HMH EntranceThe first time I went to Disneyland for my birthday was two years ago and happened during a really difficult time in my life.  I remember that my mom packed my suitcase for me because I just didn’t… it wasn’t that I couldn’t or even that I didn’t want to, I just didn’t have it in me at the time to try and think about packing.  God Bless my mom for getting everything ready for me and for still wanting to join me even in my “funk!” :-)

The trip was really amazing and I had an incredible birthday.  In a lot of ways it was like a soothing balm to ease my scorched spirit.  A huge disappointment, however, was that the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay wasn’t set to reopen until two days after we left.  I was likely a lot more upset about missing it than I should have been, but given the circumstances I was in, I just didn’t handle to news too well.  You see, sometimes I feel like I miss everything at Disneyland because I live too far away to hop in to Disneyland for a few hours just to see the special events, and the Haunted Mansion Nightmare Before Christmas overlay was one of those things that I had always wanted to see.  I did LOTS of research on the internet, checking loads of different forums to see if anyone had ever exerienced an early soft opening for the overlay, but the answers we unanimously negative.

Me and MansionDay after day for the duration of our vacation I would check the infamous “line board” just to make sure that they hadn’t posted a wait time for Haunted Mansion, indicating it was open.  But, day after day, the board said that it was closed for refurbishment.  I literally would drag my mom over to the Haunted Mansion everyday just to stare at it and make sure they weren’t opening it, just for me of course… did I mention this was a particuarly bad time in my life? ;-)

On our last day I woke up SICK… not just sniffles sick, like crazy stomach virus of doom sick, but I was bound and determined to spend as much of our last day IN the park, NOT in the hotel room.  So, feeling pretty awful, I made the daily pilgrimage to the line board as soon as we entered the park.  ”Wait,” I said to my mom, “The Haunted Mansion isn’t on the board anymore…”  We both knew this could only mean one of two things.  1) The attraction had miraculously opened just in time for our last day, or 2) They were close enough to the real opening that they decided to use that space on the board for another attraction for the next couple of days.  Full of hope, I grabbed my mom by the arm and took off at a pretty good clip toward New Orleans Square.

Santa JackNow, if you are familiar with the layout of the park, you know that on a quiet Monday morning you can see the expanse of New Orleans Square – all the way down to the start of the Splash Mountain queue – from the bridge over Pirates of the Caribbean.  So, when we reached the point and looked down on the Haunted Mansion, the gates were wide open and Jack Skellington was perched atop, inviting us in… and, yes, we did, in fact, squeal with joy.  Quite loudly if I remember correctly, and we took off in a full sprint through New Orleans Square.  Attracting more than a few stares, and likely a few “slow downs” from Cast Members, we arrived at the mansion, tears in our eyes, smiles on our faces and we climbed in those Doom Buggies four times in a row!

Crying over the Haunted Mansion, you might say.  But, that is the magic of Disneyland.  At that moment in time, I forgot that nothing seemed to be going right back home, or that I had spent the past few weeks shut off from the world and drowning in myself.  I felt joy… pure, blissful, exciting joy, and it washed over me like a gift from Heaven, sent to heal my soul.  Of course, as can be expected, all the same stresses were waiting for me when I got home, but somehow every time I remembered the sight of those open gates, a little piece of me smiled.


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