The first time I went to Disneyland I was about nine years old. If I am remembering correctly, it was a gift from the doctor my mother worked for as a secretary. She and my dad were divorced by then, so she loaded us four kids up in her small sedan — or was it the station wagon yet? — and we followed my grandparents in their Nissan pickup. I remember my grandmother being there because of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a mild roller coaster that proved too much for her. She’d thought it was the leisurely train that crept along the perimeter of the park.

The second time was after my parents commenced their reconciliation, not long after Dad’s harrowing escape from Iraqi-occupied Kuwait City. It was the drive through the Laguna Mountains after a detour to Julian that alarmed him more, as my mother sped along the winding roads that quickly iced over when a December snowstorm swept through the area. Dad rarely splurged on much of anything, but he probably assumed he’d be recompensed for everything he left behind after U.S. forces ousted Saddam Hussein, which they would do a few months later. I don’t think he ever saw anything in the way of restitution, but I have the memories of Disney at Christmastime.

The third time I went with a friend in July 1995. He is, besides myself, the primary character in the memoir I completed recently and am just beginning to shop. I devoted an entire chapter in the book to my experience in Anaheim, including my friend’s teasing me about the picture I took outside Sleeping Beauty’s castle with the Persian beauty Jezebel. Aladdin’s princess notwithstanding, I didn’t remember Disney fondly for many years afterward. You’ll have to wait for the book to come out to understand that cryptic statement.

The first two times I went as a child, the third as a friend, and the fourth as a father. On a summer visit to Arizona in 2008, we drove from Yuma to Anaheim with our girls, who were then nine and eight respectively. My brother Steve and his wife, Tabatha, came along with their four-year-old son. My sister and her then boyfriend also joined us, as did my mother, but not with Dad that time. A long walk in a congested park would be too much for his gout, among other ailments. Of course, he would pass away a little over a year later.

Finally, the fifth time was during our most recent trip to Arizona, which I am recounting here. (If you haven’t read it already, you might want to check out my first post.) It was the same group as last time, except Steve and Tabatha had added Tanner to their little brood. As did we with Micah. Becky’s ex-boyfriend has long been out of the picture, as she got married almost two years ago to Steve Anderson. My mother didn’t come with us, but Cindy’s sister Amy did, along with her four-year-old daughter. (Amy is the one who helped me organize the suprise party for Cindy I wrote about last time.)

We drove to Anaheim the day after Christmas and after checking in at our hotel, we gave our name to the hostess at Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. and requested a table for thirteen. After nearly an hour of waiting, we were seated on the patio. Due to the chilly evening, particularly for desert dwellers, my brother and his family chose to leave, stopping off for burgers at Carl’s Jr. near the hotel. Tabatha blames the fast food, though it could have been a stomach bug, for why, after less than an hour at Disneyland the following morning, she had to head back dejected to the hotel. She might have been the one most looking forward to the trip. It was her idea to keep the it a surprise until Christmas morning when all the kids were together and we would announce the gift to them. She remained at the hotel until the next morning when they left for Yuma.

For the rest of us, Disneyland mostly delivered on its claim to be the happiest place on earth. Our only regret is that we, opting to go on more rides, neglected to see any shows, with the exception of the Paint the Night parade, which took the place of the Electric Light Parade I remember from before. Micah loved the rides, most of which are tame, in comparison with King’s Island, which our kids are more familiar with. At Disneyland, Micah’s favorite may have been Pirates of the Caribbean, though the Matterhorn was quite thrilling for him, as was driving a “real car” on Autotopia. Micah fell asleep on the shuttle bus back to the hotel, so I carried him, after having traversed the park all day, from the bus stop to our second-floor room. Our girls liked the rides, too, in particular Space Mountain, which, Disney having added Star Wars to Tomorrowland, was renamed to Hyperspace Mountain.

Since Tabatha couldn’t wait to get home, they left early the next day. Becky and her Steve did as well, as they had to be somewhere that evening. Our girls had driven with them and so returned to Yuma with them. Amy and her daughter were with Cindy and Micah and me. I didn’t wake up till late, since after getting Micah into bed I called in an order to Denny’s and Cindy and I ate eggs and pancakes at two in the morning.

Before leaving Anaheim, those in my car agreed that lunch, because it was already after eleven, would be more suitable than breakfast. With Yelp’s help, I found a highly-rated Thai restaurant nearby. My mouth watered for Thai food in California, since I’ve only ever had the ethnic fare here in Ohio and there are far more Asian people in the Golden State than in the Midwest. My thinking was that Mexican food is much better in Arizona, where there are far more Mexicans, than in Ohio, where we see so few of “our people.” Such was my reasoning.

I’ll tell you in my next post how the Thai food was, in addition to all the restaurants we patronized back home, as well as the pie shop in Julian, where we made an impromptu excursion before heading back to Yuma.



One thought on “Christmas in the Desert – Part 2

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