It was a sunny day in Arleta, California. A layer of smog covered the sky, giving it the most illustrious orange hue. My brother and I were anxiously awaiting our five-day Easter vacation with our father. Our parents were going through a tumultuous divorce and had been separated for about a year at this point. I felt extremely sad because I never got to see my “dad.” I thought it odd that he cut all ties with our family, especially his own children. At only four years of age, I couldn’t understand the concept of a father wanting nothing to do with his kids. Imagine the excitement my brother, who was seven at the time, and I felt after almost a year of not seeing him. Now we were going to get to spend five whole days for Easter with our “dad.”
Our mother was on a two-week ski vacation in Big Bear, a mountain resort town in Southern California. She planned a trip with her boyfriend knowing our father had plans to take my brother and me that week. Mom left us in the care of our aunt until our father, Hazim, arrived.
Nile and I were playing cops and robbers on our front lawn, and my brother pretended to shoot me. I fell in slow motion onto the lawn while wearing light blue polyester pants. Worried about a grass stain, I quickly jumped up as Nile noticed our father’s car, a 1966 Oldsmobile, making a U-turn. We ran over to the car with glee. It felt like forever since we saw him last.
As we approached the car, our father smiled and shouted, “Hey, kids, let’s go to Disneyland!”
“Yay!” we screamed.
“I’ll go get our stuff,” Nile said, turning toward the house. Our father stopped him.
“Don’t worry, son. I already took care of everything. Let’s go before the crowds hit.”
At that time, entry to Disneyland was only six dollars, but you also had to buy ticket books to get on the rides.
Nile and I looked at each other, shouting, “Far out!”
We jumped into the car, excited to begin our journey to Disneyland. Being kids, I guess we didn’t think much of telling our aunt that we were leaving. She was in the backyard at the time, and we figured she knew he was on his way.
When I was young, it always felt like it took forever to get to Disneyland. This time, the drive was much shorter. We parked in a large garage with what looked like thousands of cars. It didn’t feel like Disneyland, but I didn’t think much of it, nor of the planes flying above our heads. After exiting the car, our father unloaded luggage—presumably what he had packed for our trip.
Being three years older, Nile was more aware of what was going on than I was at age four. He asked, “What are we doing? This isn’t Disneyland.”
“Just wait, son,” replied our father.
Standing in line while waiting to hand our luggage to the ladies behind the counter, Nile noticed something wasn’t right. My head, on the other hand, was still full of hope and anticipation of our impending visit to “the Happiest Place on Earth.”
Nile continued badgering our father. “Um, why are we at the airport if we are going to Disneyland?”
Hazim quickly replied as if it’d been rehearsed, “Well, son, I am surprising you and we are going to Disney World instead. We have to take a plane to get there.”
Nile and I were thrilled and didn’t question him any further as we got on the plane.
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