Blues to Greens, and Back Again...

My mother arrived in town today, and in three days, she will be entering the front gate at Disneyland for the first time in her sixty-three years on this planet.

Obviously, going to Disneyland was never much of a priority in her life, but now that she is going to finally be down here where I now live -- and also because Jen can get us into the park for free – she is going to take advantage of the opportunity. My stepfather Stan has not been to the park in well over forty -- closer to fifty -- years, and recalls Walt Disney landing in a helicopter outside the park and stepping out to greet the park-goers, shaking hands with dozens of patrons, my stepfather included. (Reminds me of the time I ran into Salvador Dali just after my clock melted…)

Disneyland was always a priority in my life, or rather, a dream for me, since I never got to go there as a kid, though I was constantly obsessed with doing so. Since I was but a wee one, I owned (and actually still do) a Little Golden Book about Donald Duck desperately trying to catch up to Huey, Dewey and Louie on a haphazard chase throughout Tomorrowland. As Donald did so, he ends up accidentally riding all of the attractions, while always staying focused on catching those bratty nephews. Back in my reality, I watched the Wonderful World of Disney faithfully since I was a child, and truly relished the episodes where Uncle Walt and people such as the Osmonds or Kurt Russell would wander about the park, playing and singing and getting into all sorts of nonsense, which only instilled the dream deeper within my soul. For years and years, I watched relatives and friends and relatives of friends and friends of relatives head off to Anaheim to get doused in the Disney magic. Yes, I was often invited, but it was always a matter of money, and a matter of time, keeping me home. I would watch them all go off to that mythical kingdom. And that’s all I ever did. I watched them go, and then I watched them return, ears on their heads, smiles on their faces... and I never even got a crappy T-shirt.

I didn’t make it to Disneyland until my thirtieth year, in 1994, near the tail end of a marriage where my wife contended she never had any interest in going to Disneyland – even though I am the greatest person in the world, along with Jen, with whom someone should attend such a place -- and so I went with my brother Otis and my pals Robear and Robin for two days of non-stop running and mucking about that left us thoroughly exhausted trying to fit everything inside the 9:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. time-frame that the off-season park schedule allowed us. I returned home to even more insipid jealousy that merely tapped another nail grimly and firmly into place on the lid of a certain coffin… and then Disney became a dream for several more years, until Jen happily entered my life.

This morning, a blustery, oddly cold Sunday, as I waited to catch the bus to my office so I could knock out a day’s rote busywork in relative seclusion from the rest of the staff (i.e., actually get some stuff done), I stared at the palm trees lining the outer walls of a trailer park across the street from the bus stop. Seeing them caused me to flash Chuck-like on an image captured in my mind upon my first trip to Disneyland, which happened to be my first personal study of palm trees not waving in the breeze in an episode of Hawaii Five-O or a similar filmed entertainment venture. After three-plus years of life here in Orange County, one would think that I have grown immune to the sight of palm trees, of any species. But I haven’t. They are still so foreign to me, as are many of the local trees, most of which one can not even get a casual glimpse of in Alaska. My first thought upon seeing the street where I now live was utter joy over all of the different trees in view.

And this same thing struck me as I stared up from the sidewalk of Katella those many years ago and peered quizzically at those palm trees just down the road from the Holiday Inn where we stayed, all four of us crammed into a tiny room. I don’t know why Southern California -- which so often seems to me nothing but miles and miles of the same goddamn, endlessly paved and strip-malled city, separated only by names forcibly given to instill citizens with some small sense that it isn’t one goddamn, endlessly paved and strip-malled city – I don’t know why that, out of all the things down here, I mainly identify with the trees. Especially since most of the trees around here aren’t even actually native to the place.

I reflect on these three different scenarios -- my first trip to Disney, my first steps onto the street I now call home, and even casual trips down the road -- and I wonder if my parents are able to see this area the same way I have since first being here. I somehow seem to be able to carve the asphalt and billboards and street signs and box stores out of my mind almost automatically, and concentrate on the trees, no matter what type they are, no matter if they are native and local. I seem to be able to blot out the industrialization and smog and a million snotty fools to focus my concentration on what is still good and natural in this area, even if transplanted much in the same manner as I.

Do my parents, having just left Alaska to drive through the wilderness of Canada and straight down through the entire West Coast to get here, have to see things this way too? Outside of the natural urge to sightsee and take in one’s total surroundings, in order to keep their sanity in check, do they have to lose themselves in the wayward forest of each city, now lining the sidewalks and medians of a eight-lane exchange near you? And when my mother walks into Disneyland on Wednesday morning, will she feel what I felt upon my first meeting of state-locked Alaskan and giant, anthropomorphic mouse? Will she take in the manufactured splendor, and then, when it begins to overwhelm them, will she seek to find comfort in the green of the trees that lie about the park, often masking even more of the artifice about them?

I ask only because it seems sometimes that my mother has become another person to me. I often do not recognize her on the phone as the woman who raised me. And while I know I have changed and she has changed slightly over the years, sometimes the difference that now lies between us – politically and socially – is just too much to take for me. But I spent a week last year at the hospital as my mother went through major stomach surgery, and I was able to remember how much I loved and cared for this woman. And seeing her own mother – my Granny – earlier this year, lying in a bed in a nursing home in Wisconsin, absolutely unable to recognize or remember me for even a second, only has sharpened my resolve to reconnect with my own mother for good.

And now she is here, in my new city and home, and finally ready, some thirty-five years later after the time I wished it to happen, to adventure through Disneyland with me. Funny how things work out…


EggOfTheDead said…
Palm trees always seem to be sticking their heads up above the fray, with their fabulous hats, saying "Hello." I was thrilled the first time I saw them ... still kinda am, actually :-)

I lived in the Hollywood foothills and used to hike up to the wooded wastes, where the coyotes ruled the night, just to enjoy a few hundred yards of peace among "nature."

Nice to hear you refer to OC as home :-)

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