I prepared us so that we don't have to waste time in the morning more than we need to, having the foresight of the early start. We got dressed and ready in 45 minutes tops and hit the highway again arriving at Disneyland by 8:30am. Parking, shuttle and entrance takes another 30 minutes, and by nine we were roaming Main Street of the happiest place on earth.
Road trips and the return to childhood destinations always has a way of bringing back a certain nostalgia, and it's amazing how it is all so very different for each of the individuals occupying the car. I remember making this trip many times before, not during my childhood days since my family did not "do" vacations (this is a fact because my first vacation occurred when I was 18 and it was with my then boyfriend), but certainly in my late teens and early twenties when a part time college job provided for some disposable income to make this route with friends. I knew then the day would come to make this trip with my children, alongside a happy spouse as a happy family to the happiest place on earth. I never did understand why it was call the happiest place on earth in my developed teenage young adult mind then, where knowledge had replaced the imaginative world of magic, but I think I understand now. This is a place that has to be experienced through the eyes of a child to see the magic, and that my girl did well.
My girl saw "airplane" and requested to ride it immediately, and it will go down in history as her first ride at Disneyland. The indicated wait time of 60 minutes turned out to be much less, which was a welcome surprise, and next thing we knew, she was boarding. She didn't enjoy the ride as much as she thought during the 1 minute spin, but as soon as they deboarded, she requested to do it again with her new found vocabulary "again!" We didn't stand in line again and she soon forgot about it as we goofed around and approached "It's A Small World".
This is an all time favorite of mine, as well as my mother-in-law's who rode it last 40 years ago. Again, returning to these places has a way of bringing back different memories for different people, but they all have a way of bringing tears to our eyes. It is on this ride that I watch my girl be in awe of the multitudes of stimulation. I know that none of it was permanently etched into her young mind, but it certainly has mine and there forever they will stay.
For the rest of the day, we stuck to exploring the park, riding on children and pregnant-people friendly rides that geared towards seeing the park as opposed to being thrilled, watching the parade in the late afternoon, petting goats that left my girl in a stench that cannot be rid off until we changed her, and ending the night at Downtown Disney where we tried beignets and danced to Southern beats in the streets. We called it a day 11 hours later, each one of us exhausted from our own reasons (I being 27 weeks pregnant, my husband from carrying a 33 lb toddler all day, my MIL from not being as young as she used to be and my girl from toddlerhood). Exhausted but happy, we returned the hotel room and knocked out no later than 10pm, while we have friends who had 3 more hours to go at the park. But we walked away with a once in a lifetime, unrepeatable experience, heads full of memories and the intention to do it again some day with another child in tow.
Just like years ago when I was certain I will return to this place with my children, I am certain that we will return here years from now an even happier family witnessing even more magic through our children's eyes. But for right now, I have the memories of this last trip, my girl's first trip to the happiest place on earth.