Disney Diary: Into the House of Mouse

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Speaking of “Big Thunder,” that was our second roller coaster of Day One, which leads me to roller-coaster dynamics. The first coaster was “Splash Mountain,” and that turned out to be just a bit much for Caroline. But “Big Thunder” was just right, even to the point where, second time around, she was trying hands-in-the-air, at least when heading into the turns. I think roller coasters are useful measuring sticks in a young person’s life, and I, as a dad, found it poignant that my little Caroline could now handle “Big Thunder.” I am pleased that “Splash Mountain” is still too much, and that Jack and Mary Grace are still too little to reach the 40 inches required for either ride, never mind “Space Mountain.” Jack and Mary Grace loved “Dumbo,” and I, an adult parent in a dicey world, want to freeze them in their “Dumbo” age. It’s a nice, little, 1950s kind of ride, and it’s got a line around the block. That’s because there are a lot of Jacks and Mary Graces in the world, and a lot of other trepidatious parents, and “Dumbo,” as he rises and falls and goes round and round, transports them all into a place without fears.

Mary Grace’s favorite attraction of the day was “Tom Sawyer Island.” This was because, in Injun Joe’s Cave, she could scoot ahead and hide and then scare her daddy or mommy when them came around a curve. This she can do at home, for free. I don’t know where this fits into my roller-coaster-dynamics argument — go ask Malcolm Gladwell — but I’m sure it fits somewhere.

There is nothing like a day at Disney to make children ready, willing and able to go to bed when they’re supposed to. And, apparently, there’s nothing like a day at Disney to make women of a certain age inclined to tackle a pitcher of Manhattans with the ferocity of Rodney Hamilton. Angela and my mother-in-law reported that mine were “the best” they’d ever had; all I know is, they liked them fine. Wendy joined them for one, I had a bourbon, Luci had a beer. We were on vacation, and feeling it.

Day Two was spent at Epcot, and for those who haven’t been there in a while, I have this happy news to report: It’s not just science and culture any more. Somebody whispered in Epcot’s ear along the way, “Rides. It’s the rides, you mope. The folks — they like rides.” Now you’ve got hyper-exciting attractions like “Test Track” and especially this year’s “Mission: SPACE,” as well as 3-D movies (“Honey, I Shrunk the Audience”) and bio-medical thrill rides (“Body Wars”).

We made some mistakes at Epcot. First, we booked a “Lunch with the Characters” and Mary Grace is still scared . . . let’s say witless by characters. Whenever Pluto hove into view, she freaked. And both she and Jack lost it at “Honey,” because a 3-D snake popping into your face is not want you want or need when you’re three. (Daddy’s gotta say, however: The effects were terrific.)

But we were pleased to see the kids were engaged by some of the historical and environmental offerings (Spaceship Earth with its genius animatronics, and both Living with the Land and The Circle of Life). And Luci and I were pleased that the kids were so happy to have both of us as well as their dear Wendy around for more than just a weekend-plus-bedtimes. There were lots of stop-and-think moments at Disney. What are we missing in life? Life’s going too fast.

Dave had to work on a case in London via computer on Day Two — an eerily suitable predicament on Epcot Day — so the happy task of taking Christopher to “Mission: SPACE” fell to Uncle Bobby, which is me. “Mission” is a heckuva ride. They give you three or four chances to back out before the harness slips down and, in a room that doesn’t go anywhere, they zoom you to Mars. If you’re squeamish, take their heed. They keep saying the ride can cause motion sickness, and I will offer as Exhibit A the young man in the simulator next to ours who lost lunch on his way to the exit. For all the physical effect it is capable of, “Mission: SPACE” is, I would aver, subtle. I guess the seat moves and somehow impersonates weightlessness and several gazillion G’s of force, and I guess the film in front of you captures the drama of outer space, but, truth be told, I don’t know how they do it. It’s not a jarring ride at all, but it takes your breath away, it makes your heart race. According to Christopher, who is seven, it “rocks.”

I’ve always enjoyed walking through the “countries” of Epcot, and I was pleased that the children didn’t find it too burdensome or “adult” on Monday. We dined at Mexico, and it was as good as dining gets at Disney. Afterward, the kids danced as a mariachi band played. I watched them, happy as could be, and wondered if this would last another three days, or if the memory would last forever. For Caroline, perhaps, it will — this will be her ski lodge, her hot chocolate with marshmallows. For the twins, it’s doubtful they’ll remember, no matter how many times we tell them. And we will tell them many times.

Tomorrow — well, today, as the clock just struck midnight in this sleeping house — back to the Magic Kingdom. I’ll let you know how it ends, but it has begun beautifully. As I did with the Sox but didn’t with the Pats, I would have lost some money betting on this one.

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