A dream is a wish your heart makesDidgeridon't
Charlie's been practicing his accents. Unhampered by ever having heard, say, a real live Australian, he nevertheless lets out long strings of conversation that make him sound like Crocodile Dundee and Eliza Doolittle had a baby and taught him to talk by playing "Electric Avenue" on repeat. And then grafted on an extra tongue, removed many important teeth, and replaced his epiglottis with a swim fin. And then stabbed the poor kid in the brain stem with a souvenir icepick. Feyncegggh soom oice enh yo tay, meeight?
Sure and begorrah, kiddo, is all I can say to that.
...Hey, teacher, leave them kids alone
As Ben played happily with his dog school, he noticed I'd slipped in a cat. "No cats allowed," he boomed, and enforced this new rule with vigor.
The cat. Down there. To the left. On the lonely side of the fence.
I'm totally going to fuck with him by gradually removing the dogs and replacing them with Lego Gollums.
...I was not compensated in any way for writing the following review, which will shortly become obvious
I took the boys to Walt Disney World for a surprise trip to celebrate Charlie's birthday. If you're looking for expensive ways to find out your children don't give a shit about theme parks, well, friends, look no further. Five stars!
I don't know; I sort of lost my mind. (One night Paul told me there was a special on JetBlue — kids fly free to Orlando. "Should I take them, you think?" I asked him. He said, "...Someone has to go with them?")
Shortly after booking the trip, I was fairly gripped with remorse, but airlines have rules about these things, including HA HA FUCK YOU NO WAY LADY YOU'RE GOING, so the morning of Charlie's birthday found us getting up before dawn, casually revealing to him that he didn't have to go to school that day, and then trundling off to the airport. Normally I like JetBlue, but, y'all, they let a lady onto the plane wearing a Buzz Lightyear hoodie. I don't mean it had a logo on it, or a tasteful low-key portrait on the front; I mean this, in grown-ass-woman size:
...which she naturally wore hood-up. Given current TSA regulations I assumed her LASER button had been disabled, but since you can't be too careful these days, I spent the duration of the flight nervously searching the flight safety card for info on what to do in case of a giant plastic lady toy sweatshirt space attack. (I mean, when I wasn't watching HGTV on my seatback TV screen.) Alas, I searched in vain. One star, JetBlue, for your cavalier approach to passenger safety. Five stars, Lady Lightyear, for keeping the galaxy safe.
We stayed at the Dolphin — nice hotel, notably devoid of any egregious Disney magic. I like to think I paid extra for that. Otherwise, it was fine: the requisite number of beds, hot and cold running television, and numerous opportunities for my children to come to blows over who got to push the elevator button. My only complaint is that although the JetBlue promotional package included free dining for the kids, I was disappointed to notice that the menu offered no bottlenose, not even on seafood buffet night. Three stars, but only because I was eventually able to get a whaleburger from room service.
As for the parks themselves? Well, everything at Disney is very well done, clean and efficient and carefully planned to deliver a satisfying — if somewhat sterile — guest experience. Charile was left largely unmoved, though, by almost everything but Mission: Space, which he liked well enough that we did it three times. Ben was most struck by the three nanoseconds on the Little Mermaid ride that featured the Sea Witch, a flash of terror that he continues to relish and relive weeks later, allowing me the pleasure of his company at the gently starlit hour of fuck-you-mouse-o'clock.
So it was fine, but overwhelming, I think; by three o'clock each day, Charlie asked nicely if we could go back to the hotel then, a request I was happy to grant — good God, I didn't need another trip through It's a Small World, after all. Not when the first had been such a delight: I swear on Walt's frozen corpse that the man behind us in our boat was singing along the whole time...in accents. As we rounded the curve to France, for example, he started singing, "Eet's uh smohl world ahhhftair all! Eet's uh smohl, smohl, wohrhrhrld!" But that wasn't enough. Then he'd embellish it, replacing some of the lyrics: "Eet's a world of fromage and a world of berets..." et ainsi de suite.
I froze in my seat when he started this, thinking, Surely he's not going to... Ah, mais oui, and don't call me certainement: he did. And it got better, by which I mean it got worse. As we sailed on through Indeterminate Asialand, he changed his lyrics to, "Ching chong, ching chong..." I'd been darting meaningful looks over my shoulder the whole time, but at this point I stopped, afraid to see whether he was making slanty eyes with his fingers. But when we entered the harbor at Generica Panafrica, and he began — forgive me, forgive me — chanting, "Ooga booga, ooga booga," I really did turn and stare openly. I don't know what I'd expected, but in my everyday life I'm so insulated from overt bigotry that it startled me to see just a plain old normal-looking guy there, seeming mildly surprised to be whirled upon. One star, park planners, for not installing a "You Must Be at Least >This Racist< to Ride in That Guy's Boat" sign at the entrance. Five stars, Imagineers, for figuring out a way to make my head explode in a crowd-pleasing cascade of sparks at no expense to Disney.
I don't know, so many people love going to the parks, but the charm of it largely eludes me. I confess I was secretly pleased to see the same was true for my kids. They had a lot more fun playing on the hotel's "beach," and I use the term loosely, than they did at the parks, and in fact we did it every evening and one afternoon. (I had more fun, too, once I discovered the poolside bar would make me a cocktail to go.)
I love that I have kids who get excited about landscaping — "Look, Ben! Look! It's topiary!" — and armrests — "This seat has a place where I can rest my arms!" The animals at Animal Kingdom left Ben momentarily speechless, but then so did the little shampoo bottles on the hotel bathroom counter.
I will recommend one experience without reservation and mostly without snark. There's this thing, this one ruinously expensive activity among many, that kids do at the parks: they exchange Disney-themed enameled pins. I knew about this from the last trip I took there with Charlie, so we went prepared; Charlie had a lanyard from before, and I'd bought Ben an assortment of pins, weird, obscure, and cheap, from eBay. (Seriously cheap. They must add extra lead to those...and pass the savings on to you!)
The idea is that you see someone with a pin you like and you invite them to trade with you. Last time we did it, Charlie was extremely reluctant to approach anyone, so I expected the same this time. But it was different. I'd see a kid with a lot of pins and suggest he go over and say hi...and he would! Overhearing the resulting conversation, the "What's your name?" and the gruff "Pleasure doing business with you," the normal-kid normalcy of it — that alone made the trip worth it.
...Okay, no, it didn't. (Do you know how much whaleburgers cost at that place?) But it did make the trip great when otherwise it was just good. Five stars, Charlie. Five stars, social learning program, to which I give much of the credit. Five stars, Blinc mascara, which didn't run even a little.
...It's not about me, except the part of it that is
On his birthday in November, Charlie turned eight. I'd say I don't know where the time went, but that's not true: when I look at him and Ben I see every second of it. I've changed so much myself, am still changing every day. When women talk about the birth of a child, they say they became a mother. It's not some finite thing, though. I just keep becoming.
The thing I couldn't know while we were still trying to have children is that what you think you wish for is different from what you'll be thankful for. There is no happily-ever-after, not exactly. Or rather, the happily ever after and the sadly — the good, the hard, the unendurable, the amazing, the can't-face-another-day and the please-let-this-time-pass-slowly — all coalesce in a slow unfolding of luckily ever after.