It took years….decades…for the five of us kids to convince my parents to take us to Disneyland.
It took so long, in fact, that I was no longer a part of “us,” having forfeited family vacation in favor of the boring jobs—Woolworth’s and working at the State Hospital—to pay for college.
When they finally relented, my parents were shocked. Disneyland might not be “natural” in the way a redwood forest was, but they loved it. “Everyone is so nice there,” said Mama. “Disneyland is so clean. And I love it that people are all in a good mood. Even though there are a lot of people, it doesn’t feel so crowded because everyone is on best behavior.”
Amusement parks are challenging for a lot of reasons. Paying the freight is one of them. That, too, is one of the reasons we never went. You can buy lots of gas for the station wagon and many trailer-made meals for the cost of admission for a family of seven.
But when it came time for my girls, and my sister’s sons, to spend time with Mama while we went off on our bike trips, she knew exactly what she wanted to do with them: Amusement parks!
Marine World in Vallejo—now called Six Flags Magic Kingdom—is just twenty minutes from her Napa home and every year she took the four grandchildren, trips now memorialized in countless family stories and a collection of refrigerator magnets.
The year Jessamyn turned 16, Mama asked Jessamyn what she wanted for her birthday. “To go to Marine World,” was the answer.
For the first and only time I got to go along. There were six of us that year and although it was Mama’s treat, I also knew it was a really big treat. So as we approached the ticket window warmed up my “outside voice” and yelled out:
“Does anyone have any coupons they don’t need?”
The kids were completely shocked and embarrassed. Until they realized that people were walking up to me and handing me pieces of paper that saved us $50.