A Trip to Disneyland Aparna Sanyal Macro-Fiction

map A Trip to Disneyland

by Aparna Sanyal

Published in Issue No. 173 ~ October, 2011

June 1, 1982

I found Mommy crying in the kitchen. The table was bare and she had her head in her arms. I peeked through the kitchen window and saw Daddy in the back yard, watering the trees.  I asked her what was wrong, and she just kept crying, so I went away.

I don’t know if they were fighting before. I was taking a bath with the ship Dev uncle bought me and couldn’t hear anything. Dev uncle is one of Daddy’s friends. He smiles with this frozen smile and says the same thing over and over, like ‘when is your birthday?’ I don’t like Dev uncle but I like the ship. It’s so real, with round windows and a tiny steering wheel.

When I got out of the tub I opened my new diary (this one). I sat wrapped in my towel, on the toilet seat, and wrote. Writing is like hiding in my closet, except it isn’t dark.

June 4, 1982

Daddy came to talk to me yesterday. He sat on the edge of my bed and said in this far away voice that I would still get to go to Disneyland. Then he said: ‘you didn’t ask about Disneyland because you thought I had no money, didn’t you?’ I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want him to know I never even thought about whether he had money. I forgot about Disneyland. Daddy started talking about it after I told him Tania went. I didn’t mean that I wanted to go.

I want Western Barbie for my birthday (June 20). Daddy promised to get her when we went to Calgary Tower. She has a white hat and a tiny lasso and a gold star on her shirt. I asked Daddy what kind of toys he got when he was little and he said I should try to be less materialist. Daddy was a communist in India. I asked him why people didn’t just make a big neighborhood garden  in the park at the end of Elmridge Road (our street) and eat out of it. That’s when he told me about Communism.

Daddy is an engineer but he got laid off. Kamal from school, whose Dad is only a chemist, said Daddy was too short to see over his steering wheel. I hate Kamal. When I told Mommy she looked sad and said Daddy never had a lot to eat when he grew up because his Daddy died. I feel so sorry for Daddy sometimes.

June 7, 1982

They had a big fight yesterday. Everything was OK after supper then suddenly they were shouting. My door was open and I was reading Peril at End House in bed. The next thing I saw was Mommy going backward into her room and Daddy following her. All of a sudden everything was so slow. He was taking one slow forward step at a time and she was taking a slow backward step at the same time. I started to breathe fast and I got the sick feeling in my stomach. Mommy looked soft and helpless. She never hits him. It’s not fair.

I ran into the room and jumped on his back. I didn’t even know I was doing it. I also broke his glasses.  Afterward, I started breathing these big breaths.

He stopped and turned really slowly. He didn’t look at me. I hated him first but then I felt bad when I saw his glasses hanging. He just straightened his broken glasses and walked out of the room. Mommy was fine. She told me I had to apologize. I felt so bad then. When I said sorry he just said hm without opening his mouth.

June 9, 1982

Tania came over after supper. She lives in Deer Run, which is right below Elmridge. All she has to do is come up the hill and we go for slurpees at Mac’s or to the park. She brought her new Sweet Valley High Book so I could sneak a read.  Her mom lets her do anything she wants.

We played Charlie’s Angels (I was Sabrina). After, we lay on the back lawn and ate popcorn. The grass was bright green and smelt like summer. We found a shiny red ladybug with exactly eight spots and I let her crawl on my finger for a long time. Tania asked what was wrong and I said nothing. I asked if she thought any of the Angels were married and Tania said no. Tania said she wants to get married one day. I said getting married wasn’t fun, it was just something people have to do, like go to school. Tania called me a women’s lib.

Tania is my best friend. She has red curly hair and is lots of fun. Anita is my second best friend. She has silky black hair and is good at Math. I used to think my second best friend was Sandy. We would go swimming in Lake Bonavista, but then she told Tania she didn’t want to be friends with someone who kept getting sick.

June 11

In nine days I will be exactly ten years old. I can’t wait to play with Western Barbie. When I get sad I think about her lasso and her hat and all the stories I’m going to pretend about her.

For my birthday, Takuma sent me a bank shaped like a bird out of a coconut and three books about the Ramayana. They smelt like Takuma’s house. It is a nice smell. I love the things she sends me. I am her only grandchild because Daddy’s sister and brother died. Daddy called her last night and Takuma cried on the phone. I cried thinking about her all alone. We went to see her when I was six.

They call India mostly because someone is sick or dead. They have to scream into the phone in the middle of the night. Daddy wants to go back. He says he feels like a second-class citizen here. Mommy says she’ll never go back no matter what he does.

June 14, 1982

Mommy went out to one of her appointments. Usually it’s a good sign when it takes a long time. But this is really long. I think I should call the police but last time Mommy was only in Diane’s garden and the policeman got mad.

She sets up her appointments over the phone. Sometimes she gets hung up on eight times before she gets an appointment. I give her advice. For instance, I told her not to keep saying she’d like to set up an appointment. Instead, she should ask them if they want the best insurance in town. I read about this in How to Win Friends and Influence People. Daddy has a lot of books like that.


I hate Daddy.

I tried to go to sleep but I felt like I was sweating. I got up and stood at the window in the living room. Daddy, who was sitting in the dining room reading, said what’s the matter? I told him Mommy was late and asked him if we should call the police. He got up and stood near the stairs. I asked him where he thought she was and he just said hmm. I started to cry, and then he got this mean look on this face. He shouted, ‘So what if she doesn’t come back?’

June 15, 1982

She came back after I ran to my room yesterday. I wrote in my closet with the book lamp and then I came out and looked through the window. Finally her little brown car came up with its friendly purr. She got out and was fine.

But when she came in Daddy started yelling. He wasn’t even happy she got home. He started with ‘just who do you think you are?’ Then he said I’d been crying all night, and wasn’t she ashamed?  I got tense. Mrs. Sullivan told Daddy I get tense a lot. When I only got an 80 on the Math test, I started crying because I got tense.

There was yelling for a while and I started to breathe fast. But then Mommy came in my room. She sold a lot of insurance.

June 16

Mommy said Daddy doesn’t want her to work and that he is a bad man. I asked her why he helped her find a job and paid for her school then? She didn’t answer. Then when I said I was going to my room to read she said I was just like Daddy, always shutting the door. Sometimes Mommy’s face looks like she doesn’t like me at all.

June 18

Daddy is meditating downstairs, Mommy is sleeping in her room, and I am reading in mine. It’s like this a lot. We used to have parties on the weekends with the Bengalis and I got to play with Pritha. Then Mommy started hating the Bengalis. She said they spread gossip. Now no one comes over except Dev uncle to talk about engineering with Daddy.

Sometimes it’s no fun going outside either. Today a man drove by when I was on my bike near the bus stop on Elmridge Drive and shouted ‘Hey Paki! Go back where you came from!’ I yelled ‘stupid’ as loud as I could. An old man walking his dog looked at me like I did something wrong.

June 19 1982

It’s Father’s Day. I bought Daddy a special teacup and saucer painted with little birds. I spent twenty dollars of my allowance. I asked if he liked them and he said I didn’t have to get him anything.

June 21, 1982

*29 days till Disneyland

I am ten years old. I had my birthday but no big party like usual, because I’m going to Disneyland. At school they sang Happy Birthday and gave me the birthday bumps! Shazia and Kashif came after school with Lubna aunty. Anita and Tania came over and Mommy baked a cake. We ate it in the back yard, played games and I opened my presents. I got Gone with the Wind from Tania and three sets of Barbie clothes from Anita and this sparkly Indian outfit from Shazia and Kashif.

I didn’t get Western Barbie. When I asked Daddy about it, he just looked away.

June 22, 1982

Mrs. Sullivan read my story about the war helmet out loud today.  I love Mrs. Sullivan. Kamal was jealous and at recess he said I was like the nervous girl in Annie, always biting my nails. I stuck my tongue out at him.

When I got home Mommy was lying down in the living room. I told her about my story and she said that was nice. I asked if she wanted me to read it and she said she was tired. So I brought her my stuffed dolphin and let her sleep.

June 24, 1982

Yesterday was the last day of school. I made an important decision. I am never getting married. I am going to be a detective. None of the Charlie’s Angels are married. Either is Wonder Woman. I would like a permanent boyfriend instead. I told Mrs. Sullivan my decision and she said I was the smartest student in her class.

I told Anita and Tania my decision. They asked what I would do about babies. I asked  if Wonder Woman had babies? Then Anita asked if my parents had an arranged marriage. I told her yes and that Takuma picked my Mom from her photo. Anita said her uncle picked her mom for his little brother because her uncle married her mom’s older sister and liked it. I never thought about her parents being arranged, because they laugh and hold hands. Tania’s parents picked each other at eighteen and stayed engaged all through college, even though her Grandpa didn’t like Jews and didn’t let her Mom come over for dinner.

June 25, 1982

It’s summer vacation. I love summer vacation. I play with my friends, go to Heritage Park, go to Stampede, go to Bow Valley Park, go to the Glenmore Reservoir, go to Prince’s Island Park, go to the mountains, go to birthday parties, go biking, go swimming in Lake Bonavista, go play in the river, climb my tree in the back yard, eat barbecue burgers and roasted corn and drink slurpees and run through the sprinkler.

June 29, 1982

Since Daddy lost his job I don’t need to go to Mrs. Freund’s this summer. Yesterday he dressed up in a suit and left me at Shazia’s.

Today we played ping pong. I told him how Katie Ross called me ugly like a brown monkey at school and he said people here were prejudiced. He said prejudice comes from ignorance.  Then he drove me to Lake Bonavista and bought me almond squares. I eat the almond off the top first, then the chocolate off the sides, then I eat the middle. They are good. Sometimes Daddy is nice.

July 1 1982

Daddy took me and Anita to the Canada Day parade. It was fun. We saw Ukrainian dancers and  we went inside a real teepee.

I told Mommy all about it when she came home and she just said let’s go to Ming Dynasty for supper. I saw Daddy sitting all alone in front of the TV and I asked him to come but he and Mommy said no at the same time.

When we got back Daddy was still watching TV. I sat with him awhile and then Mommy came in looking angry. She said ‘you are not staying here’ and pulled me out of the room. I kept asking her what was wrong but she just looked like I did something bad.

July 3, 1982

*17 days

A lot of the time Daddy’s on the phone or at the dining table, filling out forms. He

doesn’t talk much.. Today he taught me the Pythagorean Theorem and took me to the park after lunch. We ate lichis off a big bush which he got from the Indian store. They were good. I wanted to ask him about Western Barbie but I got scared.

Daddy said he was looking for a job but it was hard for an immigrant. I asked if the other Indian engineers at his old company were laid off and he thought and said yes.

When Daddy is nice, he seems very far away. He never laughs hard, like Mommy and I do. He just goes ‘heh’ once. When Mommy laughs, she seems close. It’s only when Daddy gets mad that he seems close. It’s weird.

July 7

Mommy  tucked me in tonight and told me she cut up a few of Daddy’s ties. She started laughing like it was a joke. My stomach felt bad. I asked her why she did that when he needed ties? She said he insulted her father. Then she said he told her that I would never amount to anything and that I would just end up like her. I said Daddy would never say that but she said I didn’t know how bad he was.

After she left I went to the bathroom and threw up. I hate throwing up. My throat feels funny.

July 10, 1982

They had a big fight. I was in the living room and then I went down the stairs to the landing. I don’t know why I did that. But suddenly they were fighting on the stairs. Then they went past me and Daddy backed Mommy down the stairs to the basement. She was looking scared and pushing him away with her arms. I froze in the corner and I couldn’t breathe and I curled up against the bottom stair. Mommy said, ‘Go upstairs!’ I can tell when it is going to be really bad. Daddy’s voice lets me know that it doesn’t matter that I am there.

I can’t remember anymore. I don’t know whether I went to my room or if I followed them. It’s so weird that I can’t remember.

At night, the house was still and quiet. I ate spaghetti from Joe Italiano by myself in the kitchen. I don’t know who ordered it. Mommy’s door was closed and Daddy went out. No one talked to anyone.

July 11

Mommy wasn’t there this morning. Daddy poured me cereal and milk (he forgot the grapefruit) but I couldn’t eat. I asked where Mommy was. He said he didn’t know. I started to cry as quietly as I could. Then he got angry and told me to stop. I asked him why he was so mean to Mommy and me. He shouted that he did everything for us. I started crying even louder and he left the kitchen.

I went to Mommy’s room. Some clothes were lying on the bed.  I tried to remember what happened but I couldn’t. Mommy didn’t say anything before she left, which is so weird. She wouldn’t just leave and never come back.

Later, Daddy showed me scratches on his arms and said ‘see, look what your mother did to me’. They were long red scratches. I told him that he wasn’t supposed to hurt a woman.  He said that she should never hurt him either. I told him he was wrong because she couldn’t really hurt him. He just looked away.

July 12

Mommy called. She said she was at a hotel and not to worry. I asked her when she was coming back and she said she didn’t know. When I hung up, I asked Daddy when she was coming back and he laughed, not like he was happy but just to make a noise, and said ‘she’s coming back.’

When he left, I crawled into the closet with all my stuffed animals. I cried a long time. After a while I fell asleep. When I woke up I got scared, like there were monsters that would attack me if I came out. They seemed so real. I even thought I heard one moving around. So I stayed in the closet all night.

July 14

Mommy came back. She had all her things packed into black garbage bags. It looked weird and sad. Daddy didn’t come out of his room. I helped her carry her stuff in.

Mommy told me Daddy gave her a black eye. She had to go to work with it. She told them she ran into a wall. No one said anything, she said, but they all knew. I said Daddy was just like Rhett Butler and she said, no, he was a lot worse. Then she told me that when she was pregnant with me he kicked her in the back once.

I started crying but only in the closet, after. I just couldn’t believe Daddy would do that. I feel so sorry for Mommy sometimes.

July 25

We were supposed to go to Disneyland last week. But I got pneumonia. Last time the kids at school sent me a big basket full of chocolate and nuts. This time I might not have to go to the hospital. Dr. Gill said we should watch it.

I still suck my thumb when I get really tense. No one knows. But I am going to stop. I think I keep getting pneumonia because I suck my thumb. No one who is ten is supposed to suck her thumb.

Daddy changed the tickets to end of August. I spend a lot of time thinking about Disneyland now. Anytime I get sad I start thinking about the rides and the animals. It doesn’t seem real that I am going there.

August 5, 1982

*20 days till Disneyland

I am in the Children’s hospital. My fever was 104, but now it is 100. The nice nurse with the soft voice came and took blood again. She said I was going to be fine. I told her all about Disneyland. She said I was a lucky little girl.

Dr. Van Olm says I need to exercise more. I asked if I would be alright in time for Disneyland but he ignored me and asked Mommy why I was so skinny. I hate it when people say I’m skinny. She told him I was a very fussy eater. Then a lady came in with a bunch of doctors and started calling me underdeveloped. She asked  if I was born in India and Daddy said no. Daddy found out they thought I was twelve. He told the lady they should get their facts straight. Later Dr. Mitchell came and asked whether I was tired all the time or active like normal children. I told him I was going to Disneyland.

One good thing about being in the hospital is that Mommy and Daddy seem  happy. They came today and brought me They Do it With Mirrors. They stood over my bed and smiled down at the same time with their teeth showing. They asked me if I was looking forward to Disneyland.

I think I might be different when I come back from Disneyland. Mommy says she’ll buy me new clothes. I’ll go on all the scary rides. I’ll hold my chin a little up like Anita and laugh a lot like Tania. Everyone will know I’ve been to Disneyland. Everyone will want to talk to me. Everyone will like me. I won’t even remember what it was like before.

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Aparna Sanyal lives in Montreal. Her work has appeared in the Malahat Review and the River Oak Review.