September 25, 2009

Disney on Ice: A Rite of Passage

Several weeks back, my sister mentioned she was taking her family to "Disney on Ice" and asked if I wanted tickets for Team Klems. I replied with an enthusiastic: ARE YOU INSANE? I'd rather be forked with pickaxe.

This, of course, was a complete lie.

I desperately wanted to go to "Disney on Ice." In fact, had Brittany and the girls not been interested, I still would have gone. The only real question would have been whether my parents preferred to take me to an evening show or a matinee.

Disney on Ice is a rite of passage for all parents. We buy the tickets. We load up the car. We dress our sons, daughters, dogs and pet rocks in mouse ears. And we make our way down to the arena, singing songs from any one of the Disney classics. We also spend $20 on parking, $27 on a small cup of lemonade and $35 on a glow-stick.

Rites of passage have gotten expensive.

When we entered the arena, I was struck by a familiar scene—one that drifted me back 20-plus years to my first "Disney on Ice" experience. My dad had secured tickets in his company's highly coveted, very swanky private suite (either he carried some weight around the office or carried a dossier of blackmail photos to use for just an occasion). My sister and I were certainly impressed. There were more potato chips, drinks and TVs in this room than in any room we'd ever seen. And that was only the backdrop to the show that awaited us.

The lights dimmed. The music started. The Disney cast skated its way to center ice. Mickey. Minnie. Donald. Goofy. Our favorite cartoon characters brought to life. Telling stories we loved. For the next 2 hours, we were mesmerized.

Brittany, Ella, Anna and I made our way to seats. Once again, my sister was in tow—this time with her husband and son (and a few of their friends). We weren't in a suite, but our seats were so close we could feel the heat from the Zamboni as it melted the top layer of ice. Then the lights dimmed. The music started. The Disney cast skated its way to center ice. Mickey. Minnie. Donald. Goofy. They were ready to entertain, and they introduced their friends Aladdin, Apu the Monkey and the Robin Williams-inspired Genie.

Seven-Year-Old Brian was in heaven.

I turned to Ella, thinking about how long I had waited to share a moment like this with my own kids. "How cool is this?"

In the softest, sweetest voice, Ella replied: "Daddy, I don't like the genie."


I looked at her face and she wasn't mesmerized; she was petrified. Tears flowed down her cheeks like a quiet river. Her little lower lip quivered ever so fast. It was the saddest, most heartbreaking thing I had ever seen.

And then 30 more Genies came skating out onto the ice. And then the shark from Finding Nemo. And then Beauty's Beast.

I felt so helpless. I hadn't seen it coming. What I expected to be a memorable moment for the rest of her life would be—but not for the reasons I had hoped. I had quite possibly scarred her forever.

In retrospect, maybe I should have taken my parents.

But as she nuzzled her head into my chest, wiping her tears on my sleeve, I looked to my left and saw Anna (my 5-month-old) smiling away, enjoying the show, cooing as the Beast left the floor and the princesses arrived. THEY ARRIVED! And, though others may claim I made this up, I swear to you Anna reached out to her big sister as if to comfort her and tell her, "Don't worry, the princesses are here!"

Suddenly everything changed. Ella cracked a smile, matching the grins of Anna and my nephew Chris. They all started clapping. They all started dancing. They all started enjoying each other's company, happy to share this experience with each other. Happy to share this experience with me.

So the memory of "Disney on Ice" was saved. As Mickey and crew took a bow, we all applauded, kids and parents alike, thanking them for creating a memory we will all savor for years to come.


The Life of Dad is updated every other Friday (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian