We are not theme park people. We are National Park people.
We are beach people. We are long-roadtrip-to-visit-friends people. We are mountain people. But we are not Mouse people, Princess people, or long line people.
So it’s a mystery to me, why I was recently overcome with the overwhelming urge to take my kids to Disneyland. I think I felt some magic window closing… I know that older kids can still get excited, and still have a great time. But there is an age at which they move past the capacity for a certain kind of little kid joy; when they are utterly “wowed” by the fireworks, no longer impressed or moved to gleeful squeals to see their favorite character pass by.
Let’s face it– there is a moment at which that character becomes a creepy dude in a cowboy suit, a college girl in a tiara. And I know that moment is coming–with every growth spurt, every new surge in vocabulary, every glimpse of their emerging independence, I see it coming.
I am not one to weep and wail about “how fast they grow,” and “why can’t they just stay little??” and “you’ve got to enjoy every moment!” In every one of those sentiments I hear a gentle shaming, and a crushing scarcity of time. Of course I don’t want them to stay little forever. I refuse to be sad that they are getting bigger, smarter and more self-sufficient, as nature and the good Lord intended.
But in recognition of that quickly closing window, I will go to Disneyland. Maybe just this once.
So blame my December Santa crisis, but May found us queuing up with 40,000 of our closest friends…to fight through 30-minute lines for 30-second rides. To pay $20 for a sandwich. To touch unspeakably germy surfaces and endure the tantrums of other people’s children.
But no, really, it was magical. Mostly.
Even if my mind was constantly racing with blog posts: Disney and white privilege; Disney and extreme gender typing; Disney and the hetero-normative world, in spite of their gay-friendly work policies; Disney and body image issues; Disney and the narrative of American excess.
NO dammit, I’m on vacation.
This is what I know about the writing life–even the happiest place on earth is tainted with all that you *should* be writing about.
But this is what I know about vacation–the whole point is to escape that ticking clock. Whether it’s the ticking time clock of the work day, or the constant reminders that children are growing up quickly, vacation is an invitation to be in the moment in a way that we don’t often allow ourselves. Especially if we are parents. Or writers. Or pastors, or any other kind of working professional managing a daily rotation of demands on our time and mental energy.
For some people, Disneyland may be a perfectly okay place to find that alternate rhythm, that off-the-clock status. But for me, it was not that. Sure, it was fun–I’m glad we went, if only to see their faces lit up under the fireworks; to watch them straining on tiptoe to see the parade go by; or to experience Radiator Springs in real life. My little boy could not believe he got to DRIVE that race car, and that we WON. (His Route 66 nerd mama may have enjoyed it just as much).
But even the racing roadsters were not enough to stop the racing mind that keeps company with me the rest of the time. If anything, a crowded theme park invites its own kind of mental chaos. If we don’t get in line for this ride soon… If we don’t hurry we’ll miss… How much do we have to get “done” today to make the ticket price worthwhile?
You know the Croc? who swallowed the clock? and now follows Captain Hook around everywhere? I see him in a whole new light now.
Which is why Sunday found me at the beach. The coastal Episcopalians tried to lure me to worship with lovely chimes, but even that I heard as another tick-tick-tick… I ignored the invitation and instead matched my breath to the liturgy of waves. In that rise and fall I heard (again) that God’s rhythms are holy, and they don’t look like calendar blocks or ticking clocks. They roll like tides and turn like seasons. They move like kids growing exactly as they are supposed to. And sometimes they even rest.
From there I wandered to a used bookstore–my other church home–and meandered through rows of new releases, vintage genre paperbacks and the original (original!) works of Byron. In that backwards evolution of words, I heard not a scarcity of time, but the fullness of it.
I located the owner and asked him if they might have a Western Americana section. “Well,” he said… “Have you got all day?”
“You know what?” I said… “I actually kind of do.”