About 9 p.m.: The crowds are still thick, but we spot a startling blank space where a line should be. Pirates of the Caribbean! Less than 10 minutes! Marveling at our luck, we make for the embarkation area. And just as we duck inside, we hear a loud pop and see a flash.
Fortunately, the girls are already singing the "Yo ho, yo ho" song. We plunge into the damp darkness, and Grace is won over by Jack Sparrow and company. She likes Pirates so much, in fact, that when we emerge and the light show in the sky is winding down — and let me say, this is no standard light show — she gives it no more than a vaguely approving glance. She's ready for the next thing.
But now it's clearly too late for Frontierland or Tomorrowland. Time for … cotton candy. And then, because I've been fending off shopping suggestions for about 10 hours, souvenir-shopping on Main Street.
At 10:40 p.m., we straggle out of the park with a paper silhouette of Grace's face, a Mickey sorcerer toy, assorted shiny jewelry and a few dozen Silly Bandz (which, as most first-grade parents know, are rubber bracelets in various shapes) — all told, $120 in souvenirs and gifts. Add that to the meals, the hotel and the cost of admission, and the four of us are $696 poorer than when we began.
I'll take it. We're as happy as we are tired. No tears have been shed. I ask Grace her favorites of the day.
"Swimming," she says.
Should have seen that one coming.
"And Small World. And Pirates of the Caribbean."
Now, if some families did experience parades and extensive fireworks at Disneyland, if some families did actually see Splash Mountain, if some did visit the Haunted Mansion in the weeks before Halloween — nobody in my house needs to hear that, OK? We're all just fine.
And next time, we'll have plenty left to discover.