Magic Kingdom
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Magic Kingdom     1,096 Words

My sister and her two kids will be coming to town soon. When we're all together we have four kids, ages 7, 6,5 and 4 years. It's quite a party. My husband becomes catatonic and my sister and I pretty much try to stay medicated for four days. We also make the pilgrimage to Disneyland.

This is actually a wonderful, magical adventure. An opportunity to indulge each and every fantasy your child might have. An opportunity to see genuine wonder and enchantment. And, since our kids are still in preschool, it will be awhile before we hear "Aw, that was bogus, Buttmunch."

Our journey typically begins before dawn, somewhere in the neighborhood of 4AM. I am awakened by the four year old who, because of her age and allergies has to sleep by herself in the only hermetically sealed room in the house.

"Mom? Is it time to go to Disneyland yet?" "No. Mickey's still sleeping. Which is what you should be doing. Go to bed." This is followed by the shuffling of feet as she goes back down the hall.

At 4:35AM I am again awakened. "Mom, light is getting in my eyes. Now is it time to go to Disneyland?" "No! Turn off your bedroom light and go back to bed!" At 5:10 AM "Mom?" "No!" "Mom?" "Go talk to your father."

By this time, the rest of the spawn have awakened and are bouncing around the bed like bugs on hot pavement which means a breakfast of some sugar-coated cereal product may be a mistake, but who cares? We're in a rush to be there when the gate opens, first in line at Pirates of the Caribbean. As we head out of the driveway, stuffed like pasta shells in the family van, we do a drive-by on our bank ATM. Disneyland is not for the faint of wallet.

At the crack of dawn, the traffic is light, so the trip to Anaheim is usually uneventful and I can grab a few more precious moments of sleep, cheek firmly adhered to the passenger window, drool running down the glass.

I am awakened by my husband mounting the charge as we enter the gate. "Let the fleecing begin!" he yells as he opens his wallet and begins the offloading of cash.

Now at this point, I could tell you our own personal secrets about circumnavigating Disneyland; the best place to park, how to storm the gate, which areas to hit first. But that would be unfair...to me. After all, I've spent years in California gleaning the secrets of the natives and I'm not about to share them.

It is best to say that one should always have a strategic plan. We have ours. Since there are more children than adults, we adopt a zone defense. Dad is in charge of the backpack which has an ample supply of juice, raisins, cookies and baby wipes. My sister and I handle reconnaissance. Our first stop is the "Pirates of the Caribbean". With all the "plundering of parents" at the Magic Kingdom, I like to imagine Michael Eisner sitting behind his big aircraft carrier of a desk singing "Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me!" After this, we head for Fantasyland. We mix it up a little, careful to avoid the Teacups and Roger Rabbit's ride at Toontown; the former because it makes Mom and Dad sick, the latter because we feel our kids are too young for an acid trip.

By midmorning, we've ridden five rides. This is a personal best. We give ourselves high fives all around then head for the Jungle Cruise. My husband likes this ride because it gives him an opportunity to sit next to the cruise director and embellish upon the tour patter. This must be particularly refreshing for the cruise director who probably only deals with this type of tourist on every ride. It is equally annoying for those of us related to him.

A few more rides and it's lunchtime. My husband will once again open his whimpering wallet and deposit more cash on a terminally cheerful cashier. After lunch, we try to wind the kids down with the Disneyland Railroad ride around the park. This is also a good opportunity for crowd reconnaissance. We start our ride at the New Orleans Square train station where, as you wait in line, you can hear the tap-tap-tap of a message in Morse code. After several trips to Disneyland, I am pleased to be able to tell you what that Morse code message says: "OPEN-YOUR-WALLET-STOP-LEAVE-ALL-CASH-STOP-HAVE-A-GREAT-DAY-STOP-SUCKERS". I'm kidding, of course, but, spoken out loud and with the appearance of great concentration, this little dialogue will entertain other parents, such as yourselves, as you wait in line.

Our afternoons are usually pretty uneventful. The four year old insists on "It's A Small World" through which my husband, sister and I will try to catch a nap. We'll giddily throw money at a street vendor selling cotton candy and regret it when the two boys adhere themselves to one of the Disney Characters. On a hot day in Disneyland, this can almost become sport, as the Characters will lurk about in the shade trying to find any cool area and you, the ever-diligent photographic parent, will earnestly flush them out into the hot sun for the Christmas card photo op.

By 5PM we parents are clearly in control. The wee ones have almost no resistance left and are looking for dinner. There was only one occasion when we ate at the park. After a full day, and an hour wait in line, we had managed to secure a table at the popular "Blue Bayou" restaurant, which overlooks the "Pirates of the Caribbean". We had done this because it was my sister's birthday. As we finally sat down and the waitress approached us for our drink orders, my sister, in a voice barely above a choking whisper, asked for a double scotch and water, only to be told that alcohol was not served in the park. The look in my sister's misty, watering eyes at that moment was as close to a mental breakdown as I have seen.

Since that time, we have chosen to have our dinner at "Goofy's Kitchen" a cute little buffet-style restaurant in the Disneyland Hotel complex whose chief attraction is having your meal in the presence of Disney Characters. This is a big problem for my husband who still can't tell the difference between Goofy and Pluto. Try making that mistake to someone in a dog suit.

"Goofy's Kitchen" represents a major dollar dump. Try to ignore the Brinks armored cars parked right outside. In spite of this, you will find a big line at "Goofy's Kitchen" and, at this point, you will suffer a line of any length because at Goofy's Kitchen you will find something that they don't have in Disneyland: alcoholic beverages!

An hour later, our four little dears have fallen asleep in the car. They look as if they've been brushed with fairy dust; their dreams assuredly of strong furry Disney Character hugs. As we pull away from the park, we bid a fond farewell to financial solvency. For us, it will have truly been magic if we get that extra half hour of sleep in the morning.

2004 Nancy Franklin. All rights reserved