I remember one of the first times I ever went to Disneyland as a kid. I was maybe 5 or 6 years old, and Jenna and I were in matching blue overalls with big white polka dots on them. We had gotten to the hotel, and my mom had curled our hair so we would look cute in all the pictures. I remember being at the sink and putting water in my curls, because I wanted them to be shiny, and they took all the curl out, and my mom got mad, but also thought it was funny.

I went to Disneyland a couple of times as a kid, but thats one of the only memories I have, and its not even inside the park. As I got older, it was something my grandma would do with us on Spring Break. Jenna, Sophia and I would get in the big Crown Victoria and we’d drive to Disneyland. Gma would sit in the Main Square with a trashy novel and coffee and blanket, and we would ride rides and check in with her every once in a while to beg for money for more cotton candy and soda, and tell her every ride we went on.

I remember Jenna would always forget to pack shoes for the trip, (I think on purpose!) and we would have to buy her Mickey Mouse shoes. Some of my favorite memories with my sisters come from those trips, not so much the Disneyland parts, but the parts on the drive. We didn’t have cellphones or DVD players in cars back then, and my sisters and I would make hand puppets of Yoda and ducks beating each other to death over the front seat, and laugh til we were sick.

In fifth grade, by best friend Amy and I, in our adolescent dramatic and rebellious stages (it started young for me) decided that our parents were unfair and monsters and that our lives were horrible, and that at 11 years old, we knew better and deserved better. I had about 100 dollars saved up in my big purple crayon piggy bank, so we made extremely detailed plans about how we were going to run away, live in Pleasant Hill Park for a few weeks (which was NEXT DOOR TO MY HOUSE. We weren’t very inventive.) and hitch hike to Los Angeles (where we thought Disneyland was) and get jobs sweeping floors and washing dishes at Disneyland, and eventually work our way up to being Disney princesses in the parade. I was going to be Belle. And we would talk about how our parents would put up “Missing” posters for us, and we would send them postcards to say we were okay. And then one day, they would be at Disneyland, and see us in the parade, and we would graciously forgive them for all the horrible chores they made us do as youngsters and for grounding us, and they would ride the parade floats with us.
When we would go to Disneyland in junior high, I remember it was always a HUGE deal to bring back presents for other people. I would spend like forty dollars buying all my friends Winnie the Pooh earrings and big lollipops.

And in high school I always wanted to look cute when we went, not so much for pictures, but in case I met a boy. I used to think theme parks were the most romantic place in the world. I still think Disneyland is romantic, to a degree, like holding hands for the Storyboat ride, and leaping into someone’s lap when you’re scared on the Haunted House, and I wouldn’t mind being prposed to there or getting married at Sleeping Beauty’s castle! Hee hee. But I am now totally grossed out by the teenagers that make out for the full hour long wait for the Matterhorn, their hands in each others back pockets, so into each other that they don’t notice that the line has moved up two feet and you have to stamp your foot and clear your throat to get their attention and then they throw you a look that could kill, but now I’m old enough to be like, “um, you do not scare me. move along.”
In college, my best friends and I would go for Christmas, and we’d run around in mouse ears and scream on all the rides, buy silly presents, take too many pictures, and believe that everything was real. We waited for hours with all the little kids to ride Peter Pan and Dumbo, and would talk to them like we were four and five. Its more fun to believe in the magic, and to see the park through the eyes of a little kid. When I’ve gone with my little brother, he was scared of everything once it was up close, and had more fun playing in water fountains and riding my dad’s shoulders than on the actual rides. It was hilarious.

I love that Disneyland is special every time you go. It always feels new, it always feels exciting and more beautiful than normal life. Food tastes better, people are prettier and nicer, all your favorite cartoons are real. I hope I always feel that magic when I go. I wish I could take everyone I know with me. How perfect that would be.