Yesterday, Easter Sunday, I found myself in a strange place. The sun was blazing, and fountains were shooting up glistening water wherever I turned. Familiar cartoon faces greeted me here and there: Jiminy Cricket, Mickey Mouse, Lightning McQueen.
We walked up a daunting flight of stairs and into a dimly lit building. We stood in line with hundreds of other people, and were soon ushered to long tables with folding wooden chairs. A tremendous stage sprawled before us, and when the show started, we were nearly knocked off our feet by the throaty walk of a bass guitar, slamming drums and a robust Gospel choir dressed in bright yellows and purples.
An eclectic place to celebrate our risen Lord, I thought.
My husband and I had imagined a more traditional Easter holiday. We would invite some friends over, probably bake a ham, enjoy each other’s company. Sweet potatoes would be involved, for sure, as would my own pressure on myself to get the house clean by the time friends arrived.
Then our pastor’s wife invited us – and the friends we were going to have over to our place – to this gospel show. Downtown Disney. Middle of the day. Tickets were, for our budget, expensive.
There were a handful of reasons to say no, turn down the invite, but none of them seemed good enough. Our friends were on board. A little creative working could get us around the budget issue. We won’t be in California forever – why not spend time in the land of Disney while it’s right out our back door?
So we went. The day was warm and the sun was powerful. I thought back to the many Easters I celebrated in western Wyoming growing up. Snow was usually still on the ground. Wearing an Easter dress was always a challenge – was it more important to wear that fun, cute little dress or not freeze?
I looked around at the bustling sidewalks and outdoor sections of cafes at Downtown Disney. So often, because the idea was so foreign to me, I had wondered, who goes to Disney on a holiday? Who would choose to eat a holiday meal here, when a bazillion and one restaurants abound in Orange County? Well, now us, it turned out. Back in Wyoming, the afternoon might have included a ham dinner baked by Mom, complete with sweet potatoes and other fixings, pie, and plenty of chocolate Easter candy. A Scrabble game might have ensued or a long nap on the couch with a game on TV in the background.
Here, at the House of Blues, we waited in long lines at steaming buffets. Since this was a brunch, the smorgasbord was big: bacon and waffles and omelets, fried chicken and macaroni and cheese and potatoes, even jambalaya. Some of the offerings were so unfamiliar to me I could hardly look at them – Easter, to me, has always been about tradition and familiarity – but the staples were there: ham and sweet potatoes and really good breakfast food.
I willed away the ache of homesickness as the stout, classily-dressed women walked onto the stage. “All the way from San Diego,” I heard someone say, and I thought, here I am, all the way from Wyoming, about to clap with a southern California gospel band at Disney for Easter.
The music was loud. So loud, I took my two-year-old son out of the show area and upstairs to a quieter part of the restaurant. But there, he danced and sang and had a grand time with the music, now less booming. “It’s just too loud,” he told me matter-of-factly, at one point. I had to smile and nuzzle his cheek.
The steaming food was beyond any offering I would have put out for Easter. But the stuff with which I filled my plate was delicious, and I went back for more. The California sunshine that beat down on Downtown Disney was a far cry from the not-yet-spring cold I am so used to this time of year.
But, it all added up to a new and worthwhile experience.
Afterward, as my husband, son and I strolled among the shops around the House of Blues, I told him, “This is not a place I ever would have chosen to go to on my own for Easter. But sometimes, that’s why I think God puts various people in our lives. He surrounds us with a variety of unique personalities to stretch us and help us think outside our own comfortable little boxes.”
Had our pastor’s wife not invited us out for this unique event, the thought to come here never would have crossed my radar. But thanks to her, I can say I’ve experienced something new. And lived a little bit more.
*What new experience has stretched your comfort zone lately?