Memoir: Disneyland

              It was a Saturday morning when Uncle Philip knocked on the screen door. My mom was still in her pajamas, nursing Sara in the wooden rocker.  I’d put on one of the Garanimal sets my grandpa had bought me, what seemed like hours before. My mom had told me the night before that Uncle Philip would be taking me for a special day out that morning. I’d even picked out barrettes that matched my shoes. I unlocked the screen and let him in.

              “Hey, Missy! You ready?” he said as he threw me up into the air. My tummy fluttered with butterflies or the watermelon seeds I accidently swallowed. He wore his letterman jacket with “All Pro” embroidered on the sleeve.  “Hey, Mar—Whoa! Put those away!” he yelled, as he turned his back to her.

              “I’m covered up!” my mom yelled back, laughing.

              “No, one needs to see that, especially not your brother.” he said as he caught a glimpse of himself in the gold veined mirror in the hallway. He gave his permed Afro a little pat and a few tugs as he weaved back and forth to get a better look at himself between the gold streaks. “Ready to go?” he asked me as he thumbed the diamond stud in his left ear. He looked like a movie star.

              His green VW bug was parked across the street, he walked over to my side and unlocked to door for me.  “Madame” he said in a silly voice as he swooped the door open, like we are on a date, like he was one of the guys on Happy Days. When he gets in his side, I tried to keep from laughing, because his knees kept hitting the steering wheel but I couldn’t help it, he kept doing it over and over, like Jerry Lewis. I had heard my grandpa say that it was silly, as tall as Uncle Philip was, to get a car so small.  That he couldn’t fit any of his buddies from his high school basketball or football team in this car but that’s what he wanted. I loved the Bug, it was even cuter than Herbie.

              Uncle Philip knew the on-ramp to the freeway was my favorite. He gave me a wink as he revved the Bug as we waited at the signal to enter, then gunned it as the light turned green. He took the big C curved loop fast. I held on to the door handle tight, then imagined what might happen if the door opened, so I quickly locked it and took hold of the dash grab too. As we entered the freeway and straightened out he laughed and said “Well, Missy, that was our first ride of the day, cause I’m taking you to Disneyland!”

              When we got to the ticket booth at Disneyland, Uncle Philip purchased a book of tickets for me and for him.  He explained that we could use these tickets to figure out what rides we want to go on. Each group of tickets, A, B, C and D had a list of rides that would use that ticket. 

              “What ride do you want to go on?” he asked me.

I had been to Disneyland a year before with the whole family. We had gone on Pirates of the Caribbean, our family nearly filling a whole boat. I had freaked out when the boat went down one of the drops and sobbed. I was passed around the boat until everyone gave me some cuddles to make me feel better.  I stayed with Grandpa for the rest of the ride. I knew I did not want to go on that ride again. 

              I remembered a ride where you could drive little cars. My Aunt Mandy had been the driver last time and I was her passenger. 

              “I want to drive the cars.” I told him. 

He scanned the ticket book. “Autopia! Yep, C-ticket! Let’s go!”

We grabbed a map and followed the path to the ride, only to find a sign that read “You don’t need a license but have to be as tall as the bottom of this sign to drive.” My eyes filled with tears.  I wasn’t tall enough.

“Don’t worry about it” Uncle Philip said as he gave me a little wink.  While we waited in line, he asked me questions about each of Snow White’s dwarves. He couldn’t believe I knew all of their names.  He’d try to say them all but kept saying the wrong name, like Freckles or Stuffy. It made me laugh so hard I nearly peed my pants.

Finally, it was our turn.  Uncle gave a big toothy grin to the female attendant, wearing a blue and yellow jumpsuit “Could we have a red car?” he asked, knowing it was my favorite car color.  No one in our family had a red car, everyone’s car was green or blue, even Uncle’s VW Bug. 

“Of course!” She smiled back and motioned with her hand to one of the miniature cars.  They were even smaller than the Bug. Uncle slid in first, winking at me.  I climbed in, keeping my eye on the miniature traffic light, fixed on red. We waited till it turned green for “GO” and then we were off!  Uncle Phillip leaned in as if he were driving super-fast even though there were a couple cars ahead of us and a rubber bumper between our wheels kept us in the lane. As soon as we turned the corner, out of sight of the attendant, keeping his foot on the pedal, he snatched me up onto his lap, and slid over to put me in the driver’s seat.  I knew he had something up his sleeve.  I squealed as he worked the gas pedal, as my legs were too short to reach it and I steered.

I thought we would get in trouble when we made our way back to the ride attendant, but she shook her finger as us, like she was mad, but giving my uncle a big smile at the same time, like she wasn’t.

“Let’s go on those next!” Uncle said shielding his eyes from the sun as he pointed up into the sky. I looked up at tiny red, blue and yellow buckets moving along a wire, high above our heads. “It’s called Skyline” he said.

“I don’t know” I said thinking I might fall out from one of them.  Just then a little blond boy in one of the buckets saw me looking up and waved. “Will you hold my hand the whole time?” I asked my uncle.

“I’m already holding it!” he said.  “If you’re scared, why don’t we start getting you used to it.  You can ride on my shoulders while we walk there.” he said as he swooped me up to sit on top his shoulders.  I hugged his neck and rested my head on his poofy afro.  He was right, now I was nearly half way up to the Skyline. It wasn’t that scary after all.

We didn’t get to pick our color this time and jump into a yellow bucket. Everyone looked so tiny from up in the sky. I wondered if this is what it would be like to ride in a plane. I squeezed my uncle’s hand.  He squeezed back twice.  “I’m going to spit on the people down there and then say something like, ‘I heard it was going to rain’” he jokes.

“Uncle! You cannot do that!” I yelled, mortified. “Hey, look! I see Snow White!” below us Snow White is signing autographs and giving out hugs.

“How can you tell its Snow White from up here?” my Uncle asked looking through the chrome railing of the bucket. “They all look the same to me.”

 “Snow White has black hair. Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty have yellow hair.” I explained. “That’s Snow White and you cannot spit on her!”

He laughed and tugged on one of my braids. “How come none of the princesses have red hair like yours?” he asked tossing my braid back over my shoulder. 

I didn’t know but I liked the thought of a red headed princess---or Queen. I snuggled up under his armpit until the ride ended.

At the end of the day, he took me to the Emporium, a huge gift shop with piles of mugs, purses, lollipops, banks of any Disney character imaginable. There were even stuffed animals of Winnie-the-Pooh and Mickey Mouse that were as big as my Uncle. Maybe larger.

“Missy, you can pick out anything you want” my Uncle told me, his hand made a swooping motion like the guy from Fantasy Island. “Really” he said more seriously, “I’ll buy you whatever you want. Even one of those huge Pooh dolls” he says pointing to one.

The thought of one of those huge stuffed Pooh Bear’s bursting in the back of his Bug made me laugh aloud. We began to walk through the aisles, as I picked up pens and snowglobes, considering them for a moment before putting them back.  I looked back at the gigantic Pooh. I already had a doll, her name was Cindy. My dad had found it in a trash can and brought it home for me. Someone had drawn on her face with marker but my mom had shown me how I could scrub the marks off with a toothbrush dipped in Comet.  I didn’t need a doll. 

I walked back a few aisles, to a little pretend television set, smaller than a deck of cards. I peeked inside and saw a scene from 101 Dalmatians.  I clicked the lever on the side and the picture changed. I held it up to my uncle. “I’d like this please.”

“This?!” he said raising his eyebrows. “You don’t want a stuffed animal or a Snow White Costume?”

“Nope, this is great.” I said, as I clicked through the pictures.

“Ok!” my Uncle said rolling his eyes as he walked me to the cashier.  “This is ridiculous” he mumbled. Then he spotted an Alice in Wonderland tea set, grabbed it off the display rack and said “Well, I’m gonna get this for you too.”

We paid and walked out into the fading afternoon light, when I noticed a double decker bus parked not far from us. I had never seen a double decker bus before.  I looked at the spiral staircase that led to the upper deck.  My Uncle caught me looking. 

“Missy, if you want to go on the bus, you’d have to go by yourself cause we only have one ticket left.” he said. I didn’t think to ask why we only had one ticket left, if we had gone on all the same rides.

“I can’t go by myself. I’m too little.” I replied.

“If you hold the souvenir bag, I can run behind the bus.” He explained. “you sit in the back and we’ll keep looking at each other. I’ll be able to see you the whole time. Then you won’t be by yourself.”

This made strange sense to me.

He waited with me in line, then watched me board. “I’ll meet you in the back.” he said. I felt like every eye was on me, questioning why I was by myself. I looked around cautiously wondering if someone was going to steal me any moment. My dad was always telling me that lots of grown up wanted to steal little girls. I walked to the back of the bus, where the staircase to the top deck was located. Uncle Philip was waiting at the back. I peeked over the green railing.

“Go ahead and go on top” he urged.

“Ehhh, I don’t want to anymore.” I said uncomfortably.  It seemed like a long way up and I was afraid, I’d drop my bag or fall out the sides. I was also afraid I wouldn’t be able to see him if I went up there.

“You can stand right here under the stairs” he said patting my hand. “Alright here we go!”

The engine started and the bus started moving down Main St U.S.A. towards the park’s exit. My Uncle didn’t move.  He stood in the middle of the street smiling at me.  I started to panic and looked around at the other people on the bus. A mom with a baby moved closer to me. I looked back to see my Uncle crouch on the ground, like an Olympic runner, he got into position and then shot off towards me.  His arms formed stiff V’s as he ran tightly toward me, faster and faster until he was nearly at the back railing right with me. That’s when he flashed me a smile as he slowed down to a gait, matching the speed of the bus.  I started giggling. The mom beside me, leaned over “Is that your big brother?” she asked moving her baby to her other hip.

“No, that’s my Uncle Philip”, I answered smiling.