In this moment I am reminded of Dee's and my first date to the "Magic Kingdom." It was around my nineteenth birthday which was about two months after our first kiss (read my post titled, "The Kiss" for more on that). At that point in our relationship we had not told anyone we were seeing each other. We, I mean Dee, were still worried that we might be ruining our friendship if we continued down this path. So one day we headed off to Disneyland to have some fun. On the way, we agreed that we should keep the kissing to a minimum and when we did we would be discreet just in case we were seen by someone who might know us. We were thinking that we didn't want people to think we were dating at the time just in case we decided to "save" our friendship. That way the dating pool wouldn't be limited! We were so wise back then! HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa! Okay, okay, I have to stop laughing because my ribs are hurting! Snicker, snicker. Soon after we entered the gate I recommended that we go watch the Abraham Lincoln show (because every 19 year old loves the Lincoln exhibit) with the ulterior motive of making out. So we did and yep, we made out. Next we went to the Space Mountain ride where, you guessed it, made out. So, for the rest of the day, we continued trying and failing to be discreet always saying to ourselves "Next ride we will be more careful!" That never happened and eventually it got so bad that even the guy on the Pete's Dragon float in the Electric Parade commented on it. He had a microphone and was talking to the crowd and it turned out he knew Deanna. By then we were too far gone to care about what anybody thought and soon enough we, I mean she, realized our love was true anyway!
I am also reminded of a few more events at Disneyland that also lead to today. The first is the same for most first time parents who live within eyesight of the Disneyland fireworks. It was our daughters first trip to Disneyland. Dee couldn't wait to take her. Heck, it was one of her first comments after Jackie was born and, I must admit, a thought of mine too! My best recollection of that time was my wondering "Why are we taking a one year old to Disneyland?" "She won't remember it any way!" So off to the park we went with Dee's sister's family which included Nathan, who is Jackie's cousin and was born a week before her. I was right! If you ask either of those now twenty three year olds how much they enjoyed that first time they wouldn't remember it. But I was wrong in my line of reasoning. That first time isn't for the child but for the parents. I recall how it was wonderful seeing the wonder in her eyes and the smile on her face as she tried to comprehend what was going on. I'm talking about Dee here people, the baby was clueless to what the heck was going on! Though Jackie did enjoy all the colors and sounds. That is until she fell asleep at noon. It was, regardless of my present sarcasm, a very memorable day for the Dee and me.
My memories of my son, Alex, aren't of his first trip but one that, I believe, started him down the road to fearlessness. Alex wasn't always the danger seeker he is today. Actually, he was quite timid as a child. One visit, when Alex was about six or seven, we got in line for the Indiana Jones ride. As we got closer Alex seemed to be getting more and more anxious about getting on. We reassured him many times that everything would be alright. At that point in his life Alex had never rode on a roller coaster before. They frightened him but this was a car type of ride so we were able to convince him everything would be okay. When we got in the jeep I was sitting in the row behind him and Dee. I was in a good spot to watch his reaction to the ride. As we rolled along he was looking around at things and reacting how people do on that ride. Everything was great! The next thing that happened is something I will never forget, I was so focused on Alex's reactions that I wasn't paying attention to the ride. All of a sudden, I saw something out of the corner of my eye and looked over but it was too late! The big snake that lurches at the car near the end of the ride was coming for me and I was unprepared for its attack. Now, I knew this wasn't a real giant snake but you couldn't tell that to my "Fight or Flight" response. If this was a real giant snake I would have been devoured like a delicious, nourishing snake Twinkie snack. Every limb went in a different direction all at once and then I went limp and basically stayed like that. For the remainder of the ride I laid there pondering my existence and what the meaning of my life was. The thing that pissed me off was that this wasn't the first time that damn snake had startled me - it got me the very first time I went on that ride! Anyway, after the ride, we got out of the car and began walking down towards the exit when Alex starts scolding Dee and I. "Why would you take me something like that? What were you thinking? I am too little to be going on a ride like that!" All of this being said as kids younger and smaller than him were walking by screaming at their parents to take them on again. We felt bad for him, particularly me after my recent near death experience. We promised we would never take him on that ride again. Nobody said anything about other rides though, which happened on other visits to the park. But that day was the day that the ice was broken for him. On a side note, I have gone to battle many more times with the giant snake and I am proud to say the score is Don -5 and Giant Snake -2! In your face inanimate object!
My last visit to “The Happiest Place on Earth” (“The Happiest Place on Earth" is a trademark of Disney and its partners which I believe included Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Mater and the Blue Parrot from the Tiki, Tiki, Tiki, Tiki Room and cannot be used without their expressed permission) was on Mother’s day, 2011.The kids, along with their friend Kyla, decided to take their moms to Disneyland for the day. It wasn't a visit that stood out for any particular reason. Had I known it would be my last I may have observed my time that day differently but, woulda, coulda, shoulda, it's all academic now. Though I did take away one thing from that day. I found the beer garden in the California Adventure Park and it was a good thing! There is a Karl Strauss hefeweizen there that I fell in love with called WINDANSEA WHEAT. It just works for me and I suggests you give it a try once. Also it was Goth Day (really it was on the Disneyland sign in front of the park) which was pretty cool because Goth’s dig Disneyland too! Particularly the Haunted House.
Disneyland, over the years, has become a home away from home of sorts for my small clan that we can escape to and forget our problems for the day. A “Frontierland,” where Dee and I discovered our relationship was true and pure. A “Fantasyland,” where I could watch the excitement on my wife’s face as she watched her babies first reactions to the place. But now Disneyland has become a safe port for my “Pirates of the Caribbean” allowing them a much needed place to escape from this storm called, ALS - for a few hours at least. A very important “Tomorrowland” where they will create new memories and recall fond ones of the wonderful time's that we spent there. As I finish writing this I can't help but feel that this isn't really about Disneyland. It's more about the tapestry of our family. Over the years Disneyland has become a deeply woven thread into our rich tapestry but it's just one of many that we have. Sadly, I have to pull my needle away from this particular thread and step back. But that's okay because I have more threads to weave!