I am going to make this perfectly clear at the start: I was celebrating my birthday in Walt Disney World.
Did I plan to? No.
Was it my birthday? No.
But will I ever be in Walt Disney World the first weekend in May, when my birthday falls? No.
There are a variety of reasons why this will never happen. Firstly, this weekend is usually when Confirmations take place. This weekend has also been the weekend of grade school track meets since I started teaching. And it is too close to the end of school to take an extended vacation.
So as a result, I celebrated my birthday in October.
This came about when I was picking up my ticket at the Transportation and Ticket Center Will Call. I had purchased my tickets at a discount online, and had no trouble giving them my ticket voucher and getting my card.
When I was about to wrap up, the lady at Will Call asked, "Are you celebrating anything on this trip?"
I shrugged. "I'm on a break!" Which I was. I was on fall break from teaching. That was enough for me.
It wasn't enough for her. "Are you celebrating your birthday?" she queried.
I paused for a moment.
This was a solo trip. I was going to be experiencing things on my own that seemingly should be celebrated with two or more people. I would be getting those looks of "Oh, where is your boyfriend/friend/family?" as I got my food at a counter or table service restaurant. I would be the ride vehicle with just one person inside. And I wouldn't be able to split this trip's costs with anyone else, either.
So I decided to give myself a perk. A way to keep me from fading in the background of cast members who would rather cater to families with small children than to that single person in the back.
I said "Sure!"
She put my name on the birthday button, added a Mickey silhouette (with the ears too small, like I routinely make the mistake of doing), and handed it to me.
I fastened the button on my shirt as I waited for Epcot to open. And almost immediately, the button did its magic.
Cast members giving the tourists directions would pause to say "Happy Birthday!" Cast members walking around picking up garbage would pause to say "Happy Birthday!" Cast members taking my meal order would make sure to say "Happy Birthday!" A couple of them even used my name, which I loved.
I think sometimes these greetings get ignored by other birthday button wearers, but I made sure to turn to each one, give them a big smile, and say "Thank you!" I didn't do it with a smirk on my face, or chuckling in my heart. I was genuinely glad that they had gone out of their way to congratulate me. They were making me feel special, and it worked!
But the magic didn't stop there.
My first day was in Epcot, and I was tooling around World Showcase snacking. I went to the left first - something I never do since I love the Canada and Great Britain pavilions on the right - and I passed Mexico. The band Mariachi Cobre was playing, and I'd never heard them before, so I stopped to listen (one of few since World Showcase had just opened). When they finished their song, one of them motioned for me to come under the shade of their stage. They mentioned I was celebrating my birthday, and they played Mexico's birthday song for me, which was so cool to hear in the harmony of a mariachi band! They finished by playing "Happy Birthday."
My night was spent at Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom. I had somehow snagged an incredibly hard-to-get reservation for the Be Our Guest restaurant, where you eat in Beast's castle, since I was going to be around for the party. (I suspected they stopped taking reservations after 8pm, and I got one for 7:40, 40 minutes after regular park members were supposed to be gone.)
I was escorted by my hostess (who had said "Happy Birthday!") to my table, which was a small 2-seater in the grand ballroom (where Belle and the Beast had danced under the cherub-filled ceiling and marvelous chandelier - both of which were present in the room I was in). My waiter was very nice and got my order in very quickly (ratatouille, if you were wondering). The two tables on either side of me were quickly seated with an older group of 4 and 2 men, so I didn't feel awkward and on my own.
The meal was delicious, albeit a little above what I'd anticipated spending on dinner that night. So when the waiter asked if I wanted to see the dessert trolley, I declined. "The ratatouille was my splurge for the night," I said. He nodded and cleared away my dishes.
But he left my fork.
A little while later he reappeared with a tiny plate and a card. The tiny plate held some of the infamous "grey stuff" from the song "Be Our Guest" (do I really have to sing it to you? no? good) with sprinkles on top and a lit candle. The card had been signed by Belle and the Beast. (My friend pointed out later that both names had the same kind of "B," which definitely meant that Belle had signed for the both of them. I thought this was genius.)
The waiter told me that I couldn't leave without trying some of the grey stuff, and that the Master had insisted. He was going to stop there, but then the two tables on either side of me decided to sing "Happy Birthday" to me! It was short and sweet, but very cool. And the grey stuff was, indeed, delicious. (Chocolate mousse, if you were curious.)
The next day in Hollywood Studios I had just come out of "MuppetVision 3D" - one of my favorite shows at any park. Nearby was the snack cart, and I realized I needed to eat my Mickey Bar - a traditional food I've always eaten on my Disney trips. I went up, ordered, gave him my ten dollars, and he gave it right back to me, saying "Happy Birthday!"
Mickey Bars and grey stuff are not all that expensive, but it still meant something that cast members were being extra kind to me. That Mickey Bar was the best I've ever had.
As I was purchasing my traditional vacation pin for the trip (Mickey ghost!), a really nice guy said, "Have you gotten a birthday phone call?" And I said no. He pulled out an old phone, picked it up and dialed, and then handed it over to me. It was Goofy, wishing me a happy birthday! It wasn't anything grand, but it was really cute.
One final kind touch was the next day in Epcot. I was at the Food and Wine Festival in World Showcase and had just ordered a teriyaki bun at the Japan kiosk. The lady took my order and also presented me with a tiny, beautifully-folded origami paper crane. It probably hadn't taken much for her to fold it, and I could see quite a few decorating her cash register, but it was still neat all the same.
Five little acts of appreciation for the girl on her own, and it helped make this one of my best vacations ever.
Will I ever get a birthday button again? No. This was a unique solo trip, and I won't celebrate my birthday at Disney ever again.
However...if I come with family or friends whose birthday falls in that month, you bet I will make sure that they get a birthday button, and then watch as they are blindsided with kindness of castmembers!