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02/12/2010

Happiest place on Earth

Hey, thanks for the great Disney tips.  Thanks to you I'm going to be all up in FastPass's business, and I have acquired the Unofficial Guide several of you recommended, but I'm sorry to say that some of your pointers, like any of those that call for making arrangements in advance, are off the table because we're leaving in approximately 12 hours.  Yeah.  Hoo, boy, I sure do like to plan ahead.  You can't spell "hyperorganized" without...one or two letters that are also in my name!

Coincidence?  I think not.

I had to laugh when I imagined some of you recoiling at the very mention of Disney, let us now praise its great and terrible name.  Can I tell you that I have a few Disney issues myself?  It's not quite Lunchables territory, only because I don't think they ground up any domesticated dogs to make Goofy, although on second thought there is an awful lot about that vest-wearing sonofabitch that begs an explanation.  Gentlemen, I am waiting.  Yes, I'll stand by until you finish your Maxed Out Deep Dish Pizza with Pepperoni-Flavored Sausage. To the X-treme, my good sirs.

...Anyway, in general I'm leery of the commodification of fun; any marketing aimed directly at kids makes me go all slitty-eyed and snarly; and as a rule I mistrust any corporate entity with that great a reach.  Disney's kind of the category-killer on all three of those counts, and I've resisted it on principle.

But that principle — don't do anything that makes me feel more than 75% cynical — is, like most principles, subject to a savage beatdown when it wanders across the path of another, more badass conviction.  In this case, that conviction is to see my mother whenever I can.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, my brother sent e-mail saying he and my sister-in-law were giving their sons a Disney cruise as a gift, and also including my mother.  Did I want to get in on it?  And I gave the matter careful deliberation for all of fifteen seconds, thirteen of which were devoted to going, "Diiiiisney.  Huhhhh," before I said, "Yespleasethankyouwhendoweshoveoff?"  Because the real question wasn't actually whether I wanted to sidle up to Donald Duck and murmur, "Hello, sailor," but whether I wanted to spend time with my mom.  Recreational time, real leisure time, with none of the dispiriting conditions — my grandmother's increasing needs, Ben's exhausting limpet act, Charlie's inevitable, understandable boredom and eventual acting out — that prevail when we visit her.

I have been missing my mother.  Since she's my grandmother's primary caregiver — a nice tidy clinical term that keeps me from wanting to cry too much — she can't get away easily.  And when we make the trip, it's almost impossible for us to spend even half an hour together without someone requiring something: being held nonstop; being given an occupation at the pace an energetic five-year-old deserves; being discreetly followed around and prevented from leaving the stove on.  It probably started when Ben was born, when my mother had to leave here early because my aunt was in decline.  That feeling of Wait, I was hoping we could...  And it hasn't let up yet.

It extends beyond just me.  Since my dad died, since my aunt died, I'm aware every day of...oh, you know, just everything.  Time fleeting.  People mattering.  Connections being irreplaceable.  The only scant protection from the sadness of loss being a bulwark of happy memories.  All of it, and besides — the relevant part here — the really strong desire for my kids to know my mother.  It's not that she's their only living grandparent, although I think about that sometimes; it's that she's who she is and I want them to benefit from it as I have.  They already do.  I see the relationship Charlie's building with her and I think, More, more.  I hope he and Ben get more, lots more.

So that's why I've packed our suitcases, stocked up on Lunchables for the flight, and spent approximately $300,000 on this Disney vacation extravaganza.  Ben and Paul are staying home; Ben's too little, I think, to get anything out of the experience, and I suspect Paul's just as happy.  We'll all meet tomorrow in Orland, then board the ship on Sunday.  After a few days on the boat, it's back to Orlando for some time at various parks.  My brother kindly made all the arrangements, so if I sound a bit vague, it's because I'm not entirely sure what we're doing.  And I honestly don't care.  Food, lodging, rides, whatever.  Feed me $18 hot dogs, and charge me extra for the ketchup...double for ketchup with no mouse hairs in it.  Make me share a chest freezer with old Walter Elias himself.  Put me in a line to get in line to be in line for the line to the bathroom.  (What, the ladies' room isn't a ride?  It doesn't move or spin or play music or have happy little animatronic Pygmies singing me to my seat or anything?  I want a goddamn refund.  Happiest place on Earth, my ass.)  Doesn't matter.  As long as it involved some time with my mother, I'd even let Goofy hit me sideways.

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