it’s a nice day when you wake up in disneyland

When I was little, Disneyland sold tickets for rides and Casey’s train still went around the park. The Indiana Jones ride didn’t exist, and the Haunted Mansion was scary. I remember getting a mug from one of my early trips to Disneyland, commemorating the bicentennial. Mickey and Goofy and Pluto are in the 1776 band, with the flute and the drum and the marching along. I still have that mug. I keep my pens in it in my home office and it makes me happy to see it. I even still have one of those hats with the mouse ears with my name stitched in the back. Although it’s a bit small, so I don’t wear it all that much anymore.

In junior high school, I was the drum major in our school’s marching band. I played the flute but somehow ended up with the mace as tall as I was and the whistle and the standing in front telling everyone to parade rest. Our band’s crowning achievement was marching in the parade at Disneyland. We got to assemble in a part of the park that regular visitors don’t get to see and then marched all through the streets. With all the Disney characters. Fantastic. Well, and also really hot, since it was summer and we were in those band uniforms. But totally worth it. And after we were done marching, we got to spend the rest of the day on the rides.

In seventh grade, I held hands with a boy for the first time on the Pirates of the Caribbean. I know it’s really hokey, but that ride is still one of the most romantic places I’ve been, with the water and the little boats and the fake fireflies and the dark and the dog with the key in his mouth. I was there on a church trip, and the boy (Bobby) was a year older than me. It was all very exciting until we went on the skyway and he and a friend rocked the car and threw things from it, despite my fear of heights and conviction we would plummet to our deaths, and when we got to the end, the park employees threatened to kick us out. I lost all faith that he cared about my feelings and fears, and well, dumped him before the first kiss. I still have fond, romantic memories of Pirates of the Caribbean though.

When I graduated from high school, we did Grad Nite at Disneyland. Grad Nite is when a all the seniors spend the night at Disneyland after they graduate. Er, kind of like the name might imply. It’s pretty cool though, to have the park to yourself all night long, even though as a high school senior you spend too much time being bummed that they search all the bags for alcohol.

Not all my Disneyland memories are warm and fuzzy. My biological father took us once, when I was fairly little and still really afraid of roller coasters. I cried during the entire wait to get on Space Mountain as he refused to let me out of line and kept telling me I would like it. I didn’t. It’s one of my scariest childhood memories, beaten out only by the time our car was totaled and I was afraid to ever get into another car. I did eventually get over the Space Mountain fear. And the car fear, now that I think of it.

I think I have taken every boyfriend I’ve ever had to Disneyland. None of them have gotten it. At all. I guess it makes sense. Why would you want to ride in a slow little boat and listen to robot dolls sing about the smallness of the world in many languages, if not for the nostalgia? Of course it’s annoying to hear me whisper the Haunted Mansion soundtrack as we pass by the hitchhiking ghosts. And fake singing birds in a bar with no drinks, alcoholic or not? Crazy.

I always go back to the old rides, even though the newer ones are ostensibly better. And I miss the ones that are gone. Bring back the Country Bear Jamboree, dammit! What did you do with Abe Lincoln? But old rides gone, new ones added, and current ones changed, I just love being there. I don’t even like Mickey Mouse and the rest all that much; it’s the park that I like.

It’s probably one of those “what have I known the longest” things. What is it that I know now that I’ve always known? My grandparents’ house. And Disneyland.

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