There’s No People Like Pumpkin People

>> Monday, October 1, 2007

Disneyland has everything: Roller coasters, Lollipops the size of your head, and small doses of mental trauma. I only hope Samantha won’t be too traumatized, and that in the long run, the happy-family memories will outlast the memory of being laughed at by her family and a crowd of total strangers.

Right now the girls are two and four -- a great age. At Disneyland, small children are solicited to participate in spontaneous performances that magically appear on Disneyland street corners. The New Orleans Ragtime Band, Merlin’s Magical Sword, and the Pumpkin Festival are a few that appeared on our path.

Elizabeth caught on right away and eagerly participated. She was so damned cute dancing to the New Orleans Ragtime Band. She banged her tambourine, shook her booty, and earned her beads. (No, she didn’t have to show her boobs, although I’m sure she would have if asked.) A brightly-dressed performer (they were all brightly-dressed) took her by the hand and together they headed a small ragtime parade. Fabulous.

Merlin didn’t pick her to be Queen, though, and that was a downer. In his performance, Merlin’s magic “divining rod” (don't ask) selects a child to remove the sword from the stone and that child becomes King or Queen for about five minutes. Lizzy wiggled her magic fingers, shouted “Alakazam!” when she was supposed to (and even when she wasn’t supposed to), and cheered on cue -- but to no avail. Sadly, his rod passed her by.

But without a doubt, Samantha was the hit of the Pumpkin Festival.

After watching her big sister shake, rattle, and roll her way through Disneyland, Samantha wanted to join her for the Pumpkin Festival. Enthusiastic performers extended gloved hands and beckoned the children to come forward. Elizabeth headed the call. Samantha took a step forward, and then a step back. She looked from me to the performers, then back again.

“It’s OK. I’ll be right here,” I encouraged.

Slowly, she walked towards the other children who now held pumpkin signs over their heads. It looked like a “pro-pumpkin” rally, and I suppose, it was. We want our pumpkins! When do we want them? Now!

Samantha nibbled nervously on her forefinger and stood next to her sister in the middle of the line-up. Alas, there were no more signs for her to hold. Not to exclude their newest participant, a performer went behind stage and brought her a large carved pumpkin to hold (styrofoam, I’m sure).

There she stood. Holding a large pumpkin. Not moving. And not smiling.

Children and performers moved all about her, waving their signs, singing, and presenting their Disneyland smiles -- and smack in the middle of the chaos stood motionless, stoney-faced Samantha. Well, that’s not totally true. Her eyes moved -- not her head, just her eyes. Her eyes narrowed and looked left at Lizzy. They looked up as the Pumpkin Queen sashayed by wearing a large orange-colored dress. Samantha’s eyes looked down over her nose at her pumpkin, and they looked straight-ahead at the audience.

Who was laaaaughin’.

Smaller than everyone and perfectly still (except for the eyes, of course), Samantha drew everyone’s attention. Who knows what she was thinking, seeing her family and a crowd of strangers rubbing tears from their cheeks as they watched this beautiful child’s not-so-subtle assessment of the Pumpkin Festival. I tried to look supportive, but that was hard to do as I was practically holding my belly with laughter.

Trooper that she is, Samantha remained through the entire song. Afterwards, she returned her pumpkin, snuggled deep into my lap, and refused to participate further. I gave her lots of kisses and told her how great she was -- which was totally true.

From our safe place on the sidelines, we watched Lizzy make more faces, sing more songs, and shake her booty... again. We laughed some more, but without the gut-wrenching catharsis -- which was fine with us. Perhaps someday Samantha and I will take our places on stage, too, break out our tap shoes, and dance a duet to “Good Morning”.

But not until we’re good and ready.

(Oh, by the way -- we left the camera at home.)

I grabbed the above picture from Betsy Malloy’s Disneyland Photos.

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