Welcome to the Club

The Finer Things in Life

Cute sister Jaimie giving Izzy Ossetra caviar on a mother of pearl spoon. (caviar, baby puffs and milk in a bottle. aren't those the big three?)

A few weeks ago, I went with my sisters and my mom to this place in Disneyland called Club 33. It’s a members only thing with the crystal and shiny cutlery that usually accompanies anything that costs more than most people pay in rent. (That last sentence was written in my sarcastic voice. But some of my readers aren't hearing it. So I'm putting it in here as a note. Read description of crystal and cutlery as funny, not serious. Also....much more than I pay in rent, for sure. Now, go on with your regularly scheduled reading.) I grew up going there.. My dad used the membership for clients, but my family got to reap its exclusive benefits. When I was younger, you rang a bell to get into a small side door in Disney’s New Orleans Square. Once you announced yourself,

“Conley, Party of six.”

you were buzzed into a red velvet room with an iron worked elevator and a woman with a smile. My parents would take the stairs while us kids giggled up the halting elevator. Some of my favorite childhood memories took place at the top of that ascent. (Like the time Priscella Presley ate at the the table next to us. Which only ranked second to the time the waiter brought me seconds of the bacon that came with my lemon chicken.) I always felt like I was in such rarefied air. It was quiet and wood trimmed. The restaurant’s tables had white linen and shining silver and the waiters always brought out fancy shirley temple drinks with extra cherries. It was my first and most formative transformation of space. I spent every lunch hour there marveling that the I world I was in sat just atop another world that bustled and lined and sweated and thrilled. One wasn’t better than the other, it was simply instructive that they could be found on the same little street.

Into my teen years, the wonder didn’t really leave. I loved buzzing new friends into that side door. Talking like grown ups around a table set in a place that still held so much of the color of our childhood.

Nearly everything about Club 33 has changed and in adulthood things like Disneyland have lost much of their charm. But somehow this last time, surrounded by my sisters and our squealing kids, it all felt like it used to years ago. Zuzu was all wide eyes up the new blue staircase and Viola shouted BEYOOOIFUL at the blown glass flower lamps. There was still a white linen table covering and Zuzu held up the spoon to look at her reflection in its shine. Our waiter (a man named Robert that accurately predicted I would enjoy the pork belly wrapped pork loin) kept all the kids drinks well temple’d. My mom sat at the head of the table and while everyone talked and the kids yelled and the parents shushed and laughed, it almost felt like my dad was with us.

We chomped on caviar while the kids ate cheetos out of our purses. (We are nothing if not eclectic in our tastes.) At one point Izzy, my sister’s one year old daughter, reached for her little spoon full of fish eggs. We laughed and decided to see if she liked the taste. She did. All wide eyed and grunting for more, she smacked her hands against one another when she wasn’t give a spoonful of it in a timely mannery. Our waiter came to the table laughing.

“One of the waitresses said you are feeding that baby caviar. I want to see it. Do it again.”

And so my sister did and Izzy cooed and we all laughed at the ridiculousness of a baby that loves something that is $125 an ounce. The rest of the meal was lovely and chaotic and well met with Pirates of the Caribbean upon leaving.

While we walked around the park, I thought about that baby and the caviar. Why was it so ridiculous that she loved that spoonful of bright bursting tastes of the ocean? Should we be shocked when our children love the highly valued or shocked when they do not? And then the question that stopped me just long enough to get nearly run over by one of those moving trash bins...What am I feeding my daughters? (Listen, we’re entering the territory of metaphor here, I’m not talking about exorbitantly expensive foodstuffs. Heaven knows, that most of the time we are more of a beans and rice and “what else can eggs make?” kind of family.) I’m talking about the expectations and means they are served every day. What experiences am I teaching them to savor? Have I presented them with literature on a silver plate? Am I helping to expand their palate so that they can relish life, know that they deserve every rare and valued taste? Will I help them understand that sustenance means more than the processed messages and images and aspirations handed to them from society’s cacophonous table? Is it possible that they will leave my home able to discern between the well seasoned and the undone? Will they have been schooled enough in the process of living to be able to enter the kitchen (so to speak) and create the existence they want and deserve?

Suddenly, Izzy and her reaching mouth didn’t make me laugh anymore. It wasn’t so much funny as it was wondrous. A little thing, only been on Earth for 12 months, loving the taste of something that’s been enjoyed on record since the court of Genghis Khan’s grandson. Perhaps we are sent here ready to seek out the sweet and savor. Perhaps we need to start expecting our children to be ready for some of the things that we consider rare and elevated. We should spoonfeed them Dickinson and Swift and Dante and Shakespeare. We should sprinkle astronomy across their breakfast table and top their desserts with the questions of the ages. Those things all taste just right plated with the pantry staples of childhood like fairy tales and make believe. We should feast and break and join to feast again.

And yes, we should all cut ourselves a little more slack when they sneak the proverbial cheetos out of our purses. Not every moment can be a caviar moment, after all.

That’s nearly as important a lesson as all the rest.


The blue stairs behind the blue door that lead up to Club 33.

It Remains


My little stargazers. 

Zuzu loves the stars.

She has felt a kinship with them since she was a baby. "Star!" was one of her first words and for years we could not leave the house without playing a game of  find the star. There is a star on the bus stop! There is one on the mall! There is one tattooed onto that man’s arm! Star! Star! Star! She loved them like she knew they mattered and I loved her all the more for it.

It has been about awhile since the last time she shouted out “STAR!” because we passed one on a bank sign, but she still adores them. When we go out at night her eyes seek the sky first and sometimes we pretend we can count them like so many pebbles in our hands.

A few weeks ago I went out and bought some books on space. My little girls will never get to touch the stars but reading can take them close enough to feel their heat. We learned about constellations and luminosity and that there are some stars that can guide you home. There were moments when she marveled and others when she wondered when we would move on to her, “JASMINE BOOK! MOMMY! IT IS RIGHT HERE! LOOK AT HER NECKLACE! OH, IT IS SO PRETTY!” She is nothing if not well rounded.

Her introduction to great and wondrous space went very well until we got to the part of the book that said that our sun is actually a star.

“No, Mommy.”

“No? No, what?”

“The sun is not a star! It can’t be! It is yellow. And it is big. I can see it during the day time! Stars are white and they only come out at night. The sun is not a star!”

“Oh, sure honey, it is. The sun is just really special, because it is our star! And it is so close we get to see what it really looks like. We are really lucky to have a star with us even in the day time.”

“Oh no, Mommy, it is not a star. Stop saying that.”

And then she took the book, closed it and turned away for the night.

It has been two weeks since then and she hasn’t changed her mind. It comes up out of nowhere, at the grocery store, during other stories, in the bath.

“Mommy, the sun is not a star.”

And I take her little cheeks in my bigger hands and tell her the same thing every time,

“Honey, I am never going to lie to you. The sun is a star. But we can wait to talk it about it until you are ready, okay? You’ll get there and when you do the sun will still be a star. No rush.”

And then she turns away angry and confused and unwilling to listen.

My little girl who would change astronomy to fit her world, I know just what she is thinking. The stars are her treasures in the dark night sky. They are her friends on long drives and the fairy dust on top of every bedtime dream. They are story and mystery and shoot across the sky wishes. The sun cannot be a star because it is there every day. There is nothing special about the sun. And stars are special.

Someday soon when she is ready to listen, I will tell her what an extraordinary thing the sun really is. My goodness, girl. That star is close enough to redden your skin and grow your favorite flower. It is the source of your energy and the literal light in your life. The fact that it is every day expected and every day risen does not make it less. It makes it more, it makes it everything.  And I will tell her to never be afraid of what is true. Because the truth lights a dark world with more might than even the sun.

This won’t end with the stars. I know there will be times she feels unprepared, when she doesn’t feel ready for the realities waiting to be learned. It is alright. She’ll get there, we all will. And when we do, the truth will still be the truth. And the sun will still be a star. And the light will be bright enough to light the darkest places.

There’s no rush.