|Goofing around with the telephoto on my little Coolpix.|
It's going on eleven years that I've been taking my Mom to Disneyland. I insisted that she and my Dad get annual passes in 2005( the 50th, otherwise known as the Happiest Homecoming), and I took them several times a year. It didn't take long to get our routine down. Leave early, sometimes before dawn. Get into the Park and then have breakfast at the Carnation Cafe. Enjoy the Disneyland Band performance (with the Mad Hatter) at the front gate, then... well, it depended. Some times we would go across to DCA to ride Soarin' Over California, which we all loved. We'd be back in the Park in time for the noon Disneyland Band Town Square Concert. Over to New Orleans Square for the Side Street Strutters (Dad declared tubist John Noreyko the best musician in the park). After restroom stops, we'd roll Mom over to the Coke Corner and tuck her in for a morning ragtime piano set while Dad and I took in Star Tours. Next we'd all head to the Golden Horseshoe for a set with Billy Hill and the Hillbillies. Somewhere in there Mom and I would leave Dad on a bench to people watch (or kid watch, as it were, as he loved little kids) while we checked out the newest Mickey clutter at the Emporium.
By then we'd be hungry and wiped. Dad was 80 and did all of that on foot. I was 112 pounds overweight and pushing Mom in her wheelchair (someone reminded me that the workout was with resistance) for up to 6 miles over about six hours. We'd get lunch and then be tucked in at the Coke Corner by 2:30 pm to spend the afternoon and into the evening listening to a favorite piano player. Within the year he had retired and was replaced by another favorite piano player.
At Christmas time we would hike back to Small World after dark to see it light up, then go through the ordeal of boarding. Mom had it rough, but for me it was worth it so that we three could enjoy SW in its Christmas dress. Dad loved it then, and was especially taken with the clever holiday music arrangement.
Most evenings, though, we just sat together (sometimes with some Candy Palace goodie) at the piano.
The Disneyland Band - at least the one we loved - is gone. The favorite piano players are gone. The Side Street Strutters and Billy Hill and the Hillbillies are gone.
Dad is gone.
But Mom and I still make our way there about once a month, searching to make old memories new again.
And yesterday we hit the jackpot.
A day where nothing went wrong, everything went right. All. Day. Long.
75 mph the whole way and we were there in less than an hour. Parking place just a short walk to the elevator, where there was nobody waiting. Had a bit of a wait in the wheelchair line for the tram, but it stopped close to the World of Disney store so I could pick up something I was hoping to buy this trip. Security went well and there was nobody using the wheelchair entrance for a change. I had made reservations for 9:40 at the Carnation Cafe - we were over an hour early - but the crowd in the Park was so small that they were able to seat us early.
After breakfast I decided to go check out the new Star Wars Launch Pad. It's been there for a while, but a crowded Tomorrowland is really hard to maneuver with Mom's wheelchair so I've avoided it on all the trips since it was opened.
|Luke's Red V helmet, Star Wars.|
WOW! I fell in love with Star Wars the first year it was released so browsing the displays was like cruising the celebrities on Rodeo Drive for me.
I also loved the latest installment, Star Wars - The Force Awakens, especially new heroine, Rey.
I've seen the movies a bizillion times. I even liked the prequels. I even liked Jar Jar Binks.
But TFA was the first SW movie where I actually realized that the Millenium Falcon is a character, not just a transport. She even has her own theme music. I didn't realize it until she appeared for the first time in this newest movie.
|Yeah, I'm a "Han shot first!" girl.|
This day took a sharp turn into the running for BEST DISNEYLAND DAY EVER when we stood in a short queue and then turned the corner, through the arch into
THE MIGHTY CHEWBACCA.
OK, yeah I know. It's a guy in a fake fur suit. A very tall guy, but a guy. In a fake fur suit.
I cried. Could hardly hold it to watery eyes. I introduced these movies to my babies, who embraced them as I did. Miniature Jedi, with PVC pipe light sabers, jumping all over my family room furniture as they acted out the adventure. All the emotions of those little kids growing up through these movies overwhelmed me.
And then the Walking Carpet did this.
Mom's not a Star Wars Geek. I'm pretty sure she's never seen any but the first movie, and that probably only once. But she clearly felt the magic of the Chewbacca hug. I got mine, too (great interpretation, by the way, even has the language), then we posed.
I can't even. I love this picture, and am so grateful to the castmembers who helped us capture this meeting so well.
After our adventure in a galaxy far, far away, we took a quick stop at the Little Green Men Store Command pin shop. Wonder of wonders! They had Tomorrowland pins. FINALLY! I've trekked out there every trip since the movie opened almost a year ago, and the story is always the same. "We got some in at the beginning of the week, but they sold out in the first day." Duh, Disney. Underestimated that movie a little, didn't you?
After we got back to the Hub we watched the new Disneyland Band (insert derogatory remark here) perform in front of the castle, then made our way to the Coke Corner for something to drink and a bit of a rest.
And found the best surprise of the day!
Andrew doesn't have a name sign. Yet. Yesterday he was subbing for one of our least favorite piano players. But what a job he did! He had a sweet touch on the piano and a wonderful musicality. It has been years since we've sat at the Coke Corner for multiple sets, but we sure did enjoy that first set with Andrew. So much that after we headed to the Golden Horseshoe for one of the Laughing Stock shows (I miss Sallie Mae), we headed right back to Coke Corner.
Mom said, "I think we may have found a new best friend."
She misses the gone-now-piano player we used to follow here so it was a delightful touch of the old days to sit here for a couple more sets with Andrew.
...they were there. Our favorite Mad Hatter with our favorite Alice for MUUUUU-SICAL CHAIRS!
Mom adores this Hatter, and I adore him because of how he treats her. For all his madness, he is affectionately kind with her.
These castmembers interact with thousands - maybe even millions - of guests every year. But believe it or not, when you are there often, they come to recognize you and, for the most part, interact with you a little differently. I don't remember if we had discovered the Disneyland Band set at the gate while Dad was still alive, but I took Mom to that performance for years. Hatter was always there, organizing the Daddy Dancers (or was it the Daddy Chorus Line?) and the Stroller Drill Team. And after a while, he had a special greeting for Mom.
"Hello, Old Lady!"
Well, he only called her that once, but she loved it. As he performed around her he would say things like, "You're in my way!" and make her feel special.
It's been several months since the Park disbanded the Traditional Band (sniff) and there is no gate concert. We haven't seen Hatter (any Hatter, but we would only miss this one) in all those months. So yesterday, there we were all tucked in when he showed up for the game.
As he stood on the stage and teased Andrew (who held his own beautifully), Hatter happened to look up and spy my Mom. It was a wonderful moment and I admit to - again - getting a little teary when he waved vigorously and shouted,
She so loved being remembered. He went about his business and then, when the game was over, for the first time we got into the photo line. When we reached the front, Hatter came forward to meet her halfway, took her hand and said, "It's SO GOOD to see you! How have you been?" They had a dear little conversation and when it was time to take our picture, Hatter got low so that they would be closer in the picture. Look at their hands.
After our last trip there, Mom and I talked about our previous visit's experience. It had been a difficult day. One thing after another had gone wrong, to the point that I could only laugh. On the way home we talked about this place that had always been so special to us. It was constantly changing, but always a constant. But we had lost so much that we had loved in such a short time, that we were beginning to wonder if we would ever actually feel that connection again.
We decided we would just have to find new memories to add to the old.
Very grateful to some very special cast for helping us to make that happen.