New Year’s Eve used to be a bit different. There used to be more drinking and debauchery and less kids and 4′ tall mice. I believe things have improved.
My family, consisting of myself, my wife and our two boys, made the trek across Los Angeles and hunkered down for the remainder of 2006 at the Disneyland Resort. We checked into the Grand Californian at about noon on the 30th and started the unwinding process.
We weren’t just counting down to a new year, we were throwing off the stresses of lives lived beyond the pale.
We are lucky to reside within two hours of the California parks, which coupled with our Disney Vacation Club membership and Annual Passports, allows for frequent and relatively affordable trips. Thus, a trip to the Disneyland Resort is to us what it will never be to many that travel further and spend more, it is relaxing. We have no time-line or pressures of the rat race (mouse race?) that push others through turnstiles and fastpass lines. No, we stop and smell the roses. We also smell the kettle corn.
The crowds were as thick as ants on honey, which I assume would be quite heavy. At one point I found myself pushing the stroller through a sea of migrating tourists flying south for Fantasmic! and becoming further and further removed from my wife and oldest son. They tried to stop, which as any concert goer/rioter will tell you, is a no-no. "Save yourself!" I yelled out. I was confident; I had a room key and a decent sense of direction. The thought of watching my wife and child swim upstream into the mouth of Monstro was more than I was willing to bear. "Remember me…" I added, but they were gone. Swallowed by one too many metaphors.
Whether we were in Disneyland waltzing unmolested through the sober early morning of New Year’s Day or sitting in the hotel lobby sipping port and trying to convince the piano player to play some Ben Folds, we were achieving what Walt wanted. Our troubles were left behind.
But trouble has a way of finding the best of us, and in this case the trouble lies with spending four days in the Disneyland Resort. For somewhere between the endless lines and the over-abundance of churros you actually start to buy into the concept that it is the happiest place on earth, and when faced with the reality of departing and heading back to places less happy, well, you don’t want to go.
We had plenty of downtime in the hotel. My three year old spent it exploring the intricacies of unknown nooks and unnoticed spots of solitude. He found secret places. We had to tour them all one last time before we left on the morning of the 2nd. I promised him that we would find those secret spots again when next we came, and I meant it, but the reality is that he is three, and those spots that hurt so much to leave that he started to cry won’t be the same when he finds them again. They will be smaller and their shine will be tarnished. Their magic will be a bit duller. Perhaps the secrets will be forgotten.
Therein lies the rub, our trip was fantastic, but it wasn’t just a year that we left behind. It was so much more, none more important than the melancholy of a memory that will always have the stamp of Disney upon it, and will forever be the sweeter for it.