Last weekend my family went to Disneyland for the second time. Though Black Friday is typically a busy day for The Happiest Place on Earth, early morning rain scared a majority of the crowds away and we found ourselves with incredible access to the rides and attractions. We spent the entire day together, never splitting up to go on rides like Splash Mountain or Space Mountain, instead enjoying rides that the four of us could do together. Our first stop was The Haunted Mansion.
On our previous journey to the Magical Kingdom we had taken in the Haunted Mansion with mixed results. Little One had loved it, but Big One had not been a fan. We thought that maybe this time would be different since the entire ride had been revamped by Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas (in fact, many of the rides had been themed for the coming Christmas).
We were wrong.
As soon as we got in line Big One began to have a panic attack. There was screaming and shouting and yelling. People in front, behind, and to the sides of us were giving us the look of please-go-away. And yet, we remained.
After a few minutes of futile reasoning with the child, I lifted her into my arms where she grew silent, but no less teary.
“Do you remember this ride?”
“Yes, Daddy. I don’t like it.”
“Well, it’s changed.”
“You know the Jack movie?” Jack is what my children call The Nightmare Before Christmas. Upon hearing this, Big One nodded her head. “Well, this is now the Jack ride.”
“The Jack ride?’
“That’s right. Don’t you want to see?”
She shook her head and started crying again, burying her face into my shoulder. I held her close and looked at my wife who told me she would sit this ride out with her eyes. I shook my head – I was determined.
As we got to the part of the line under the balcony I put Big One down, got on my knees, and took off my gray Volcom baseball cap.
“Do you see this hat?’
“Do you know what it is?”
“That’s right. It’s also The Bravery Hat.”
Her attention was piqued. “What’s that?”
“Well, Daddy wears this hat and gets to be brave. It protects me from ghosts and monsters and being afraid.”
She said nothing, but took the hat from me, looking it over carefully.
“Would you like to wear it”?
She nodded again and dropped it over the top of her head. The hat was huge on her, falling over hey eyes entirely. “Daddy?”
“Can you still pick me up?”
We made our way to the front of the line with no further resistance. Big One kept the bill of the hat low, lifting back her head when she felt brave enough to look around. The entryway made her jump, but something changed as we entered the ride itself: She was smiling. She and I sat together, pointing out the different creatures from the film we both loved. We laughed and watched through the entirety of our journey through The Haunted Mansion. She never taking off my hat, and I finding it difficult to stop watching the smile on my little girl’s face.
When it was over she took off the hat and handed it back to me. “I don’t need this now.”
“Okay. Thanks. Did you like the ride?”
“Yeah. It’s my favorite. Let’s go again.”
We did not go again. Instead we went on Pirates of the Caribbean, Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin, Gadget’s Go Coaster, Mickey’s House, Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Treehouse, Goofy’s Playhouse, the Disneyland Railroad, It’s a Small World, Peter Pan’s Flight, and the King Arthur Carrousel. We also caught the Disney Christmas Parade and a firework show that had snow but no fireworks.
Big One asked for The Bravery Hat on two more of those rides, one of which was It’s a Small World. She must have seen something on my face as we waited in line because she inquired, “Are you sure you don’t need The Bravery Hat, Daddy?”
Black Friday 2013 was one of the best days of my life.