Monday, April 16, 2012

It's a jolly holiday with Mary

It was probably a combination of fear, excitement, language barrier and being over-stimulated that kept Beti from watching any of the dozens of choices she had for movies on those long flights home to Oregon from Addis Ababa. We'd try to get her set up with headphones and a movie, but she'd in less than ten minutes end up doing something to switch the language to Arabic or Spanish before starting to fiddle with the window and seatbelt and other passengers. It was exhausting for all of us, and we were not sure if this disinterest in watching videos was typical for her or not.

While we tend to restrict TV watching on school nights, we love watching movies on the weekends, so we were slightly relieved to get home and discover after a few weeks that Beti liked watching things like Sesame Street and Tsehai Loves Learning. After she started to comprehend more and more English, she'd sit and watch shows like Little Bear with Abe, and then after several months, she moved on to movies, her favorite of which became The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins. She loves Julie Andrews and had her mind blown when we told her the same actor was both Maria and Mary.

Both of our kids are singers with Abe often humming the Imperial March from Star Wars or the theme from My Neighbor Totoro and Beti singing the same or snatches of songs like "all the single ladies, all the single ladies..." and "step in time, step in time, everybody step in time!" It's a quality with both of our kids we actively encourage.

The night before we went to Disneyland, we stayed overnight at the house of one of Ted's old bachelor friends who had hosted a dinner for us. He'd made a huge pot of spicy jambalaya, and with the friends there plus a rambunctious dog who stormed Abe resulting in his smashing his head into a corner (with a goose-egg that lasted a week), we had a very late night. People and dogs were asleep everywhere, and despite the late-night chaos, I woke up before 7am, giddy with excitement about surprising our kids with this trip.

What baffled both of us was that our kids never once asked why they were being woken up so early and shuffled into the car with no breakfast. They never asked where we were going. Not once. They never asked why we were sitting outside of a coffee shop after a 45 minute drive hurrying them through their breakfast. Finally they started noticing buses with characters they recognized on them, but they seemed to just be in 'road-trip mode', content to talk to each other in the back seat, not asking questions about what we were doing.

It was until we had parked our car in the huge Disney parking structure and gotten on the tram taking us to the front gates that they started to figure that something might be up. Here is what Beti noticed as we walked to the tram:

And then I love love love Beti's sweet reaction to figuring out where we are:

As we approached the turnstiles to enter the park, Beti grabbed me and started shouting, "Mom! Look! There's Mary Poppins!" I looked across the ticket taker and saw that she was right: there was a full band of chimney sweeps dancing around Mary Poppins, and the look on Beti's face was like nothing I'd ever seen.

We rushed in to the park, and the next moment was a giddy tear-fest for me. Beti got close to the action, saw Mary, became shy, so I shoved her forward into the eye line of one of her heroes. Mary Poppins took my daughter's hand and danced with her a few seconds. I was that maniacal mother with a camera and stupidly happy expression. It was just that, within the span of half an hour, Beti had gone from another day of sitting in the backseat on a road trip to dancing with her favorite movie character in the "happiest place on earth." I choked up and lost my shit. It was exactly the same feeling we'd had almost two years ago of taking Abe to see that high school production of Peter Pan. There is no feeling in the world that compares with watching your child's face as she experiences something completely magical.

Despite having a long wait for the Peter Pan ride and my slight claustrophobic panic waiting to get off the submarine ride (avoid this ride if at all possible), the 13 hours we spent at Disneyland were completely magical. Truly, it felt like 13 hours of the happiness, joy, euphoria. And yes, we stayed until 10:30 at night, our kids still going pretty strong. Neither was afraid of anything; both rode all the 'scary' rides like Splash Mountain and the Haunted Mansion. Ted promised Beti $5 if she could stay awake on the ride home but of course she didn't make it. The next morning, Abe was asleep in the exact same position we'd laid him down in the night before. Exhaustion is 13 hours at Disney, but worth it, so totally worth it.

So for us as parents who want our kids to meet their heroes: Peter Pan, check. Mary Poppins, check.

Beyonce, we're coming for you next.

Our second ride and Beti's favorite of the day.

Nothing but joy while on the teacups.


The Journey said...

Love it! I'm with you, there's just something about that pure joy that kids radiate in these moments. Love it.

Julie said...

Those videos are priceless!

Pattie VZ said...

I have not met Beti but the fact that her two favorite movies includes mine (the Sound of Music) lets me know I would be sure to like her. What a wonderful day! I see a Sound of Music sing-a-long at the Hollywood Bowl in your future, my best friend took me for the first time last year for my birthday and I cried big crocodile tears. Thanks for sharing these precious moments with us.

Pattie VZ

rosedel said...

This post sums up why we take our kids to Disney. So we can watch them experience wonder. It is an awesome gift that we give them and ourselves.

Gretchen said...

Oh, I love this post. I can just picture it all and I am SO happy.

kn said...

This post is magical! I'm not a Disney person, it might be lost on my kids. But this post is making me think twice.

Love love love the videos!!! Priceless.

Loved your description of them not asking where they are going:-) Can you imagine doing that?


Dani Schmidt said...

I LOVE the look on Abe's face, after pulling his thumb out of his mouth, finally figuring out where you are taking them. What a great surprise. Oh my gosh, and Beti. Love her!