sandwich.
Peanut: We have to do this, Mom, both of us! We need to catch up on Dumbo or we'll regret it forever!


By some incredible miracle, I managed to get the lead out and run as fast as a third grader: past the ticket booth, past Main Street U.S.A. - Hi, Walt! Bye, Walt! - and under Sleeping Beauty's Castle.

We got the last two boarding passes for that damned ride. I am not kidding. We were the last two passengers for the evening.

It was easily 45 degrees, but we were both sweating from our unexpected workout. My heart was pounding from too many years and not enough regular jogging. But we made it. We made it and soon we were in the air.

I could see above the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. The top of the Matterhorn. I could hear the music from the carousel below. When I looked at my daughter's face, I knew that this had lifted a weight from her shoulders. Her hair blew behind her and her missing-tooth-grin was reflecting the lights around us as we circled the evening sky.

That very moment made it on my shortlist of most wonderful moments, ever.

When we exited the ride, we walked, lighthearted, toward our hotel.

"Mom?" I looked down into my mini-twin's face to see what she wanted.

"We didn't get to ride Peter Pan."

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