As I walked towards the surprisingly humble entryway to Anaheim Disney, clutching the wriggling hands of M7 (Miss 7) and M5 (Master 5), there was only one dream I hoped would come true (beside the requisite wishes for world peace, health, happiness and an inexhaustible supply of non-taxable funds). The dream? That my disturbingly high anxiety levels would plummet like the Matterhorn, and subside to a low-level buzz.
Why was I a bundle of nerves? In a Chip ‘n’ Dale nutshell? Queues. Crowds. Pushing. Shoving. People. Everywhere. (Please also add to this a hindsight entry – USD 18 for two grande lattes and two cookies.) Though never formally diagnosed, there is a teensy bit of agoraphobia nesting in this skull. My mother used to call it impatience. I say it’s either/and/or both*, with an added dash of Beijing-quick-get-in-there-while-you-can-itis.
So, it was – Anxiety Level: 8 – striding towards the gates to Disney Anaheim, with those two squirming hands slipping on my sweaty palms, and DS (Dear Spouse) hopping around like a flea in a dog-wash, while stream after stream of scurrying people slid past and overtook us, on jet-powered feet. Why couldn’t we walk that fast? Would it be considered bad etiquette to break into a low-level run? In the other direction?? Anxiety Level: 9.
Plenty of striding and deep breathing later, we reached the bag-check, then the gates themselves – where my anxiety was surprisingly calmed by the lack of crowds. Well – I mean, there were crowds… they were just sparsely divided – straggling into skinny, fast-moving lines, like the thinning strands on Homer Simpson’s head. Not too bad, I thought. Not too bad ... Anxiety Level: 6-ish.
Our entry tickets trilled through the machine like Tinkerbell’s sound byte, and suddenly – awe-inspiringly – we were There. We were In. Inside the Dream Factory. Anxiety Level? Maybe a quasi-4, but mostly because we didn’t know where to start. Looking clearly like first-timers, DS and I huddled over the map while the kids jumped up and swatted it excitedly. Where first? The train around to Toon Town? The monorail? Amble up Main Street? A fast stroll to Frontierland? Or straight to The Castle? How how how do we choose? Then the Disney train pulled into the station and tooted a friendly hello. We were off. Anxiety Level: around 2 and rapidly dropping.
Fairy-floss blended into a pink teacup swirl. Alice in Wonderland tumbled headlong into the starry night of Space Mountain. Caffè lattes swished in the belly of Peter Pan over London Town. Giggles and squeals echoed in the halls of Goofy’s house, through the parlour at Minnie’s and slid down the ropes of Tarzan’s treehouse. Chip and/or Dale played pixie games with our heads (who really is who?**). Snow White put a crick in M7’s neck (you know, upward, slack-jawed gazing). M5 pinched Buzz Lightyear’s gun and conquered space aliens while Nemo darted through a hologram ocean and Winnie-the-Pooh took us on a heffalump-hallucinatory-trip.
Disneyland was a visual, auditory, sensory three-days of fantasty-fandangled delight. Highlight for kids? Umm… everything. Highlight for DS? A solo trip on Space Mountain that overshot the platform and had to go around twice. Grrr… Highlight for me? I have three. 1) Covering my mouth to catch the squeaks as I watched M7 and M5 stare around in rapture. 2) Clapping eyes on that straight-from-the-annals-of-girlhood fairytale Castle. 3) Seeing Bear in the Big Blue House, in person. (Hey – we all have our little idiosyncrasies.)
Just for the record – my median anxiety levels during our three-day play? Zero zero zero. Anyway, I had bigger problems – how to come down off the sugar-coated high. I’m still buzzing. And the kids? Let’s just say it was worth every anxious moment.
*Footnote for the Impatient or Agoraphobic:
Although certainly not empty, visiting Disneyland in January was a joy. Most rides were either walk-straight-on or a two-minute wait, with the odd 10-20 minute wait. The following comment was overheard several times by regular Californian visitors who wear their annual pass proudly around their necks, bedazzled with dozens of Disney pins… “I will never come to Disneyland again unless it’s January or February. It’s a dream!” And indeed it was.
**For character aficionados – Chip has one tooth, Dale has two.