Date: 23 June
Location: Santa Monica pier, munching on French fries and thinking I should really get that diet back on track.
Notable sightings: a man in the corner of Main and Pico who now sings about me every time I walk past.
Aside from eating and drinking too much and pretending I was six whilst parading about in Minnie Mouse ears, there was a point to my sideways jaunt to Disneyland. I’ve avoided writing too much on this topic as it’s quite difficult for me. It takes physical distance and discipline to do it now.
My mother lives in Canada after running off with her high school boyfriend last year. As you can imagine, this utterly devastated our family. On our part, it’s been a year of reshuffling, selling the family home, forging new relationships to replace this severed one, a sense of loss seeping into the everyday. For her, it’s been a year of her darting back ‘home’ to Australia for a fortnight at a time as she tries to reassure us that her kids — I have a younger brother and sister — are her “first priority” while she shacks up with someone else in Canada, buys a Golden Retriver puppy, emails us happy snaps of her skiing and generally tries to pretend that we’re the insane ones for having difficulty adjusting to the situation, while she spouts off lines such as how her move is a ‘great opportunity’ and how we need to ‘move forward’. Doubtless, she would use different words to recap, but essentially those are the facts.
It’s jolting to see your own mother fall from grace. In fact, it’s a dizzying, nauseating, hideous free fall. A sickening paradigm shift that I would never wish upon anyone. Yes, we must all grow. Yes, our relationships with our parents change as we, too, become adults. But it doesn’t have to happen like this.
So, when 2014 bloomed and I started checking the validity of my passports and looking into just how insane it might be to quit my job and run away to India, my mother suggested that we meet up at some point. Disneyland it was to be.
In some ways Disneyland was the perfect place for us to reunite, in others it was pure danger. Where better to go to mother-daughter bond than a buzzing and colourful playground full of distractions that reminds us of simpler times? But, where better to go to throw into sharp contrast the then and the now? Also, when the two of us are together, I’m struck by how much I feel like the adult shepherding around a young child. My mother is the one who giggles uncontrollably through the Grizzly River Run log flume, is too scared to go on the big rides, says good morning to the birds, looks at me helplessly when it’s time to decide where to eat, screams as the Pacific Ocean’s waves lap at our legs, squirms at the difficult conversations that I see as necessary to clear the air and take fresh breaths. Being at Disneyland only served to amplify this impression.
So how did it go? Oh, fine, we ate like kids and drank like adults and generally had a grand time. She spoiled me and I was grateful. Of course, all of this served just to make it that much harder when she left again, back to her own summer, her puppy and her real first priority in Canada.
Do I think my mum lives in a delusional, well-padded bubble of her own careful creation, insulating her from the knocks in the real world and allowing her to heedlessly knock others without harm to herself? Yeah, I do.
Perhaps those of us who don’t wish we could too.