Kindergarten came and went as I was starting to feel safe in my new school surroundings and safe with the familiar faces on the play ground. I had just turned 6 years old and it was time for summer vacation and our first real family road trip.
Oliver’s aunt lived in Southern California on the coast in Morro Bay. It was his favorite aunt. Oliver did not have to pretend about anything with Aunt Nena and she loved anyone who loved her favorite nephew. Aunt Nena was excited to meet Oliver’s love and his daughter. The plan was to go to Yosemite, drive down to Morro Bay, take a day trip to Hearst Castle and then the prize …. Disneyland! Disneyland is a 6 year old dream of all dreams! To see Mickey and Minnie en vivo was more than my little temperament could handle. It would prove to be the bargaining chip that would be keep me behaved for most of the trip.
What Oliver and my dad did not have much experience with was the stamina or lack thereof as it relates to a child. Little legs, needing food, nap time, and constant snacks were something you would think after having been around a child for the last 2 years they would have picked up, but they did not and my stubbornness was not something you could calm down once it perked up. It started in Yosemite.
Recall this is 1981 and two men traveling with a 6 year old was not acceptable if they were to present themselves as a couple. At second issue was a fairly new couple still madly in love and wanting to express themselves physically, but had agreed not to express such emotions in front of me. After a very long drive where I insisted on listening to John Denver’s “Rocky Moutain High -iiiiii Colorado” over and over and over again and my dad wanting to listen to the latest George Harrison tune we arrived in Yosemite to our rented cabin. The tree’s were breath taking, the sounds completely new and the smell of pure clean was not something I will ever forget. I was already a small child, but now I felt as if I could get lost amongst all of the plant life.
They unloaded the car, fed me and we went for a short walk. I started running on the trail. I was a newly uncaged animal that had been freed. My dad being the former basketball track star knew he could catch up with me at anytime and Oliver was content with soaking in the scenery. When they caught up to me I was captivated by a squirrel in the tree but more so I was pooped. The next thing I remember was being awoken by a loud roar coming from outside our cabin. My dad peeked out of the window and screamed “Shit! It’s a bear!! What do we do?” Oliver put me in bed between them and said “nothing go back to sleep.”
Morro Bay was our next stop and a favorite stop. They make salt water taffy in Morro Bay and Aunt Nena was prepared to greet me with it. Aunt Nena was wonderful. She was my nap buddy, my eating buddy and she moved at my pace in her walker which I thought was a mini playground just for me. She cooed to me and told me stories about princesses. She told me these were the same stories she used to tell Oliver; princess stories were also his favorite. It was difficult to imagine how we could leave her, but after two days and a very tearful departure on my part we did leave.
Hearst Castle has got to be the most frustrating place for a child. Do you know they have crystal clear pools that you cannot swim in? WTF? It’s a big tease and a terrible thing to do. We had a pool at our house that I could swim in whenever my heart desired, so how are you going to tell me that this one is off limits? I got into a lot of trouble for putting my hand in the water to test out whether it was the right temperature to dive into. Security came rushing over and apparently was going to kick us out. Well, this child was in need of a nap and a snack so as soon as I was scolded the photos ops were out of the question. I insisted on being carried through the rest of the tour AND would NOT turn around for any photos. The conversation went something like this: Honey, turn around for the picture. NO! Honey, please turn around for the picture and smile. I WILL NOT!! Mickey and Minnie may not want to see you if they hear you have been a bad girl. NO! We have many photos of my burying my face in Oliver or my dad while they have a frustrated smile on their face. Folks, you must carve out nap time when taking a child on a trip. It’s just a must.
Disneyland was the last stop and the best stop. Sugar kept me going at full speed ahead and Mickey and Minnie kept me on my best behavior. Pirates of the Caribbean, The Tea Cups, Dumbo, The Jungle Book characters, it was a child’s complete dream. I wanted to stay forever, but we were kept to just one day. What I sort of noticed at Disneyland was people staring at us. I thought it was unusual that people thought Oliver was my grandfather and that my dad did not correct them. I also recall hearing people ask where my mother was. A small splinter in my heart would open up, but my two dad’s would assure me that Minnie was just around the corner and a sugary treat was sure to follow. Their small way of distracting me and healing the wound as best they could.