12/28/2011 01:39 pm ET | Updated Feb 27, 2012

The Happiest Place on Earth

I'm going to go to Disneyland by myself. Maybe that doesn't strike anyone as odd, but at my age I think the only people who do that are the people who decorate their homes in a Mickey Mouse motif and wear Pluto sweatshirts. I am not one of those people. What I am is a mother whose kids had the nerve to grow up.

In reality, one of my children is still in college and the other two are momentarily living at home but on the cusp of moving out. But let's face it, they're gone. So Disneyland looms as a symbol of a time when I was needed on a moment by moment basis, when I wasn't supposed to be thinking about myself, it didn't have to be my time in life, I was happy to have it be their time, and I wasn't forced to ask the big, "what's it all about" questions. I knew what it was about. It was about tee ball and soccer, ballet and play-dates, family dinners and vacations, sibling fights and total chaos. I loved it. I miss it.

I suppose it started when, one by one, they turned 16. Living in Los Angeles, turning 16 raised tons of issues -- do we buy a car, what kind of car, would I ever feel safe again waiting for the sound of the car in the driveway, could I find routes where they could drive across the country, just taking surface streets and never having to drive on the freeways? But the unexpected issue that turning 16 created for me was that, now, they could drive with their friends to Disneyland without me. Up until then, when the kids were old enough to go there with a gaggle of friends and a minimum of supervision, but not old enough to drive, I'd be the parent that would wildly raise my hand and volunteer to go. There were many treks to Disneyland -- sometimes as many as three a year with a different group of friends for each of my kids -- and I never tired of it. We'd leave in time to get there for the opening of the park and many churros and chocolate covered bananas later, we'd close the park after the fireworks.

Then one day, my daughter said, "we have a day off next week and Alex, Tessa and I want to go to Disneyland." I said, "great" and proceeded to tell her that I might have to move some things around so she should let me know what time they wanted to leave that day. And then I got the stare.
"Tessa"s going to drive," she said.
"Tessa? Oh no. That's a lot of freeway driving and she's only had her license for what....?"
"Eight months," said my daughter. "She's driven on the freeway a lot."
"But her car. Does it have passenger side airbags? What if I just drove you and hung out and then drove you home?"
"Not happening, mom. Her car is fine."
"I don't like it," I said.
And I knew that the fact that I didn't like any of it, including missing out on Space Mountain, wasn't going to mean much anymore.

When I was seven, living in New York, my family went on a vacation to Los Angeles. Disneyland was newly opened and although it's a hazy memory now, I remember that it was perfect in every way because it was all about just being happy. Kid-happy. Happy, now that I'm an adult, revolves around checking my DVR and discovering that I have several episodes of Project Runway that I haven't yet watched or going to the gym and finding out that the aerobics class was canceled and I'm free to take myself out for bacon and eggs instead. That's how happy looks today. It doesn't seem so odd to me, that unlike my friends in the adult world, or even my husband who was always relieved to have me be the chauffeur on these Disneyland excursions, I am still excited by the idea of Disneyland and the fact that when I'm there, I really do feel pretty darn happy.

So, sometime very soon, I'm going to go by myself and try to figure out exactly what it is about that place that makes me feel so positively sunny about everything. I hope I don't turn out to be one of those weird old ladies who strike up conversations with young mothers standing in line waiting for the Peter Pan ride, reminiscing with them about how I used to have little ones with me too. Maybe I should just avoid Fantasyland altogether. But I'm going and I'm hoping old Walt had it in his heart to think about senior discounts for those of us going solo just to remember old times.