The Happiest Place on Earth

Image from Flickr by H is for Home

Image from Flickr by H is for Home

Monday was Arizona State University’s Spring 2016 Commencement, and although I am ecstatic and enormously proud to be a graduating Sun Devil, I decided to skip the ceremony.

I stayed home, made popcorn, and watched a Harry Potter movie with my family instead (we’re in the middle of a HP marathon), occasionally scanning Twitter’s #ASUGrad hashtag and smiling at all the beautiful sentiments, overjoyed selfies, and youthful messages bursting with energy, optimism and hope.

I was still recovering from an insanely fun but brutal trip to Disneyland with my daughter’s 8th grade music program–over 100 kids in orchestra, band, and choir–plus 25 adult chaperones and three music teachers.

We met at the school at 10:30 p.m. on Friday night, boarded a bus about an hour later and tried to sleep during the six and half hour drive, which didn’t really happen for me. Next we spent a bleary eyed two hours at McDonald’s, where I was yelled at by a hysterical woman who thought I was trying to sneak in front of her: “I’ve been standing here for 45 minutes!” she shrieked. “You need to get to the back of the line NOW!”

Instead I went back to my table empty-handed, in a daze, shaking from anger and shock at not only being screamed at but accused of something so stupid. “I can’t believe that just happened,” I said, and proceeded to tell Abbey why I didn’t get her sandwich yet. “I need to calm down,” I told her.

A few minutes later one of the students, who’d been ping ponging around the back of the restaurant and had heard my story, planted himself in front of me and began pounding on my table, screaming, “She cut me off! Hey! She CUT IN LINE! EVERYBODY! THIS LADY CUT IN LINE!” By the time he finished I was laughing so hard I was practically in tears. The parent whose group this boy belonged to eyed me with mock hope. “Would you like to trade?” she joked.

I would gladly have taken him.

The four kids in my group were my daughter and three boys. One of them is very much like Abbey—goofy, funny, extroverted—making silly faces when I aimed my camera. The other boys are funny too, but also very shy, turning their faces away whenever I snapped a picture (I promised them I wouldn’t post those, but I wanted to take some for their families).

Strolling into ToonTown

Strolling into ToonTown

We didn’t technically have to stay together as a group, but they kept me with them for most of the day anyway, and we had a great time hitting the roller coasters, munching on churros, and shopping for souvenirs.

Still, being at Disneyland for fifteen hours, from opening until close, after a night of practically no sleep, was a new experience for me. In the middle of the day, when I’d been there for seven hours and was facing another eight, I was so desperate for a moment’s peace that I broke away and stumbled into the Main Street Opera House for a viewing of “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.” In the fifteen-minute showing I believe I fell asleep and startled awake approximately seventeen times.

At midnight, we gathered at our meeting place and took attendance, then wearily made our way to the parking garage and boarded the buses once more. Not surprisingly, I had no issues sleeping on the way back.

So I ditched the cap and gown (and crowds) on Monday, but I celebrated in my own way, quietly, at home. Soon enough I’ll receive my diploma, one year after returning to school, and it’s been an incredibly rewarding experience, truly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I mentioned previously that as part of my capstone course, I’d committed to finishing edits on What Was Never There. I’m happy to report that I made that deadline, with a lot of help from my friend Carrie, who graciously read and offered feedback on several of the stories, including the whopping 8,000-word title story (thank you, Carrie!).

That means that this week, in addition to preparing for my kids’ last week of school (and one more field trip), and planning for their birthdays (I don’t even have birthday lists to the grandparents yet, let alone ideas for parties), I get to work on one more thing: writing a query letter for book #2. 🙂


  1. Oma Naranjo says:

    I’ve been wondering about my list…lol. You’ve been very busy. As proud as I am of you graduating, I would have probably skipped the ceremony too. Beautiful and funny story. I think for the woman at McDonald’s a well placed “stink eye” gaze while demurely whispering “shut up” would have sufficed. Sometimes you have to show “crazy” what crazy really looks like. Love you.

    • Haha. 🙂 I’m afraid if I’d engaged her in any way I would have ended up looking like a fool, the way she looked. So I stayed composed and simply walked away. I wish adults could see themselves when they throw temper tantrums, especially in front of kids. The 8th grader nailed the ridiculousness of the situation so perfectly, bless him. 😀