There will be screaming, crying, laughing, total confusion, and the phrase “Why do they do this to kids!!” at Disneyland. But first…there was BBQ.
I knew my parents were coming to visit me to celebrate my birthday (*totally ruining my plans for a depressing birthday weekend sad sesh — I’ll forgive them this one time). But what I didn’t know was that my sister, Les, and her oldest, Hudson (who’s 6, and who now understands that I don’t live on Southwest planes during the time that I’m not visiting him), would be here in LA, too.
But I figured it out pretty quick:
I love my sister. Like, I love her. I even wrote Portia de Rossi’s wedding vows to Ellen in her birthday card this year because they work! “It is good to be loved. It is profound to be understood.” My sister gets me. And I was so excited that my parents and my sister were all here at the same time.
I often wish I could just do normal things with my family. Like go out to breakfast. Or take a walk around the neighborhood. So it was a goddamn, solid gold treat that they were going to be spending the whole weekend with me.
After he informed me that he would be attempting to climb a palm tree during his visit, my nephew Hudson asked me, “Do you know what we’re doing tomorrow?”
Me: “No — what!” (I wanted to say Disney, but I also didn’t want to be that asshole that can’t play games.)
Hudson: “It’s —”
Me: “Wait lemme guess. What letter does it start with?”
It was official. We were going to Bisneyland.
But that first night, we had BBQ at Bludso’s which is so good, my Dad dreams about it from 3,000 miles away (I got him a T-shirt from the restaurant, which he wore to dinner, which charmed our server x infinity). And for dessert, Cold Rolled Ice Cream on Melrose Ave, where they write your name into the rolling process. They spelled Hudson like “Hutson” and my sister is the kind of mom who’s like “I love it even more that it’s spelled like that” as she’s recording a video.
My parents stayed in this gorgeous Airbnb near my apt, and Les and Hudson basically camped out in my 1BR apartment…on an gorgeous air mattress.
The next day…Bisney. Here’s a realistic family selfie in front of the castle:
After slathering on the sunblock, we immediately spotted Minnie Mouse. So, we waited patiently by the photographer, while some other kid and his parents took a pic, and then Hudson jumped into Minnie’s arms, and I asked the photographer, “So, how do we do this?” And she goes “You get in line,” and pointed to the 2,000,000 kids waiting to take their photos with Minnie Mouse — which we had unknowingly cut in front of. HI, WE’RE NEW HERE.
But as we moved to get out of the way (and probably ditch the Minnie pic idea), Minnie herself waved Hudson back over to her, and posed for a pic. Because Disney is magical and Minnie can’t be mean to you! (The angry families are cropped out, obvi. They’re not paid to be “on brand.”)
Narrowly escaping Mickey Mouse prison for breaking the rules, we hit up Autopia (the car driving ride). Basically it simulates driving on the 405 in the equivalent of a car-shaped lawn mower. My dad and I even got rear-ended. So realistic!
Then, it was Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. I remember this ride when it was just called “Scary Submarine”(??) at Disney World. I thought I was going to submerge to a deep sea death, as a kid, but I guess that’s part of the fun, right? Here’s Hudson not caring about Nemo:
But then darkness fell upon us.
Hudson requested a ride on the Matterhorn. He was just tall enough to ride. While I am terrified of roller-coasters, I can handle the Disneyland variety. (F you, Six Flags). We waited in line forever, and finally took our seats. Since the “bobsleds” are single file, we sandwiched him in between me, and Les. That did nothing.
I let go of my death grip on the safety bar, to put my hands in the air and show Hudson I was having fun (I was also unsure of how much safe arm distance I had in those dark tunnels, but — Fun Aunt forever!). It didn’t work. By the time we were back at the loading dock, Hudson was wearing his own tears as glasses, and was curled up in his seat, sobbing, “WHY DO THEY DO THIS TO KIDS!”
Someday this will be freakin’ hilarious, but I felt awful. So, churros! We got back on track with Cars Land in California Adventure, which was right up everyone’s alley, and for my piece de resistance, I would introduce my family to: Soarin’ Around the World! The immersive flying/travel experience for people who don’t really like rides!
Except it was the worst of everything ever!
As we soared high above the Taj Mahal, Hudson’s tears were flowing, and his little body was visibly shaking. OMG…I’M THE WORST AUNT. Les had her arms around him, and I had my hand on his knee, but there was someone else who was silently suffering through his first experience on anything remotely resmbling a rollercoaster: My Dad.
“I’m a little afraid of heights,” he said, after we got off the ride. “I thought I was going to fall off the whole time.” And by fall off, he meant plummet to his death in the arctic ocean.
“WHAT?!!” I had no idea my Dad had been gripping onto the arm rests like his life depended on it. OMG…I’M THE WORST DAUGHTER!
But while we all huddled together, watching World of Color, all of the death-defying moments of the day kind of melted away into this magical milieu… Um… Actually I have no idea if they did, but you get so tired after a day at Bisney, you just kind of let it happen to you.
We all called it a night, and Les and I sipped wine while watching Olympic curling on TV, as Hudson passed out next to us, on the sofa. “I love how they made a sport for people who aren’t good at sports,” my sister, a former collegiate gymnast at Penn State, observed. Which is my favorite phrase ever, because I understand nothing about professional curling.
My other favorite comment she made during the trip? “Is that a homeless encampment?” as we drove by the famous L.A. flea market, Melrose Trading Post. I mean, it is a little “homeless-y” with all the tents.
The next morning, memories of the *yeti* securely scarring some of us for life, we took our gang to brunch at Gracias Madre. That’s a pic of Les and my madre drinking a champagne cocktail that makes you sneeze when you breathe its bubbly vapors!
My parents gave me birthday cards that made me laugh, and made me get all teary, and feeling that feeling of having people in the world who love me and believe in me, no matter what. No strings, no pressure, just…yeah. Of course I cried!
Next we headed out to Manhattan beach, where Hudson went swimming in the freezing cold water, and then to Dockweiler beach for a sunset bonfire — one of my favorite things ever.
This was my actual birthday, and my fam brought champagne and cupcakes which totally taste better on the sand. Here’s Les and I trying to take a selfie:
The next day, Les and Hudson headed back to Baltimore (don’t make me think about it too much, I’ll cry), and my parents, Ervin and I walked the Venice canals and Abbot Kinney Blvd.
It was such a beautiful day.
Then everyone left and I cried again, and it sucked going back to regular life. BUT. What an awesome weekend.
I feel grateful that I have a family who won’t let me wallow in self-pity, and who bolster me with laughter, and support, and love. And make me believe that the best is yet to come.
Also, after jumping 40 times to get this pic…
…Hudson announced, “I have to poo,” which I will also include in his yeti vacation memories.
(Wanna see some more, but set to music?)