The youngest member in our family has turned 30. In most ways, this isn’t that big of a deal. People get older and someone had to be last. But while other friends are adding a new generation to their family trees on a seemingly daily basis, ours is an “aging population.” I don’t mean for this to sound sad, or morbid – it’s just that at some point in the not-so-distant past, 30 seemed old. And now the Munchkat is 30, and she’s still the baby. Still the little sister. Still the Munchkat.
She has never liked birthdays, but I managed to coax her into letting me come out to see her for a weekend. While I was there to celebrate an adulthood milestone, we did so in a way that also celebrated our childhood together. Our weekend was filled with long talks, slathering sunscreen on poolside, plenty of dessert, and a trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. I even brought Teddy and Doggy to hang out with Sara B.
Neither of us can really remember when we went to Universal Studios last. I think it was the summer after my junior year in high school when my family came to pick me up after finishing a summer school program in Santa Barbara. Munchkat thinks she went for her Grad Night as a senior in high school. Either way, it’s been a while. Our only goal was to hang out in Harry Potter World and not have to deal with SoCal traffic. Our plan was to leave her place by 11 am so we could get there by noon, but a comedy of errors set us back an hour.
We finally did arrive and bee-lined straight for HP World, which to my dismay was covered in fake snow (I believe the first words out of my mouth were, “I did not come all the way out here from Montana to see more snow”). We got our bearings and decided to stand in line at Hogwarts to get on The Forbidden Journey ride. The inside of the castle was really well-done – Dumbledore’s office and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom (neither of which I recognized as such until Munchkat said something – she’s a much more die hard fan than I am). And of course they had the talking pictures. Peppered throughout the line were several lines warning that if you were prone to dizziness and motion sickness, this was not the ride for you. We ignored them because, doesn’t every ride have to post signage like that? I’m sure you can guess where this is going.
The ride turned out to be terrifying and stomach turning. I won’t give it away, but basically it involved being really close to an IMAX-like screen in a moving carriage so that you could experience every nauseating dive and turn to the fullest extent, while being surrounded by literally everything that scared the shit out of you from the books and movies. Munchkat said she spent most of it with her eyes closed so that she wouldn’t puke all over everyone, and at some point I may have been heard screaming, “This is not okay!!!”
After The Forbidden Journey, we needed to re-group a little bit, so we spent our time walking around Hogsmeade checking out the shops. We went into Honeydukes and Zonko’s, Ollivander’s and the Owl Post, and a few other places, too. We did take the wand tour, where we got to see someone fitted for their wand. Neither of us volunteered when they asked, but wish we had when the person chosen butchered both spells they were asked to recite. After our window shopping, we grabbed an adult beverage at the Hogs Head.
At this point, we’d dragged out the experience as much as humanly impossible. In fact, we probably set some type of record for hanging out in HP World without getting bored. But we still had another few hours to kill before we could drive back home and avoid traffic, so we hoofed it across the park to check out the Transformers experience and take the Studio Tour. We then went back to HP World to pick up some wands and take some silly pictures.
A note about the wands: On our first visit, we declined to be fitted for wands because we didn’t want to carry them around with us all over the park and we were both a little nervous about price, since none of the wands had price tags on them. There were two types of wands – character wands (e.g. Harry’s, Hermione’s, Ron’s, etc.), and non-character wands, which were made out of different types of “wood,” and you could match the characteristics of the wood to your own personality. We figured the character wands would be “collectibles” and therefore more expensive, so when we overheard someone being charged $40 for one, we figured they’d be affordable and would get ours later. When we did return, around the time of park closing, we picked out two non-character wands and were shocked to find out they were $55! Then, we opened the boxes to discover that these wands are interactive and that we could have gone around HP World to certain displays casting spells and getting the displays to do things all day! We felt a little cheated of this experience since we didn’t have time for that, but they’re still a fun souvenir and we did get an awesome picture with them.
We wrapped up our day on the City Walk and had dinner at Margaritaville, which was another, albeit unintentional, nod to our childhood (we know more Jimmy Buffet lyrics than I care to admit).
We had a really fun weekend together and I’m glad I got to spend some time with my sister. We talk every day, but it was nice to see her face, see her home, see her friends, see her cats. Happy Birthday Munchkat. Here’s to 30.