It’s not like I live at Disneyland. As a matter of fact, I live out of state and make it there about four times a year. To some, that’s too much, but not to me, my wife, or my daughter. It’s just that Disneyland has always been a part of me. In my blood, so to speak. My father started going to Disneyland with his family in 1956. My mother will volunteer the fact that I was conceived on a trip to Disneyland, a fact that just kind of freaks me out and for that reason, will not be discussed from here on out.
When I was younger, Disneyland was a favorite vacation destination for me. I can’t remember too much about those trips; I was a little too young. I do know that one of my family’s favorite photographs come from me being pushed in a stroller by Dale the chipmunk, screaming my cute little Mickey ears off. There are many other pictures of me at the park, but no real memories come of those.
The few things I do remember are little in the grand scheme of things. I remember my mom and dad making me and my sister lay down for a nap on a bench while my mom had iced tea and my dad had a vanilla milkshake, of which I got to have a sip of. A little thing, right? But here I am, 40 years old, and nothing tastes better to me than a vanilla milkshake from the happiest place on earth. (On a side note, on a trip there in 2006, I discovered the Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor no longer sold shakes. I almost cried.)
I remember waking up on the floor of the hotel room, being told I had just rolled off in the middle of the night. (Just rolled off? I was sharing a bed with my older sister at the time, and I still suspect foul play.)
I remember riding my first roller coaster, The Matterhorn, with my dad. And it scared the living daylights out of me. He tried to get me to go on Space Mountain with him. He said I’d like it because it had cool pictures of the solar system as we were walking out. He almost had me sold on it as I was a pretty big astronomy buff, until I asked one more important question. “Does it have seat belts?” I asked him. No, he told me, just safety bars. “Then I’m not riding. Not until they have seat belts.” I have since softened my stance on rides without seat belts, though I still won’t get into a car without one.
Perhaps the memory that stayed with me most, however, is that we went as a family. My parents divorced soon after our last family trip to Disneyland, and I wouldn’t get to go again for quite a few years. Nonetheless, when I think of my family being happy together, I think of our trips to Disneyland. I still think of family every time I go there, hoping my daughter will have similar memories and feelings.
And I think Uncle Walt would be happy.