Sunday, June 20, 2010

Surprised Laughter

A couple of weeks ago I went on an impromptu trip to Disneyland. Sister Agatha and Mr. Agatha had given me passes for my birthday, and they expired in the first week of June, so I had to hustle. And while some of my friends have annual passes, most of them couldn’t go because of this, that, and the other thing (mainly rehearsals for a play.)

You can’t just take anyone to Disneyland, people. Well, maybe you can if you’re in a big group, but if it’s gonna be just you and someone else, as it ultimately came down to be, you’d better get along with that person, because everyone knows a trip to Disneyland involves a lot of line standing. If that person isn’t down with lines, with walking, with dealing with noisy children, or if that person doesn’t appreciate the Disneyland experience in general, with all of its childhood nostalgia, adult perspective, and jacked up prices on food and beverage, that person is not the person you wanna go with.

Luckily, I pleaded and cajoled and got Dewey to come with me. Dewey has an annual pass of his own, and loves Disneyland as much as I do, he loves just walking around the park, appreciating the attention to detail that Disneyland still retains (though the cast members could be friendlier.)

Both my pass and his annual pass allowed us to park hop between Disneyland and California Adventure, so we started in California Adventure because last October, we had spent all of the day in Disneyland. And though Dewey had been to both parks plenty of times, he had somehow never made it onto Soarin’ Over California, which is one of my favorite rides.

I tried to describe it to Dewey what it was like, and got as far as “simulated hang glider thingie” before I gave up, and said, “Just trust me, you’re gonna love it.”

So Dewey trusted me, as everyone should do when it comes to all things Disney. We got our Fast Passes so we could come back later with no wait, I told the person putting us in rows that we wanted the top row, so nobody’s feet would be dangling in our sightline. Dewey didn’t understand what that meant, though I’m saying things like “kinda like Back To The Future at Universal Studios, but waaaaaaay better.”

So then we get onto the ride, and the people sitting next to Dewey realize, from all the questions he’s asking me, that this is his first time riding Soarin’. “This is going to be your favorite ride from now on,” they tell him, “Cause it’s our favorite ride.”

Then the ride starts, and we’re lifted high into the air and the movie starts.

And Dewey laughs. The most beautifully surprised laughter I’ve heard in a long time. Kind of a hey, what’s going on...oh my GOD! This is amazing! And he keeps laughing and chuckling all the way through the ride as we soar and swoop and sniff our way through all sorts of California landscapes.

I think I like Soarin’ not just because it takes you up in the air, so you feel like you’re flying, but also because it’s not pretending to be anything other than what it is. It’s not built around a specific Disney movie, it’s not simulating a storyline where something goes horribly awry. You’re flying through the state of California. Boom. Done.

We get back down when the ride’s done and Dewey’s still laughing, but also applauding enthusiastically. And though we do plenty of other things that day, including inadvertently stumbling into the best place to watch the fireworks in Disneyland (by It’s A Small World), it’s Dewey’s laughter that has stayed with me weeks later.

When’s the last time I laughed in that surprised laughter kind of way? I can’t remember. Sure, I laugh, who doesn’t, but it spans the gamut of rueful chuckling to laughter forced from you by a TV show or a movie that’s working REALLY HARD to get you to laugh.

Surprised laughter. It sounded almost like joy.

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