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Amy Brenneman: The Last Disney

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Amy Brenneman: We took Charlotte to Disneyland for her 9th birthday.


That statement is so filled with memories, implications -- my own, yours, our culture's -- I feel like I could stop right there. Blog stop. You fill in the rest. You've all been there -- be it the Disneyland in Anaheim, the Disney World in Florida or any mad carousel of celebration that whisks you up, spins you around, gets you high as a kite, then spits you out, sputtering, on the other side of a weekend muttering to yourself, "What the f--- just happened?"

I was 39 years old before I set foot in one of Walt's parks. New England is woefully far from Disney-anything, although every February, at the end of winter break, the sojourners from Orlando would return to Connecticut, their eyes glistening from all they'd seen. Hard to come back to the farm after that. My parents were cultural snobs -- I think that's fair, Freddie and Russ, right? So we never partook. Their standard line was, "Why go to a pretend Paris when you can go to the real one?" Fine point. Except we didn't. We were not jet setters, financially or in their disposition. That line would make sense to a family that actually, um, went to Paris occasionally.

So it took a few trips to get my Disney sea legs -- figuring out how to navigate the crush of a crowd, the mood of a 3-year-old, the crashing of blood sugar. My So Cal-raised husband had sentimental memories to see him through ("Aw, the Teacups! I puked there when I was 4! Tom Sawyer's Caves! I smooched there when I was 14!"), but for me it was all new. I was seeing through my eyes, and of course through the eyes of my children.

We learned that, whenever possible, it was best to spend a night. That way, we could party like 5-year-old rock stars till the wee hours, then sleep in. Oh, wait: My kids never sleep in. Put them to bed at 7, they wake up at 6. Put them to bed at 11, they wake up at 6:05.

On Charlotte's birthday weekend, it was the same. And there, in the hotel at 6:06, standing on wobbly legs (contemplating the eternal parent question, "More sleep or more coffee? Is that really the end of the night??"), it struck me: Disneyland is the Vegas for kids.

Long ago, in another lifetime, Brad and I had a group of friends who made regular pilgrimages to Vegas. We liked to fly in at night, have our fun and fly out before 9 AM. That is, before the reality of day evaporated all the pixie dust. Stay too long and the hotels appeared tired, the Elvis impersonators looked depressed -- hell, we looked tired and depressed in any window we passed. No, the trick was keeping the fun ball bouncing and to get out of Dodge before it came crashing down.

So, too, Disneyland for the young set. Hear me out: We arrive at noon on a Saturday, crawling with anticipation. We bound through the park like untrained puppies, and all the rides seem brand new, magical, custom-made for us. At 4 PM, we flag. Should we return to the hotel and rest up? Hell, no! We are the champions, and we power through rides, popcorn and the fireworks show with puffed-up chests of accomplishment. To the kids -- because they've done so much -- we are the parents that have deftly, surreptitiously helped them avoid half a dozen meltdowns along the way.

That first day, the sun is bright, the churros fresh.

The next day, the sun is too bright and the churros are greasy.

We stumble through the park the second time with a Disney hangover. The kids squint, still trying to be enthusiastic, but the reality of their little bodies is catching up. They're tired. They're done. And truthfully, although they'd never admit it, they need a stalk of broccoli. It's time to go home.

In the car, we all sleep it off. (Er, except whoever is driving.) We return to our serene, dull home, and pull out the wooden trains. No bells. No whistles. No adult startling them in a Goofy suit. We detox.

Until nine months later or so, when the urge hits us again ....

next: Mo'Nique's Brother Says He's Not a Monster
3 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jennifer April 19, 2010, 5:01 AM

I remember feeling so tired after our Disney vacation. I was 13 the last time we been there. I remember my parents making us slow down & go to the room to rest for a while, but we kept wanting to go. So yes you can so get a Disney Hangover!

Sabine April 23, 2010, 1:52 PM

Getting out of the Dodge before the ball comes crashing down sounds like the way to do it =) Though a new found love for broccoli has a charm of its own.

milena pessoa (brazil) May 11, 2010, 2:39 PM

I’ve been at Disney just one time, with 14 years old, (now 27) and remember like if it was yesterday, the magic all around… such amazing present I’ve won from my parents! And also nowadays I have friends from those great vacations! God bless the Disney Hangover, everybody deserves! LoooL

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