The trip to Disneyland was supposed to be about seeing the lights and the parade. Space Mountain was not on the schedule. Until about 2 minutes through the parade when Jewel looked at me, rolling her eyes so dramatically I thought they'd get stuck in the back of her cranium and said in a sarcastic, squeaky-high voice:
"Ohhhh, welcome to Disneyland, boys and girls! I'm Snow White! Merrrrryyyyy Christmasssss!"
I was about to reprimand her for speaking disrespectfully about Snow White when I realized I was defending a cartoon character who shacks up with seven little men. Instead, I looked at Matt.
He met my eyes with a look of recognition: our kids are growing up, how did this happen so soon?
"Better get used to it, sweetie," he said, gently. "They're not babies anymore."
"Yeah, we're not babies! We don't like Princesses!" James & Jewel crowed. They were giddy with that new-found cynicism endemic to kids who've outgrown fairy tales. "Let's skip this and GO ON SPACE MOUNTAIN!"
But I wasn't ready for that. Or for Space Mountain.
Look, kids, you're gonna sit here and enjoy this parade or so help me I will...
"Yeah, let's go on Space Mountain!" Matt interjected. Even Jude wanted to go on Space Mountain. The twins were at home with my mom so I was outvoted and outnumbered.
I had a bad attitude all the way to the Space Mountain line. And then I cheered up. The kids were so excited I was going with them on the ride. They kept telling me all the inside secrets about Space Mountain, how I was gonna love it, who was gonna sit next to who, how boys in fourth grade are Lame with a capital L and oh, Mommy, did you know I want to be a comedian when I grow up? Comedian? What?
It's not like I don't talk to my kids. It's just that since the twins were born, I've sorta put the older three in a holding pattern. There just hasn't been time to talk about y'know, lame boys. All the talk has been: did you pack your lunchbox? where's your homework? did you practice your cello?
And now, here we were, standing in line for Space Mountain and I was getting to know my kids all over again. It was an unexpected gift to just stand there, talking, laughing, telling jokes. Jude stood on my feet and I "walked him" through part of the line. James barraged us with Star Wars facts. Matt & I held hands. Jewel reassured me that I would survive Space Mountain.
We were all having a grand time.
And then we got on the ride. My heart was pounding as I envisioned the eight million ways we might die on this blasted thing. Also, I was praying. And unashamedly bargaining with the Lord the whole way through.
As the ride whiplashed to a stop, I had the brilliant realization that I wasn't 19 anymore. A rollercoaster just feels different at 31. For one thing, you shouldn't eat a turkey dog before riding it. Why wasn't that warning posted anywhere?
At least it was over. Or so I thought.
They didn't unlock our safety bars. Our car coasted right through the exit point. We didn't get out.
"Wanna go again?" one of the ride operators asked us.
Everyone shouted yes. Except me. I was in shock. Was this a joke? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? THIS IS NOT HAPPENING!
It was not a joke. It was happening. We were going again.
"I don't want to go!" I shouted to Matt as our car jerked up the long, uphill tunnel.
"Too late!" he shouted back.
That's when I realized God has a fantastic sense of humor. He was giving me a second chance (literally!) to quit worrying, to let Him take care of me and to just-be-happy-for-goodness-sake!
I can't say I enjoyed it, exactly--mostly because I was trying real hard not to puke my turkey dog all over Matt's head. But at least I wasn't worried anymore.
Amazingly, the dog stayed down.
My favorite part of this picture is how the seat next to Matt looks empty. In reality, Jude was there. But he was hunkered so low over his safety bar that he's not in the picture! Even James is hunkered down. I guess I wasn't the only one freaking out. :-D
Best of all, I learned my lesson. I'd do it again just to prove that being with my family is really important to me. I'd get on the scary rollercoaster again just for the chance to stand in line with the people I love. Because it means we're together.
For that, I'll do anything.
Next time, though, I'll skip the turkey dog.