So, our family vacation was supposed to be “just” a stay in a little cottage in walking distance to the beach. One can’t quite call it a “beach cottage”, because it’s not right on the water, but we did find the six-block walk quite reasonable, especially on the downhill side, on the way to the ocean.
In our fifteen years of being a family — that is, taking trips with children included — that in itself was going to be our most expensive trip ever. We usually camp. Or stay with family. Or rent an el-cheapo U.S. Forest Service cabin (often without electricity or even running water!). At most, we stay a night on the outbound side and a night on the inbound side in some inexpensive accommodation. We have never ever taken a trip where our entire stay was in an actual building with a roof, creature comforts inside, for which we had paid.
Because we’re cheap.
We’d rather spend ten days camping for half the price of three days in a hotel.
Plus, I rather like camping.
However… I knew this year was going to be different, because we planned a move for this summer. Camping takes a LOT of work — both prep work, and work during the event — and a lot of equipment. I knew that I wasn’t going to have the time or energy for a camping trip.
So, we decided to spring for the aforementioned cottage. We decided that it would be quite dreamy to go for an entire week with nothing on the agenda but the pounding surf and some warm sunshine.
We had to move the timing of our summer vacation, as the bank picked a closing date smack-dab in the middle of our previously-scheduled trip. We purchased a short sale, and there was no wiggle room for changing the closing date. So, we had to change the timing of our vacation.
It worked out for the best, as most everyone else is done with their summer travel, the first week of September. So, the beach was less crowded.
So was Disneyland, the Wednesday after Labor Day.
What?? Disneyland??? That wasn’t in the plans. Too much money, by FAR. None of our five children had ever been, for reasons similar to the reasons for camping: You can get a lot more bang for your buck if you aren’t plunking down $80+ for each person just to step into some magical kingdom…
But, dear friends of ours — in the shocker of the decade — teamed up to purchase tickets for our entire family of seven, which they delivered to us the night before our departure.
They gave us clues, which NONE of us guessed; it went entirely over my head that the little gifts they gave were part of a bigger package.
- A stick, with an attached tag that said, “In case you find a dog.”
- A bag of bread cubes, whose note read, “In case you want to feed a duck.”
- A package of motion sickness tabs with a tag, “In case you go on a wild ride.”
- A small first-aid pack, “In case you get blisters from lots of walking on your adventure.”
- A pair of mouse traps, “In case you find some mice.”
In retrospect, it seems rather obvious. But at the time, I was torn between thinking, “How thoughtful of them to come up with such fun ideas!” and, “MOUSE TRAPS???? I know we’re cheap, but what kind of place do they think we’re staying in???” And then I tried to edit my thoughts to rid that last sentence of its dangling participle. Had I not been so wrapped up in that pointless exercise, I might have realized what was happening BEFORE the tickets came out…
We decided to go on Wednesday, because we thought there would be less of a crowd, mid-week, directly after a major holiday. That meant shorter hours in the park and no firework show, but we decided the trade-off would be worth it.
We were right. We rocked the joint, arriving as the gates opened at 10 a.m., and happily staying until closing time at 8 p.m. And, everyone still had a smile on their face and a spring in their step.
We thought we’d have to split up, with my husband Martin taking the three older boys, and me taking the two girls on the “baby” rides, as we thought our youngest, Fiala, would surely be too small for most of the main attractions. NOPE. She is 41″, and most of the rides require riders to be 40″. So, she went on Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean… All of them, except Matterhorn, for which she was too small. She also wouldn’t have been able to go on Indiana Jones Adventure, but that was closed for refurbishment, so it was moot.
We went on virtually every ride in the park, from the Carousel and It’s a Small World to Autopia and Star Tours. The longest line was at the submarine ride; it was a 20 minute wait. Everything else was 5-10 minutes, some even less!
And the boys — even our 15-year-old, Ethan — were such good sports, going on all the small rides — like Dumbo and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride — as well. We didn’t have to split up at all.
Even the weather was perfect: Mostly overcast, almost cool, with a smattering of sprinkles…
Our friends gave us cash to spend inside, too, and that covered: parking, stroller rental, and lunch. In the future, rather than dropping more than $100 on one stinkin’ meal (a good meal, but, still…), if we ever get to go again, I think we’ll take advantage of the picnic area just outside the gates. I was rather morally outraged to spend nearly a week’s worth of groceries on one meal, and there’s no way we would have done it, had we not been gifted the money… and we knew the giver would actually want us to spend it, not hoard it. 🙂
Other than the cost of that meal, the occasion really was absolutely ideal.
I kept thinking that the whole thing was blessed by God; in a way, the whole visit was “charmed.” No wait, excellent weather, happy and kind attitudes from everyone, all day long, no one got hurt — not even a blister! We just couldn’t have asked for anything better.
The only bad thing is that we have opened Pandora’s Box. Well, not really. But, prior to this, Fiala had never even heard of Disneyland. Audrey had heard of it, from friends going, but didn’t know what it was. When our dear friends came with the gifts, Fiala had a stranglehold on the bag of bread cubes, thinking that was the big gift, having no concept of this “Disneyland” of which everyone was chattering excitedly… I had to sit her (and Audrey) down at the computer and show her pictures and little video clips and say, “THAT is where we’re going.”
That gave me a little window into how the Father must view us, in regards to Heaven: We’re hanging on for dear life for the little gifts He’s given us, thinking that must be the pinnacle, with absolutely no grid, no revelation, of what the real gift — the real destination — might be…. I must say, I’ve never really longed for Heaven. I tend not to dwell on things that are impossible for me to wrap my mind around. But, just as this trip to Disneyland opened up the eyes of two little girls into the possibilities of wonder, fun, and amazement, it has put a little glimmer of hope, a little glimpse into what might await us as His beloved children.
And may you be blessed with friends who give thoughtfully, extravagantly, with rich kindness and blessing.