Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! Disney has officially announced that Space Mountain will reopen on July 15th, 2005. It's been closed for renovations for more than two years now and Tomorrow Land has been grievously lame in its absence. Thank goodness for Star Tours; otherwise there would be no reason to go into Tomorrow Land at all. . . except that pasta place, and the Star Trader of course, and that little nook with all the rad NASA stuff from the Mars rover. Okay, so I take it back. There is still cool stuff there. But I've now been on two full Disneyland trips without Space Mountain and its absence has pained me like a favorite aunt or uncle missing from the family reunion. It just wasn't the same.
It's funny that I should care so much about Space Mountain. I remember being scared to death to go on that ride. Long after I reached the height requirement (a glorious day in a notoriously short family), I stood shaking in the entrance, refusing to go on.
I went on my first roller coaster at Disneyland when I was 7 or 8. It was Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. I remember everything about that first trip. I was thrilled, I was exhilarated, and I wanted to ride it over and over again. Now, the Matterhorn was a little more difficult. There was a monster in there -- a pretty convincing one to an eight-year-old. In fact, to be perfectly honest, my stomach still hiccups a bit when I pass the big growling yeti on the Matterhorn, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
But Space Mountain... It took years to get me on it. My parents used to bribe me before we'd go to Disneyland. "Now if you face your fear and ride Space Mountain, you can pick out any stuff animal you like." We lived nearby, you see. Close enough that my sister and I could sit together on the front steps of our house and see the Disneyland fireworks over the tree tops on our block. And when you live that close to Disneyland, you go pretty frequently. Any friend or relative that visits wants to go, and I was always happy enough to oblige them.
But facing my nemesis took some gearing up. I'd dread it all day. I remember one time we went and Space Mountain was closed and I got a stuffed animal anyway. She was a baby Minnie Mouse in a pink dress. Her tail was made of felt and it you balanced it just right it would stand straight up all by itself.
We moved away from Orange County when I was 10. Seventeen years later, I don't have any friends from my childhood there anymore. My old house is probably still there, but I can't run up the steps and through the front door for a lonely baloney sandwich now. My homecoming is Disneyland. I make my pilgrimage once a year and relive my childhood.
This year we're going in September. I'll skip down Main Street, dance in New Orleans Square, eat a corn dog during the fireworks, and ride Pirates of the Caribbean 20 times. The flowers in the entryway still bloom in the shape of Mickey's head. Injun Joe is still waiting to be found on Tom Sawyer's Island. Somewhere in the park is a giant mouse just waiting for me to come home and give him a hug. And this year I can face my old nemesis (turned friend many years ago).
Welcome back to the family, Space Mountain. It wasn't the same without you. It's good to have you home.