Bill is an advertising copywriter living in Niagara Falls, New York with his wife, Jenn, and 4-year old daughter, Katie. He still finds it shocking that the universe has entrusted him with the fate of another living thing.
I was thinking of cranking out one of those articles about all the wacky family summer adventures we had this year. But two things occurred to me. First, if you live in the northeast like I do, chances are you didn't have much of a summer. Also, those articles are cringe-worthy for reader and writer alike. I couldn't bring myself to put either of us through this: So, we're at the big family picnic and, the darndest thing happens, Katie goes too high on her swing and falls off, and well, we all had quite a laugh. Ha ha ha.
So I figured I'd be left to riff about whatever other profound nuggets happened to be dancing around my melon. Which pretty much leaves football, music and Anchorman. Fun for me, but in no way appropriate for a parenting column.
Then over Labor Day weekend, Jenn, Katie and I made a little sojourn to "The happiest place on earth." (Although, that descriptor was assigned by a demographic full of individuals who very recently would habitually relieve themselves in their pants.) As I retreated into my own personal happy place amid the endless princess merchandise, insane humidity and 50-minute lines, I thought, ah, here's my article.
There's no real beginning or end to this adventure. Just a series of standout moments that glue together what was clearly the most wondrous five-day stretch of my young progeny's brief existence to date. And despite the protestations to follow, it was pretty cool.
For instance, I had the pleasure of enjoying a cozy bus ride adjacent to a gentleman decked out as the Mad Hatter. No particular costume party was in the offing. He just clearly believed wholeheartedly that he WAS the Mad Hatter. To make matters worse, this behavior was being encouraged by a chatty fellow passenger with some sort of facial tic, which even I knew not to point out to Katie. She was preoccupied explaining her roller coaster game-plan to Jenn anyway. Yeah, she's four.
The days blend together, but somewhere early on the princess of Niagara Falls and I were headed for one of our 6 swims in 5 days. A pleasant southern lady crossed our paths and casually informed me that the pool was closed because someone had pooped in it. An otherwise awful pronouncement that sounded oddly pleasant in her peach-ice-tea twang. Katie thinks poop is funny, and correctly so, therefore I had no worries about our brush with Disney's Free Diphtheria promotion.
Being a bit of a daredevil, the young Disney-phile was visibly disappointed when a ride failed to go as fast or as high or as spinny as she'd like. In a moment of weakness, I was cajoled into taking a whirl on the teacups, or as I like to call them: Satan's Blender. The spinning made me feel much like I did when I first drank whiskey as a young 7-year old boy. Katie, though, screamed with joy as I mulled how much man-cred I could lose for hurling. Ultimately, having spent approximately 94 dollars on my most recent meal, I decided to keep it in for a while longer.
Then there was the Great Fireworks Incident of '09. Oh, they will tell the tale in history books for centuries. We just missed fleeing the park before the first fuse was lit, and Katie, for lack of a better phrase, lost her freakin' mind. Fireworks are about her only fear, so I really felt for her. Regrettably, we were penned in by some elaborate parade parameters, and the cult members -- er, cast members -- were aghast at the idea that we wanted to exit. Well the parade is starting Okay, Fuhrer, what if my appendix bursts, can I leave then? The upshot is that Katie collapsed from exhaustion and anxiety, and I had to carry her 46 pounds of dead weight for an hour and a half. I'd been meaning to rearrange my vertebrae anyway.
Dinner at Cinderella's castle yielded fodder for two anecdotes. There's the discomfiting custom of having your waitress refer to you as "My Lord" and "My Lady." All I could think of was the classic Saturday Night Live sketch famous for the announcement of "Lord and Lady Douchebag," which aptly described how I felt being treated like Henry the VIII despite sporting a Buffalo Bills t-shirt. Fortunately, our temporary royalty entitled Katie to a specially made plate of pasta rather than mutton or whatever she was supposed to be served.
Then there's the cross examination I experienced at the hands of the four-year old barrister sitting to my left. Apparently, the one-shoed princess takes pictures only at the beginning then disappears. Clearly, she doesn't understand that my offspring operates by the letter of the law. "You said we would have dinner with Cinderella. That's what you said. You lied." I tried a feeble rejoinder that was summarily dismissed, because well, she was right. I won't even bother to appeal.
Now this probably goes without saying, but giant, mute plush creatures make me a touch uncomfortable. I fear being hugged by them, let alone eating with them -- their sown up mouths conjure thoughts of their having been held captive by a serial killer. But at Disney this is an unavoidable event. Never knowing if it's some sprightly dude inside a female costume, I keep a safe distance. Katie, however, was jacked up that Leo and June from the Little Einsteins came to watch her eat. Unlike that mean girl Cinderella.
Which brings me to the overriding concern I was left with relative to these characters. Princesses, especially that little minx of a mermaid, are treated like Angelina Jolie. Like their time is very precious and their exposure to the sticky masses must be limited. Uh, Disney, yeah, THEY'RE NOT ACTUALLY PRINCESSES! That's just a blonde chick. Not Cinderella. If it were, she'd be all wrinkly cuz she's like 80.
Perhaps the most humiliating of the humiliations a man can suffer at this child's crack den happened to me. Jenn scheduled a session in which Katie had her hair, makeup and clothes done in princess-like fashion, liberal amounts of "pixie dust" included. Adorable. However, it was 90 degrees and we were all sweating like Biggest Loser contestants on weigh-in day. So after carrying her for a few hours, the glitter transferred itself to me in grand style, making me look like I spent the weekend at the kind of Pleasure Island Walt Disney would surely frown upon if he weren't frozen.
All in all, though, the trip was exactly what I'd hoped: a Utopian combo of water activity, thrill rides and princesses for a little girl who couldn't deserve it more. Even on her first plane ride, she was awesome. We were prepared to calm her down, but she just turned to Jenn and said, "It's cool being in the clouds." She was living in the moment. And while I hope she never loses that, I also hope she'll retain some memory of this trip. I know I will. Oh, and if anyone knows how to glitter out of facial hair, send me a note!
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