My 2013 vacation has come and gone. It had been planned for over a year – Disneyland, California with my son, Dan and friends which included a 4 year old boy, Casey and an eighteen month old girl, Michaela. I had not taken such a trip with small ones before, but was excited about seeing Disneyland and California Adventure (had visited 4 years earlier with both my grown sons) through their young eyes. It turned out to be an eye opener for me. For one thing, Casey pretty much directed us within the parks. He was there to ride rides, not sit and watch people or stop for lots of pictures with characters – very normal. He had an agenda and it wasn’t until we had covered most of that agenda that he slowed down and was willing to relax. I loved being on rides with him – he would hold my hand and announce that I was sitting with him. Pretty cool! I basically played surrogate grandma. I watched the munchkins especially Michaela when they were not tall enough to ride certain rides. That gave me time to bond with them and relax in the shade. Shade and water turned out to be the most important ingredients for surviving the parks as it was in the 90’s with high humidity most days. Even my beloved Mickey Bar was not high on the list of goodies – I only had one. After that, milk products were banned from the diet. New Orleans non-alcoholic mint juleps, however, were welcomed in quantity along with a refreshing Dole whip float. Keeping up with Casey was a challenge, but I wasn’t going to let him down!
One thing about the California parks that is most disturbing for someone my age is that their outdoor shows are not set up with seating. Fireworks at the Castle – well, you hope to grab a bench or seat, but standing is a given if you want to see all the details. Technically, we saw the fireworks 3 times walking back to the hotel as they started as well as from our balcony. I didn’t see Tink or Dumbo, but that was perfectly fine with me. However, I was determined to see Fantasmic and World of Color which require a pretty good spot to see all of the wondrous creativity that goes into those shows. Except for the ground (which if I go down, I’m not getting up), seating does not exist. Plus a great many people mark their spots hours before the event rotating people, blanks, coolers etc.
We lucked out with our spot for Fantasmic by getting there about an hour early, however, it was unbearably hot standing waiting for it to begin (add crowds around you) and I was so tired from walking all day. I was not going to be discouraged or a “poopy face” about it so I bucked up and stood with the munchkins who were pretty cranky as well. The other adults took off for Pirates of the Caribbean so I relied on the goodies in the stroller and the kindness of others to help pass the time. I was pleasantly pleased by the friendliness of those around us. Casey benefited the most – a young lady seated on the ground spoke with him at length about his neon bracelots, another gentleman shared a bag of chips with him, and a Disney employee called him her prince while pinning a beautiful Prince Charming button on him. Michaela was content as long as there was food and drink although I kept a sharp eye out for the adults hoping they would return sooner than later. Once the show began, I relaxed and forgot the exhaustion as it was as amazing as I hoped it would be.
With World of Color, we obtained Fast Passes which helped put us in a relatively good spot, but you still needed to arrive an hour early and stand. Another long hot day made me wonder why I was doing this, but I knew it would be worth it – I just had to persevere. I rocked Michaela in her stroller so she thought she was still moving while my son sat on the ground and played a game with Casey. We could escape to use the bathroom – the walk helped work out the standing kinks. We lucked out again when they opened up the area right next to where we had been standing and allowed us to get even closer. Once again, all the exhaustion dissipated when the show began. I have never seen anything like it and to describe the show here would do it disservice. Let’s just say the fountains, the music, the colors all wove together to tell a story which was magical and breathtaking.
Was this the kind of vacation I was hoping for? Not really. I remembered my first trip 4 years ago – we saw so much yet we were relaxed, calm, cool (literally) enjoying each other and every moment. It had been the first Disney vacation where I had no pain in my knees and I seemed to be able to go on forever. My 60th birthday – maybe I was just high on the adventure. Four years later and it’s a different trip – a great trip, but so very different. Patience was at the top of the list for me although I had one melt down – don’t get me up early, have me race to a park, end up standing on line (8 am mind you) without food and coffee! Next on my list was the realization that I needed endurance to get through the entire day. Our hotel was not on site but within walking distance, however, at 9:30/10:00 pm the walk back seemed endless. I was not going to let the pain in my knees or back nor the heat/humidity take anything away from the magic I was experiencing. I was in Disneyland with two amazing children who I love dearly, friends both near and far (3 had come from far away and I hadn’t seen them in years), and my wonderful son who puts up with me every day. I met Tiana, Merida, Cinderella, Ariel, Aurora, Mickey and the gang; had breakfast with Minnie, Captain Hook, Fairy Godmother, Chip and Dale. I had amazing meals, saw fantastic shows, experienced all the new creations by the wizards of Disney the parks had to offer. I didn’t want to miss or waste one minute.
How strange that a vacation makes one push oneself to the limit of endurance? There were two marathons that weekend that 3 of my friends competed in. Now that is pushing oneself to the limit of endurance. I wasn’t running in either of those races, however, I treated this vacation like a marathon. Just the opposite of what I have told my other friends who want to visit Disney especially with children : get to the parks early, plot out ahead of time what you want to see then around noon go back to your room. Snack/lunch, rest, swim, even nap – then head back to the parks for an early dinner/late lunch plus more rides, attractions and nighttime wonder. Why then did I not take my own advice? Because I’m an adult, hear me roar? It took 3 days to recover at home walking carefully around so as not to feel the aches and pains, napping in between the normal everyday chores. Finally my ankles and knees are no longer swollen – excess body fluids from the heat and humidity has drained (3 pounds worth!) – I’ve taken on a few more chores and willingly gone food shopping (it entails walking and standing).
I’m retired. Every day should be a vacation filled with the magic of life. Why am I not as excited about each regular day in the life of Debi as I was about visiting Disneyland? Lots of questions rumble around my head but no answers – not yet any way. Still new at this retirement thing. One thing I do know – next vacation will include relaxation, cocktails, a pool, and of course, excellent food. Did anyone say “cruise”?