Saturday, June 16, 2012

Repetitive nights

Not at night, but this is my dad getting on It's A Small World.
The best memories are the ones you want to live over and over again. That doesn't mean they have to be grand and complex, or adventurous and fascinating. They can be the most mundane and un-marvelous experiences of your life. But they survive in your mind by the simple fact that they meant something to you. They gave you a feeling you never wanted to forget.

A lot of my experiences with my dad fit this description to a tee. When I think about what my life will be like in the future - hopefully living comfortably in a city with good friends and perhaps a significant other (at this rate, who knows?) - it makes me really excited for every opportunity that awaits me. But it also makes me sad that I can't just have what I have now forever and eternity.

Let me paint you a picture of a sort of unusual evening with my father...but also a not so atypical event of the sort (because it has happened at least four or five times in the last few months).

I hear the front door creak open and slam shut. I'm on my computer in my room (what else is new?) and my dad has just come home from work. It's time to be a good daughter and let him rest.

Or not.

It's early enough that I can ask the always present question. "Can we go to Disneyland?" Most kids ask for rides to the mall or to their friends' houses. My ideas are much bigger.

He shushes me for a second so he can tend to our cats who are crying for their supper. I hesitate to ask again and retreat to my room, but then he shows up shortly thereafter to say we can go for a few hours.

I don't understand why he so willingly accepts my whims for trips to the Happiest Place on Earth. Sometimes, with him, it doesn't seem all that happy. I think the spectacle and the crowds aren't his thing. But hanging out with me is his thing, maybe? I guess that's enough.

His car is filled with CDs. We pop in a Beach Boys compilation and wag our heads back and forth to the tunes. We get to the park and walk a route most travel by tram to finally arrive at the turnstiles.

When we're in the park, we wander around. There's nothing to do but go on rides and eat popcorn and churros and (shudder) turkey legs (shudder again, I would never eat those). But we don't snack and we don't ride much. We just walk.

And we walk.

And we walk some more.

Around the park we go until one of us asks about dinner.

It's one of two choices, but always at California Adventure. The bread bowls or the tofu kebabs (oh, the ease of picking out food for two vegetarians). We choose kebabs.

Sitting down to eat, the music over the speakers is big band, jazz and swing. My dad points out a song and references its title. We talk about how the song might have been in a Woody Allen movie. We talk about Woody Allen movies. I ask him to list every Woody Allen movie so I can count off which ones I've seen. That takes us through the rest of dinner.

We wander around some more. It starts to get dark and maybe we go on a ride. We listen to the music in other parts of the park. More big band, jazz and swing. He comments on how he loves the music they play at the Disney parks. So maybe it isn't just that he loves hanging out with me?

Somehow, after several hours have passed, we've only gone on three or four rides. In the process of walking around the parks, we've taken in our surroundings like people might in a real park - the kind with swing sets, grassy fields and picnic tables -  but there's something just extra beautiful about being at Disneyland.

When we're heading home, we walk through Downtown Disney. I take in all the lights of the stores and feel comforted by these stores, these paths that I recognize. It's the kind of route I could travel blindfolded. We make our way to the parking structure, get into the car and turn on music from the '40s. This is evening music. The soft swell of the trembling piano keys and the warm croon of a standards singer complements the night.

On our way home, we don't talk a ton. We just listen to the music and take in the calmness of our evening.

Then it's home and back to the real world.

But in that space of those repetitive nights of routine and tradition...I find so much joy that I rarely find elsewhere. Just the pleasure of being in my dad's company, maybe talking and being nerds together, maybe just listening to music and sitting in silence. Regardless of what we do, it's the unchangeable condition that warrants happiness.

Tonight, at the end of the drive home, I just started smiling. My mouth widened into a grin and I couldn't wipe it off. It was stuck there - an almost maniacal level of pleasure gleaming across my face. But I didn't care. I was content.

I've lived these nights over and over. I love the repetition. I love that beautiful feeling of the dusk at Disneyland, turning into blackness as the lights around the park turn on and we walk around almost aimlessly. I love the drive home when I'm allowed to just ruminate on how lovely life can be.

There aren't enough moments in life that you can tolerate happening with any sort of regularity. We get tired of routines. We get sick of sameness.

I will never want to rid of the repetitiveness. Of the evenings spent in the recesses of the Disney parks, walking and walking and walking. When I'm 30 and thinking about my life ten years before (like I do now as I reflect on childhood, which I clearly do more often than is good for my own health), these are the moments that will mean something. They're simple. And they happen all too frequently. But they're perfect.

If I have anything to say about it, the repetitive nights are here to stay.

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