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DisNeylAnd: It's in our DNA

Posted on May 18, 2012 at 12:20 AM

“We love to be happy. We love to have fun. We love to play and laugh and we love to do it together. As a family. We do all of that at Disney. Because DisNeylAnd is in your DNA.”

--Sciacca Disney ad pitch

My parents used to both work at Disneyland in California. My dad was a ride operator – The Matterhorn, Autopia racecars and the Submarine Voyage – and my mom worked at the Sunkist orange juice stand opposite the Jungle Boat Cruise ride. (My dad said that at night they used to take the Autopia cars off the tracks, remove the governors and then race them around the park at like 30 miles per hour. How awesome does that sound?!)

Some of my earliest memories are from going to Disneyland, which we did at least once a year until we moved away from Southern California to Bakersfield – our first day there lived up to the city’s name; it was 118 Bakersfielding degrees – when I was in the 5th Grade. I can remember one awesome day when my parents told me they were going to drive me to school, but instead surprised me by detouring us to Disney for the day; showing up Disney totally unexpected is probably the single greatest thing that can happen to a sub-10 year old.

I know why when something is exciting, people call it an E-Ticket ride. I know this because I can remember using E-Tickets to go on rides at Disney. It used to be that when you’d go to Disneyland, you didn’t buy an all-day, go-on-everything pass. (The opening of Magic Mountain and their "revolutionary" ticket system changed that.) You bought a book full of tear-out tickets, and each ride had a different ticket value. The lame rides like Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse, walking through the Castle and riding the Carousel would be A-Ticket rides. I think A-Tickets sold for like a dime or a quarter. The better rides took C or D-Tickets. But the *best* rides – like the Matterhorn and the Submarine and the Jungle Boat Cruise – took E-Tickets. When you bought a book of tickets you’d only get a couple of E-Tickets, so they were hot commodities. (And, of course, finding a ticket on the ground was just as exciting as stumbling across some money. Actually more so because while you could save money and spend it elsewhere, your only option was to cash in an E-Ticket on some fun and adventure!

I used to long for the day where I was old enough to spend the entire day at the park with just my cousin; free to wander about and do whatever we wanted all day. We would get the park map and pour over it, planning our strategy for maximizing our day at the park and the order we’d hit the rides. We’d line at the barricades inside the park waiting for it to open and then *sprint* to the furthest areas of Disney to be the first to ride the biggest attractions.

I used to imagine what it would be like to spend the night inside the park at Disney; to stowaway on Tom Sawyer’s Island until all the staff left and then to sneak back across the lake and then -- for the ultimate thrill -- to swim through the Submarine Voyage. Alone and cruising through the black water on a personal adventure, checking the sunken wrecks and underwater volcanoes. Even though I knew that the fish and sharks and giant squid and sea monster and mermaids were all fake, the thought of swimming through there at night after hours was both titillating and terrifying. (Now that it is the Finding Nemo adventure, I doubt it would hold the same dangerous appeal to young me.)

We almost always arrived before the park opened, had breakfast at this one restaurant just inside the gates – an agonizing experience for me as I had to just *sit* there while my parents slowly ate their breakfast and Disney sat just feet away beckoning me to come and play! – and then stayed until the park closed. Here's a pic of me at the restaurant meeting some characters. (This is the mid 70s and I AM rockin' a sweet collar!)

To maximize the day at Disney, we would often get in line for It’s a Small World *just* before the park closed; as one of the longer rides, it meant that we would be in the park still riding after Disney was officially “closed.”

I remember crying most times in the car ride home when we left; sad because I knew that the fun was over for a while and that nothing could replace a full day at Disney except for the next full day at Disney. I'd get my hand stamped (for re-entry) when leaving because the stamp had a certain smell and left a bit of Disney on your for a while longer.

Still, even now at 40-something, I feel a twinge of sadness when I step outside of the gates and head back out into the real world. The magic is over for the day; over until the next time you can come and visit.

Dating Dana, she lived in Alabama and I lived in California and we only saw each other every few months. My first date with her where we spent the entire day alone together was at Epcot Center.  

After we got married, I coached a golf team at an affluent high school. One of my player’s parents was family friends with the Nixon family – as in the Richard Nixon family – and through that contact Dana and I (along with my friend Dan and his wife Colleen) were fortunate enough to visit Club 33. Twice. (Club 33 being the holy of holies inside Disneyland. It was originally built as a place for Walt and 33 of his closest friends to come and relax. Now, besides being the only place in the park that serves alcohol, it is a gourmet restaurant serving the finest cuisine in the park – with a French flair on our visits – and housing lots of rare Disney memorabilia. Besides some pictures, napkins and a cribbed logo’d Cross pen, I also have a “matchbook” – no matches, they hold paper for writing notes now – engraved with my name and the Club 33 logo.)

The last time Dana and I were at Disney was in early 2006; Dana was about two months pregnant with Lauryn. The whole time we were at the park we were watching other parents and their kids and trying to determine when the right time would be to come back with Lauryn.

Yes, well before she was even born – actually before we even knew Lauryn WAS a Lauryn – I was planning a first Disney trip with Lauryn. I couldn't wait to go back and experience the park all over again; seeing Disney with her eyes and being the one to sit next to her as she experiences everything for the first time.

But Disney is pretty intense and overwhelming for kids. It’s often hot – especially in Florida – it’s crowded, there is a lot of walking and waiting in line and the entire time they are on maximum stimulation overload. And we noticed that some of the attractions were actually scaring a lot of the younger kids. I wanted to make sure that Lauryn’s first Disney trip was fun and memorable and that she was as ready for it as we were.

So a few months ago we were about 3 hours into a 4 hour car ride when my iPod shuffled to the song “You can fly!” from Peter Pan. I’m listening to the song, and I start thinking about the ride. All I can here is, "Come on!" as you start the ride. And then I looked at Lauryn in the rearview mirror and then all at once it hits me.

Now. It’s time.

Before Lauryn starts school. Before we have our vacation times dictated to us. Before some other something comes up that gets in the way. Now that we can pick the best time to go when the park isn’t too crowded or too hot.

So I turned down the music and said, “Hey, Lauryn. Let’s do it; let’s go to Disney!”

Because DisNeylAnd is definitely in MY DNA. And I'm going to make sure it’s in hers to.

Categories: May 2012, Family

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1 Comment

5:36 AM on June 4, 2012