Friday, July 04, 2003

Disneyland Part I

Disneyland Adventure

We went to Disneyland this year for a number of reasons: At five, my daughter Tigana was old enough to fully enjoy it, young enough to still believe in the magic (though on the flight down, she turned to us and asked, "So the princesses that live in Disney, are they the real ones or only pretend ones?" Quick-thinking Mom forestalled the crisis by shouting, "Hey, what's that over there!" thus allowing us to dodge that bullet for the nonce); with another baby on the way, this was Tigana's last chance for a vacation as a single child; Mary needed something concrete to celebrate passing her Ph.D. comprehensive examinations. The actual timing of the trip kept changing in response to Mary's Ph.D. program constantly shifting the timing of her comprehensives; advice we were getting from informants on weather and crowd conditions at Disneyland; and the necessities of our day jobs. In the end, Mary booked our Disneyland trip immediately after her comps, and immediately before a conference in Halifax.

When I say, "immediately after comps" I mean that literally: After two 8 hour days of examinations, she got in a car and drove with us the seven hours to Edmonton (we booked our flights out of Edmonton so Mary's parents could look after our dogs while we were away), and having thus arrived in Edmonton after midnight, went immediately to bed so we could get up the next morning for a 7AM flight to Vancouver, and hence to California. Considering that Mary was exhausted from months of holding down a full time teaching position, writing papers for her Ph.D. courses, prepping for the comprehensive exams, and then actually writing the exams, all while suffering the myriad symptoms of first-trimester pregnancy, well, this may not have been the most auspicious beginning for our trip.

Indeed, a couple of weeks before we were scheduled to leave for California, Mary's leg gave out. Mary has chronic back pain, but the pregnancy began pushing on the sciatic nerve, crippling her left leg completely. Mary was in tears to think her trip ruined, but it must be said that this complication turned out to provide an unexpected benefit for Tigana and I. Turns out, if one is in a wheelchair, one's family uses a separate wheel chair entrance to the rides, which completely bypass the regular line-ups. We had planned our trip before school lets out in the States, so we arrived during low season when lineups were still only 45 minutes to an hour per ride, but I don't think we ever waited more than five minutes. (Some rides have special easy-to-board wheelchair cars, so we would have to wait for the ride to cycle through to that car, or wait while another wheelchair party ahead of us took their turn, but compared to the regular lineups, this was as nothing.) Thus, it was not uncommon for us to do five or six rides in an hour, compared to others completing only a single ride in the same period.

This was not entirely appreciated by Mary, who was, of course, still stuck in a stupid wheel chair for much of the trip and in considerable discomfort. Whenever Tigana and I would go into one of the kid's performances, for example, Mary would have to sit in the back of the theater while Tigana moved as close to the performers as possible. Mary became quite frustrated being parked in front of blank walls while Tigana and I went off to climb a jungle gym or poke around some exhibit. And we discovered that well meaning staff and tour guides would sometimes relocate Mary three or four times before pronouncing themselves satisfied she was not in the way, which sometimes left Mary feeling more like luggage than a person. Being pregnant, in pain and nauseous no doubt contributed to feelings of abandonment, so the wheel chair was definitely a mixed blessing from Mary's perspective.

But Tigana and I reveled in the absence of lineups, our ability to pile up our souvenirs and packages on Mary's lap, and even short cuts through customs and various airport lineups. Thus, Tigana's first experience of Disneyland was very different than most kids facing the typical four-hour line-ups.

And I must say that Mary and I enjoyed the trip much more than we had expected. Not only did we have the satisfaction of observing Tigana caught up in the magic of meeting her various princess idols, but many of the older rides turned out to be extremely nostalgic for us, and we even enjoyed the new rides. We were particularly impressed by Aladdin, a full-scale Broadway-style, live musical spectacular , complete with the Caves of Doom elephant, the city of Akkaba, an elephant processional, and a flying carpet that zooms out over the audience. I thought it one of the best theater productions I've seen in years, though only 43 minutes long, the perfect length to keep the attention of kids like Tigana. We had great front row seats, so one of the camels actually came close enough for Tigana to pet during the procession scene. Pretty cool!