The two Disneylands
There are two Disneylands: the one seen through the eyes of a child, and the one seen through the eyes of a grownup.
The kid at Disneyland sees one thing more than anything else: pants.
What else do you have to look at when you’re not quite four feet tall, and you spend the better part of your day in lines and following your parents?
The grownups, meanwhile, probably don't notice pants, unless to comment on the fact that Donald doesn’t seem to be wearing any.
The adults at Disneyland do notice the landscaping, though. They wonder, how does Mickey keep the wisteria from overtaking Mr. Toad’s Wild Patio or Alice in Wonderland’s neighboring cottage?
The adults think, at our house, we can’t keep our wisteria from growing over the toilet our neighbor has in his yard, leaning against a bathtub that happens to contain a sink in which a fern has sprouted.
The Haunted Mansion has no outdoor bathroom fixtures. And the trim on the doors inside is magnificent. It has old-world charm, which doesn’t come cheap. The adults know this. It makes them sigh.
So does the Haunted Mansion’s unobstructed view of Tom Sawyer’s Island. Real estate is location, location, location, and something with a water view – even if it’s kind of close to the train tracks and infested with ghosts – is going to be worth a mint.
This makes us sigh again.
But even more than the incredible landscaping, the fairy dust they use to clean up barf and the enviable real estate, the adult experience at the Magic Kingdom has more to do with logistics, timing and adequate sunscreen than anything resembling relaxation.
I know this, because I am an adult who has just returned from there. If parenthood has an Olympic-level challenge, Disneyland during the height of the tourist season during its 50th anniversary celebration is it.
Adam and I were ready for it, though. We had the sunscreen. We had a stroller and floppy hat for Alice, and we had a plan for keeping Lucy close. It was a good plan, based in fear.
“Mama got lost at Disneyland, Lucy,” he said, pausing dramatically. “Lost. She had to go to the Lost and Found.”
And it’s true. After I lost sight of my mom’s pants when I was about Lucy’s age, I waited at the Lost and Founds for what seemed like hours. My parents only noticed I was missing when they’d bought five ice cream cones, but only had four children to give them to.
Lucy listened with giant eyes. She had just one question.
“Yes?” Adam asked her.
“Can I swim in the Lostin Fountains?”
So much for scaring her straight.
Even so, so we made it through Disneyland. We held hands and hit all the highlights, and after two and a-half days, we were happy, sticky, blistered and totally exhausted. Even Lucy, who can run for miles, needed to be carried. Adam and I traded off all the way back to the hotel.
Feeling like we could go to sleep for a hundred years while roses grew up all around us, Adam and I split up – he and Lucy went to the pool, and Alice and I wandered Downtown Disneyland in search of ice cream.
We found it. But of course, there was a line. So I did my best to explain to Alice that she was going to have to wait, along with everyone else, in the 90-degree heat. Alice, who is a toddler of few words, had this to say in what can only be described as her Alice in Angryland Voice.
“ICE CREAM CONE!”
That ice cream cone could not come fast enough. On that, Alice and I could agree. I felt as though I was holding a ticking time bomb. Would she blow before we got out of the shop with her cone?
Yes. Of course. And loudly.
After what seemed like an eternity of screams, we had her cone of mint chocolate chip. I strapped her in her stroller, handed her the cone, and wheeled her to the cool lobby of our hotel, where I melted into a soft chair while she ate and ate.
“Ice cream cone,” Alice said every once in awhile, in a soft and happy voice. “Ice cream cone.”
I looked down at her tiny hands and tiny face, which were dwarfed by the gigantic scoop of mint chocolate chip. She ate it slowly, stopping every so often to let me know what she had.
“Ice cream cone,” she said. “Ice cream cone.”
And as she said those three words, the chaos and noise of Disneyland melted away. I felt so relaxed in that chair, looking at my beautiful, messy, happy child.
And in that brief moment, I knew that the thing Alice and I saw was the same.
Ice cream. Just ice cream. A sweet miracle that, no matter what, can never last. Like summer, like a trip to Disneyland, like the time our kids are small enough to carry when they’re too tired to walk.
“Ice cream,” I said to Alice.
And I knew that she knew just what I meant.
* * *
To read Adam's blog about our trip to Disneyland, go here: http://spaces.msn.com/members/adamberliant/