|Posted by Robert Bibeau on August 23, 2011 at 1:15 AM|
What is it about a place like Disneyland that can make us feel so good? Is it the founder memories of childhood? The architecture of Mainstreet America harkening back to a simpler time in our collective past? The fact that everyone there from the most criminal looking thug to the most mini-van driving soccer mom is free to wear the most ridiculous hats and Disney attire imaginable... completely free from the judgement of fashionistas? My guess, its all of these things compounded by the fact that it offers an environment to grow as a family, or to watch your children grow. Of course my view on the magic of Disneyland has changed significantly since becoming a father. I think generally, my enjoyment of the park in the past had been for self, now it is about seeing my son's amazement and wonder.
I have never been very good at getting Tiffany good gifts for her birthday, or Christmas, or Valentines day, or our anniversary, or Mother's day or.... well the list goes on. Every year people will ask me "what does Tiff want for (fill in the event), she is so hard to shop for..." Admittedly she is difficult to shop for. She isn't a particularly materialistic person and rarely even mentions the things that she wants or desire's. But, I am finding, when it comes to something that we can do as a family I cant seem to really go wrong. This revelation has me churning with ideas on what to get her for Christmas and I am actually pretty excited about a couple of things already.
This year, being it is her 30th birthday, I thought I really needed to do something special. In years past I have bought her DVD collections of Friends or the occasional piece of jewelry etc. I knew that just wasn't going to be particularly memorable and I wanted this to be great. So I began my planning weeks ago. It was rather difficult to figure out a way to pay for this without her noticing since the only people who watch my income more closely is the IRS. I made arrangements about two and half weeks ago to have her parents sneak out to see her for the experience as well. Additionally I took a photo of Jaxon's five favorite toys, posed in a friendly manner and sent it to a friend of mine who paints what can only be described as very good, very funny satire paintings. (He paints the sort of thing that you look at and think to yourself "so what, I could have painted that." And that just might be his genius because, well... no you couldn't.) That set conditions for the ultimate gift delviery timing I have ever pulled off.
Every other Friday night, my family and I get together with my brother, his wife and a bizarre family connection that is easiest to define as .... my cousin??? - So I get that might be the gramatically poorest sentence of all time, but if "LOL" caught on then cut me some slack. My "cousin's???" family is there too and we used to do kareoke. We must've sucked because recently the kareoke machine was removed, so now we just eat pizza there. This past Friday was one of the days we would normally go, so I had Tiff's parents wait in the parking lot until we were inside and then come in to meet us. I had basically thrown Tiff off the scent that her parents were surprising her by letting her believe that I had planned a basic and poorly developed and unimaginative party at our usual place. It worked well because it was my "cousin's???" birthday was well, so the deception was simple. After we had finished eating, we decided to do some presents. I gave her the painting first. Two side notes: 1. She hates a painting that I already have by the artist. 2. I had them deliver the painting to our house and had her convinced that our sister in law had it shipped to us to keep a painting as a surprise gift for my brother. Tiff recgonized the work as one of Daniel Saenz's peice's immediately and Once she saw Buzz sitting on top of Bullseye I realized she actually liked the painting. (The painiting is of Woody, Buzz Lightyear, the three eyed alien from Toy Story, a toy horse from a Barn toy thing of Jaxon's but we call it Bullseye like the horse from Toy Story 2, and finally "Frog" the tree frog mascot from Rainforest Cafe.) After unwrapping the painting, I gave her the Disneyland tickets. Tiffany is a very stoic woman, and not one to betray an emotion, but I could tell she was pretty happy with the haul.
We actually managed to get a pretty early start getting up to Disneyland. I had planned out all the details such as getting a house sitter and coordinating with Tiff's mom for hotel accomodations, so it basically enabled us to just get on the road in the morning hassle free. The time spent at the park was indeed magical. We grew as a family. I saw my son for the first time, really begin to identify who his grandparents are. It was an amazing experience getting to see him realize that these people called 'Mema and Papa" were his mommy's, mommy and daddy. I also got to see genuine awe and star struckedness when he got to meet the "real life" Woody (by the way his absolute FAVORITE movies are the Toy Story movies... we literally watch them EVERY SINGLE DAY). The last time we had been to Disneyland he was too scared to meet any of the characters. This time, we saw Mickey and it seemed clear that was going to be the case again. Then Tiff saw Woody from afar and suggested that might be better. Sure enough, the instant Jaxon saw Woody, I knew we were going to have to meet him. It was pretty awesome. Jaxon was definitely scared, but he was so determined to meet his hero that he stuck it out in the line and then walked up to Woody himself, made sure to high five and fist bump him (seriously, Jaxon initiated both the high five and the fist bump) and even made sure to get his picture taken with Woody. I honestly was able to watch my sons self confidence leap forward in a single moment as he courageously faced his fears (I mean he is 22 months old, not a big fear for most of us, but for a little guy like that...) and I watched Tiffany's wonderful motherly heart overflow with adoration of her son. In that moment, I was the luckiest and happiest man on earth.
Just think, if I had not hit that IED, and if I had therefore not been medevac'd, I would not have a son. Or atleast I would not have Jaxon. Or imagine for a moment that I had not found Kung Fu, I certainly would not have been able to enjoy that moment. People say so often that "things happen for a reason." In fact, we hear that so often that it begins to sound trite, so much so that we rarely pause to reflect on the levity of the sentiment. Not all that long ago, as I have stated in this blog before, I contemplated suicide. Constant pain, paranoia, fear, nightmares and confusion had me feeling lost and unsure. I garuantee that a year and a half ago, the same scene with Jaxon and Woody could have unfolded, and the magnamity of the situation would have been lost on me. Now I can see. Now I can be content. Now I can sustain joy by seeing someone else who is joyous.