Gabriella Seatris, CA

Junior Writer

A travel, fashion, product, and lifestyle writer, Gabriella is currently working on her first novel. She graduated from the University of California, Davis with a B.A. in International Relations and Italian with a minor in Textiles and Clothing. As a passionate adventurer who enjoys meeting new people and trying new experiences such as skydiving and surfing, she believes that everyone has a beautiful story to share.

As a Story Terrace writer, Gabriella interviews customers and turns their life stories into books. Get to know her better by reading her autobiographical anecdote below.

Smile for the Candid

Before Auntie Carol died, she lived in Anaheim, California– the backyard of Disneyland. Twice a year, my parents, brothers, and I would drive down from Sacramento to visit. And we always went together to Disneyland. Over summer, the park was packed with empty strollers and loose children running rampant, myself included. Thankfully, this was before the kid-leash craze. As a child, I was always wide-eyed and excited by Disneyland, regardless of the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd and melting heat. I wouldn’t experience another land that could fill me with such childlike wonder until college, when I left the country for the first time to study abroad in Florence, Italy.

Over Thanksgiving break, Disneyland was calmer, less sweaty, and overall a better time to visit. My family moved to and through the lines much quicker. My heart raced and my stomach dropped more often. When you’re young enough to have no real fears, being scared is a delight. But even in elementary school, I knew that though Disneyland was magical, it could also be terrifying. The rumor was, that if you turned the lights on in Space Mountain, you would see low hanging metal that could knock out a tall dad or smack down raised hands. I looked at Disneyland rides like I would look at motorcycle rides a decade later: with giggly delight and a quiet fear I’d push through. If you don’t give up your fears when you’re young, you’ll hold on to them for life. Just ask my dad, who’s now 61 and still afraid of ghosts or my mom who’s 60 and still afraid of garden snakes.

So as a child in Disneyland, I was determined to take a cheerful photo on Splash Mountain right as the ride plummets. My Mom, our passionate family photographer, always dragged the family to look at the candid photos after every ride. My Dad would tease Chris and me for being scared out of our wits, and our younger brother, Jake, for being too nonchalant.

Once I tried to smile at the camera but got the angle wrong. In the picture, my neck is strained and my smile is forced. My eyes were wide awake and Jake’s were sleepy. That wasn’t even the worst candid my mom had bought from Disneyland. I wonder if we still have it somewhere?

I can’t remember if I ever managed to take a nonchalant picture, like Jake, on splash mountain. But I can’t forget the feeling I had leaving Disneyland one November evening. The sky was a bright violet and the stars were already twinkling. The air was still warm; I was perfectly content. I hopped and skipped alongside my family as they strolled through the parking lot. I felt light as air. I twirled with my arms open and my head back. I was in the same euphoric state that I would feel after meeting my future fiancé at age 23.

The feeling was greater than any happy anticipation I felt while pushing the turnstile and stepping foot into Disneyland. The feeling resonated stronger than the giggly fear that consumed me on rides like Space Mountain and Splash Mountain. I can’t say what prompted this euphoric feeling. Was it the thrills? Had Disneyland put a spell on me? Did I conquer some childhood goal? Even now, there’s much I don’t know. But in that moment, dancing between my family, in the parking lot of Disneyland, I felt the purest happiness of my childhood.

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