You all have been saintlike as I chronicle this endless birthday escapade. Today’s post will bring it to a close. Tomorrow we will post the latest batch of Matthew Draws portraits, and something like normalcy will descend.
On the morning of New Year’s day, we left our retreat by the sea and headed forth. The kids had no idea where we were going, but for the first time in two weeks, I did.
We drove an hour or so north and checked into yet another hotel.
Where we met our dear friends Stella and Josh. Stella was Robbi’s BFF growing up, and Josh is perhaps the greatest thing that ever happened to any of us. He’s tall. He’s handsome. And he can code like a mofo.
As a special Christmas gift to the kids, Josh and Stella decided to take them to Disneyland for the day (in addition to plying them with various plush and molded plastic items).
According to Disneyland, Disneyland is the “Happiest Place on Earth.” So what did I do the moment we stepped inside the gates? I cried.
Was I sad?
I was not.
I was, in fact, really happy. Happy and grateful, and frankly, exhausted.
We assembled the children for a photo in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Were they happy?
The jury was still out. It was early, yet. We pressed on.
Alden admired the hand-painted storybooks inside the castle. As did Robbi.
Alden started to show her happy side the moment we stepped on the carousel.
And what about me? How did the carousel make MATTHEW feel, you are surely wondering.
The answer: So, so very happy.
Everything at Disneyland was exquisitely deliberate. No expense was spared. No pine needle was out of place.
Kato, in an attempt to get happy, spent a few minutes chatting with his alter ego, Olaf.
We headed over to the It’s a Small World ride so that Robbi and I could relive our childhood Disney memories.
It’s an amazing animatronic tour of various cultures, a utopian view of a world in which everyone is simultaneously happy.
The kids were utterly mesmerized.
Especially Kato. He is happiest when his mind is being blown.
We avoided being swallowed by a whale, which made us happy.
With no warning, we found ourselves in Toon Town, where the fake green hillsides blotted out all sense of reality and made us feel like Roger Rabbit.
Once in Toon Town, August’s primary objective was heading straight to Mickey’s house for an introduction. And so we went. While we waited our turn in line, August perused Mickey’s personal affects.
Gazed dreamily out Mickey’s window.
Discovered Mickey hiding in the magic mirror.
Was thwarted from borrowing Mickey’s tools by some strategically placed chicken wire.
But eventually the big moment arrived. Boy met Mouse.
Boy and Mouse embraced.
Boy and Mouse agreed that nothing could be finer than to spend eternity there, together, in Mickey’s house. August was just about to make himself comfortable when polite-yet-firm attendants whisked us away, jeopardizing, if only for a moment, August’s Disney happiness.
Meanwhile, Alden got her thrills on a Mickey-themed roller coaster.
And Kato let his freak flag fly on the (entirely slow-moving-and-subdued) train that shuttles one around the park.
We visited Tarzan’s Tree House. I’d like to say that I wrestled a cougar or something else that could explain the state of my hair, but I have no such excuse. General dishevelment is something that comes of being aged, I suppose.
Just after lunch, Kato and August decided that perhaps the greatest time to be had at Disney involved tidying the place up. They swept and dumped crumbs and such for a good five minutes before we reminded them that other forms of diversion awaited.
The Enchanted Tiki House, for example, where Alden volunteered for the critical task of waking up Jose the parrot.
Once roused from robotic slumber, Jose called out to his various avian buddies.
And soon the place was exploding in song.
Out in the sunshine once more, Alden and August reenacted that iconic moment when Walt and Mickey announced that they would methodically take over the entire world, one industry at a time.
It’s difficult to argue that Disney’s vision hasn’t led to many beautiful and remarkable things.
Not to mention the Buzz Lightyear ride.
In which one member of your family may battle the evil emperor Zerg…
…while another takes a deep and satisfying nap.
While August dreamed of Mickey…
…the rest of us visited with Pooh Bear and friends.
The highlight of the Pooh ride (for me, anyway), was when Pooh ate some bad honey and had what seemed to be an acid trip.
A really pleasant one, it seemed.
Inspired by all the sweetness, the kids demanded cotton candy, and we, wearied by the day, failed to mount sufficient protest.
Thoroughly wired, we boarded a submarine and dipped below the waves.
The old 20,000 Leagues ride has been retrofitted with a Finding Nemo theme. The kids were entranced.
Afterward, Kato learned to drive.
And Alden and I plunged into the depths of Space Mountain.
I remember loving it as a kid, but now that I am old and broken, I found it to be a little much. Alden loved it. She would have ridden it again and again.
But the line was 90 minutes long, and so we headed out. It was just beginning to snow.
Fortunately, Alden had no idea that her hair was actually full of tiny blobs of nontoxic foam. Only at Disney.
The castle was majestic as we bid our farewell.
Alden fell asleep before her dinner arrived.
This did not stop August from helping himself to her meal.
We got back to our room just as the light show was beginning at the nearby California Adventure. It was a fitting end to an amazing day of genuine happiness.
We collapsed in a heap. The morning came.
We took our leave.
And headed home. We had been traveling for 15 days. All of us were ready to turn our sights eastward once more.
Some hours later, we landed in DC, exhausted and excited and still clinging to the happy.
1) I am finally 40.
2) The memories of this trip will truly last a lifetime
3) I married really well.
4) I have 11 months left to figure out how in the world to sufficiently celebrate Robbi’s 40th.
Thanks, friends, for traveling along with us. We still would have gone on the trip, but would never have told this story if not for you.