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LJ Idol: Food Memory (from Hell)

It should have been the best lunch any of us had ever had. After all, my brother's girlfriend's grandfather was one of the first investors in Disneyland and as such, her entire family had special member privileges at the park, including access to the elusive and mysterious Club 33. For my brother's college graduation, she made lunch reservations at Club 33 (group of eight please) and purchased significantly discounted tickets for my entire family, reimbursed by mother.

Now, my parents had a rather vitriolic divorce when I was 12 and my brother was 8 or 9. More often than not Ryan and I were in some way wedged between the turbulence of bickering parents. One argument over money, another living situations, another us children, and so forth. Post divorce life was sometimes no better; my dad was so bitter at my mom for divorcing him, when we moved to California four years later and she installed a pool (a gift from her new hubby, btw), my dad decided he wouldn't pay for a replacement set of glasses for me after I lost mine in the ocean (I have horrible vision btw). In his mind this decision was justified because clearly all of his child support (half the state minimum in Illinois because of a custody deal worked out with a judge...did I mention my father's a child psychiatrist?) was going to fund my mother's new frivolous lifestyle of excess.

Eventually the raging fires calmed and the emotional stab woulds wealed over and for several years my parents could get by without fighting, perhaps in part because my father was no longer on the hook for child support. And my brother, ever the pacifier, wanted his whole family together to celebrate his graduation. Did I smell a rat? Yes, a little. But bless my brother's tender heart, I couldn't ruin it for the poor sap. And everyone, outwardly at least, wanted to get along for his sake.

A spin through Fantasyland, a terrifying ride through the Haunted Masion, a trip down Splash Mountain  that scared my brother Jacob (4 years old, Mom's son) for life, and already I could tell my feel my mother tensing. Not once had my father gone with my brother and I on a ride. Instead my stepmom, Sharon, would park Jonah (1 year old, Dad's son) with my father at the ride entrance, and accompanied me, my brother, Chelsea, my mom, and stepdad on the ride. Sharon's hippie-dippie, airy-fairiness with my mother's strict no-nonsense temprament, not the best mix. My mom would spend the rides whispering in my ear about how inappropriate it is to breast-feed an almost 2-year-old, especially in public, especially in Disneyland, especially since my <i>father</i> should be riding with my brother and I, and doesn't<i> he get</i>, that this is Ryan's day and not Sharon's? And the look on my mother's face when Sharon asked if my mom would babysit Jonah so that she and my dad could go on a ride by themselves. A terse <i>No</i> and Sharon complained to me that my mother was mean, and my mom complained to me that Sharon was inappropriate and no she would never watch Jonah because if anyone should be going on a ride alone together it should be my Dad and Ryan or me and my Dad, and doesn't my dad understand that, and <I>THE ABSOLUTE NERVE OF THEM BOTH</i>.

Sharon, for her part, passive-aggressively snarked at my mother, going out of her way to be especially touchy-feely, exceptionally chatty, especially needy. So needy that she screamed in my mother's ear and clutched her thigh to the point of bruising when we bumped down the first little dip in Pirates of the Caribbean. Exiting the ride, my mother fumed, Sharon silently congratulated herself, my stepfather lassoed Jacob, Ryan and Chelsea disappeared into the gift shop, and my dad ambled over like a too-tall giraffe, self-conscious of his height, pushing a sleeping Jonah ahead of him in the stroller. I frumped after the pack. Already I could see the churning frustrations pouring from my family. But it was finally time for lunch!

Accessing a secret doorbell to the left of the Pirates' gift shop entrance, Chelsea alerted Club 33 to our arrival, and we were buzzed into the secret belly of Disneyland. Club 33. Up the stairs, down a hallway, and to a hidden restaurant the layperson wouldn't notice just above the streets of New Orleans Square. Oh. My. God. OH MY GOD! I WAS IN DISNEYLAND'S SECRET CLUB HOUSE!! There aren't enough squees in the world.

Problem. They us down for two reservations of four, not one group of eight. No group tables available. A scramble, a hushed discussion, my brother assuming control in a confident manner. They would move around the seating arrangements so our two tables of four would be right next to each other. My brother pointed my mom, step-dad, Jacob, and Steve to one table; he and Chelsea sat down at the other with Dad, Sharon, and a still-sleeping Jonah.

To me it was clear that Ryan wanted to spend time with his Dad. My Dad lives in Chicago, my brother lived in Irvine, CA at the time, so at best they would see each other twice a year. My brother went home to San Diego at least once a month to surf, do laundry, and hang out. He just wanted to spend some time with his Dad.

But to my mother, this was the ultimate offense. We were here celebrating Ryan's graduation from college. If anyone was given the guest of honor spot, it should be her and Steve. They had paid all of Ryan's tuition, all his room and board. My father occasionally splurged for books. She was there for him throughout his difficulties in high school, when he got so sick he didn't have the physical strength to get out of bed in the morning. She had been to all his swim meets, all his schools events, helped him with his homework, his 3rd place science fair project. She should have <I>THE</I> seat at the table of honor.

My step-dad dutifully sided with my mother. Ryan, Chelsea, and my dad remained hopelessly obvious. Sharon, for as one-with-the-universe and empathetic as she is, didn't notice or chose to ignore the rain of hate-arrows being twanged their direction. Jacob ate his mac and cheese. Jonah slept. I can't remember what I ate, but I remember I drank wine (because you CAN drink wine in secret Disneyland). Two glasses, part of my mother's. Finally, my mom snapped her credit card down on the table, commanding the bill, and went to the WC. My dad reached into his wallet and made a $60 offering for his family's portion of the meal. Steve, my step-dad, pointed to the table with his finger, directing my dad to leave that as tip. Chelsea thanked Steve and my Dad, like any good guest would do.

Outside Ryan and Chelsea, feeling the air, headed off by themselves. Sharon and my dad left with Jonah to the kiddie park. And I was the lobster in the boiling water headed to California Adventure. Raging, my mother complained about the lunch. Complained that Chelsea didn't thank <i>her personally</i> because it was <i>her money</i> that bought the meal and the tickets. I pointed out that Chelsea DID thank her, and also thanked Steve. My mother countered that Chelsea also thanked my Dad, who had only left the tip. She belly-ached over not being at the guest of honor seat, while I pointed out that she was acting like an entitled brat because it was Ryan's graduation, Ryan was the guest of honor, Ryan should chose the place settings, Ryan only wanted to hang out with his Dad.

I can't even describe to you how long the argument over this stupid little lunch in secret Disney lastest. Of course, my brother was reamed, my mother regurgitated all the inane arguments she used with me and Steve. Steve nodded his agreement. There was no respite from this stupid lunch from hell for YEARS. I was living with my parents at the time and for months, my mother would tell me how <i>over the whole thing</i> she was, only to rehash the entire situation detail by detail, and tell me how my brother still gets "butt-hurt" whenever she brings it up.

UGH! I would throw up my hands and say. You clearly, clearly are not over it. And the battle would engage again.

Then, a lull. Everything seemed to be okay. Three years passed and as my family sat down to Thanksgiving dinner, suddenly the topic of weddings came up. Jacob (now 8) wants to go to a wedding, but all my parents friends are well beyond marrying age. My mom said <i>Don't look at me, ask your brother or sister when they will get married. Hint hint</i>. A pause. And then she says <i>I just hope when Ryan DOES get married that he doesn't assign me to a table in the back of the room. Like at Disneyland.</I> And off we went again. And my 26 year old brother locked himself in his room and didn't emerge for the rest of the trip.

Club 33. I will never forgive you. But please, please take me back! I wonder what your food tastes like.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 3rd, 2011 12:35 am (UTC)
aww man, so bittersweet! I'm sorry you didn't get to enjoy your visit there.
Dec. 4th, 2011 06:23 pm (UTC)
What a story!
Dec. 5th, 2011 02:00 pm (UTC)
Wow! The ultimate family drama! Sheesh! Great story!
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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