On Wednesday 30th May 2012- the day that I turned twenty-three years old- I was lucky enough to be cooked for and serenaded by my wonderful grandparents. As my Grandma lay the cake in front of me, she said the three little words that I have heard on that date every year since 1990.
"Make a wish!"
You can probably guess what I wished for, and probably already know that it came true.
That's right- I wished for a job in Walt Disney World.
Fast forward to Thursday 30th May 2013 and I'm waking up smack back in the middle of my dream come true.
Luckily for me though, the birthday magic started a few days before that...
On Monday morning as I padded out of my bedroom, stretching my back and rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I noticed a small white box sitting on the sideboard.
"Happy birthday Rebecca, delivered by Tigger."
My heart leapt and my stomach did a little jump.
I ran back into my bedroom, threw myself onto the bed and began to open it, when my roommate saw me.
"You can't open that today! It's clearly for your birthday and your birthday's not until Thursday."
"Yeah I know...but the box is here today."
"But your birthday is on Thursday. Put it back."
Until this moment I honestly didn't know that there were people like this. In my world if the present's there today, open it today! Otherwise why didn't Tigger wait to deliver it on Thursday?
Still, my roommate was sitting right there so I couldn't exactly open it in front of her when she was so horrified at the idea. I put it back on the side and vowed to open it while she was at work.
For a while after that I didn't think too much about the box. I was excited to see what it was but it was obviously a present from my roommate who had been so strict about me not opening it yet.
Then I got to work, and during the quieter moments began to think about it.
What if it wasn't from her? What if Tigger really had delivered it? As someone who loves the idea of someone having been there (Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny never scared me!) the image of Tigger hopping through my apartment while I was asleep sent shivers of excitement up and down my entire body.
I pondered on all the possibilities and by the time I clocked out of work that evening I thought I would burst with excitement before Thursday.
I told the story to everyone who would listen and- to my absolute shock- was told by everyone that it was ridiculous that I was going to open it before my birthday. My protestations about it being my birthWEEK, about it being there labelled for me TODAY, fell on deaf ears. Until I spoke to my mum. Who responded with 'Open it and tell me what it is!' Maybe it's just my family?
I also found that everyone denied any knowledge of it. My best friends, boyfriend, roommate, housemates...all claimed- very convincingly- that they knew nothing about it.
That night I raced home, ready to open it and discover what it was, only to find that my roommate was still home, and would be now until the early hours of the morning when she was due to go on holiday.
I would have to wait until tomorrow.
I went out that night (and had all kinds of adventures including crawling around on my hands and knees on a bus dressed in my America flag onesie- but that's a story for another time), and didn't get home to bed until 4.15am. I woke up at 9am- less than five hours later- and there was another box.
"Happy birthday Rebecca, delivered by Donald Duck."
I jumped around the room as though I had no control over my legs- this was too exciting. Who on earth had managed to put the box there in that unsociable-five-hour-gap?
This was real magic.
Who even knew me well enough to have done this? I'd only been here three and a half months, I honestly hadn't realised that anyone would know to do this for me.
Eternally grateful to my roommate for stopping me from opening the first box, I left the second one exactly where it was and decided I would open them on my birthday. Whoever was doing this had gone to a lot of trouble, I wasn't about to ruin it with my child-like impatience.
I woke up on Wednesday morning and ran out of my bedroom to discover....still just two boxes.
I talked about it all.day.long.
And for the first time was working with someone who agreed that I should have opened the first one as soon as it appeared. He told me I should open them as soon as I got home from work and let him know what they were.
When I arrived home that night, there was a third box.
"Happy birthday Rebecca, delivered by Stitch."
Standing next to the box was Aladdin. Not the real Aladdin, but my Aladdin. They were from him. And despite the fact that it was now my birthday in the UK, I had to wait until the following morning to open them.
Aladdin still won't tell me how he got the boxes into my apartment at those weird hours. He insists that Mickey Mouse (the real one) organised the whole thing- that Tigger, Donald and Stitch really had crept into my apartment to leave the boxes for me, but- as always- Stitch got himself into a pickle and arrived late, so couldn't get into the front door while I was asleep as arranged. Instead, he had to wait until I had left for work and sneak in through the window. That- Aladdin tells me- is why there are two sections of my blind bent backwards.
Which is funny, because I had genuinely never noticed the dodgy section of the blind before.
Each of the boxes contained a charm for the beautiful charm bracelet that Aladdin bought me for my birthday, and each represents something magical from my life.
My 24th birthday was so wonderful, so magical and so filled with love that I could write a novel on everything that happened. But instead of boring you with every single treasured detail of that day, I'll just let you in on the most exciting ones....
1. At 5pm on Wednesday 29th May I was presented at work with a gorgeous, hand-made birthday card signed by everyone right down to the General Teller who works in the office upstairs. It was midnight in South Africa and, since that's where my gorgeous boyfriend and partner in crime is from, the logic was that my birthday had begun. It was so magical to me that everyone made such a big deal, and the fact that they hopped on board with my make-my-birthday-last-as-long-as-possible plan was amazing to me.
2. For those of you who don't know, I work with Pinocchio, and Pinocchio is infamous for his beautiful rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. I had asked him to sing it to me for my birthday, but had long forgotten when he suddenly started to sing it. I looked at the time. 19.01. It was officially my birthday in the UK. It was off to a beautiful start.
3. On Wednesday night I went to my favourite club, where I was totally spoiled with drinks, love and attention from everyone. There was one person in particular who made it extra magical and fuzzy around the edges with copious amounts of Whiskey and a seemingly endless supply of shots. That night will always remain a hazy memory of colourful drinks and his face.
And there was, of course, Drake Bell from the Nickelodeon show 'Drake and Josh' making a fuss of me which brightened my day in a way I will never be able to explain. That, paired with the fact that earlier that evening I spoke to Warwick Davis- actual Professor Flitwick, Griphook, Willow and pal of my hero Karl Pilkington- was the cherry on top of a huge, celebrity birthday cake.
4. On my birthday in 2012 I had opened my birthday presents alone in my room and hadn't seen another human being until 4pm. I really didn't want to do that again, but as I was away from home I was concerned that it might be my only option. My roommate had gone away, Aladdin was working early and all my friends were working too. A couple of weeks before The Big Day I explained this fear to Dumbo, who told me immediately that I would not be alone. She would sort something. She and Merida arrived at my house at 9am with an array of croissants, pastries, dairy-free cupcakes and a delicious smoothie. They watched me open all of my cards and provided me with cards and presents of my own before dashing off to catch the bus to work. It was a wonderful morning and the two of them just made it perfect.
5. All of the cards and presents that I received from home were wonderful and each and every one of them will always be special to me. But there was one that I was not expecting and that has kept a smile on my face for the past three days. As many of you will know I have worked with children in a lot of different places in a lot of different jobs, but the first ever child that I looked after was when I was thirteen years old, and she was three. That gorgeous baby girl with her perfect curls and adorable dimples is now a fourteen year old Princess who was thoughtful enough to not only remember my birthday but to send a card all the way to America on time. I don't think I'll ever take it down.
6. An hour and a half later I was dancing around my room to N Sync (to It's Gonna Be Me if you're interested) when there was a knock at my door. I bounced to the front door in all my birthday excitement, threw it open and came face to face with Tigger (my friend Tigger, not the real one) holding a huge bunch of balloons with 'Happy Birthday Becca' written on them in one hand and an adorable card and promise to take me to see Blue Man Group in the other. Once again I felt my whole body want to burst with excitement at everything.
7. Tigger and I then got the bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge to see Aladdin at work before heading to a restaurant that I'd been wanting to visit for ages for lunch. The food was amazing, the service was fantastic and Tigger did not stop making me laugh. When we had finished our dinner our server brought me over a free dessert with a candle in it. It was as Tigger uttered those famous words...make a wish...that I closed my eyes and felt them fill with tears. I live in Disney World. My presents were delivered by characters. I have amazing friends and family, I live in a beautiful apartment, I have my dream job...I have nothing to wish for.
At the stern-and-impatient look that I received from Tigger I quickly found a wish to make, but you'll have to wait until June 2014's post to find out whether it came true...
8. On our way out of the restaurant our server beckoned me over, telling me that there was a phone call for me. I half frowned, half laughed as we walked past the front desk but she insisted it was for me. Wondering who on earth it could be but knowing at the back of my mind that my friends knew I was here and I had no mobile phone signal, I reached for the phone and put it to my ear.
It was Goofy. Actual, real Goofy, saying he'd heard it was my birthday and he wanted to sing to me. So he did. Can you imagine how magical that was?
9. After lunch, Tigger and I went to Animal Kingdom to do what I think is the best thing that you can do in the whole of Walt Disney World: The Lion King Show. It was, as always, spectacular, and watching it with Tigger who had never seen it before made it extra special. We then had an hour to wait until Finding Nemo the Musical started, so we went to meet Up's Doug and Russell.
As soon as Russell saw my big blue birthday badge he began jumping up and down and signalling to the character attendant. The character attendant explained- also very excitedly- that Russell wanted the entire queue to sing Happy Birthday to me. He conducted the group with his hands as they sang very loudly and beautifully to me and Doug pretended to lick my face.
I work in Walt Disney World, I know that almost every group seems to have a birthday in it: I was far from the only person celebrating a birthday that day. But what Russell did that day made me feel like I was the only person to have a birthday this year. I will never be able to explain how wonderful it was.
10. We then met up with Aladdin, Alice and the Mad Hatter and proceeded to watch Finding Nemo The Musical before moving to my favourite Disney hotel- The Polynesian Resort- to have dinner, watch Lilo and Stitch on the beach then view the Magic Kingdom fireworks. Just before the film started, one of the Resort Activity Reps asked everyone what they had been up to today. When all twelve of the people that had turned up to celebrate with me shouted 'Rebecca's birthday', the rep naturally called me to the front and made me spin like a ballerina while everyone sang to me. I won't even try to pretend I didn't love every second.
11. By the time I arrived home from the Polynesian I was exhausted. Apparently there are photos on phones of me sleeping on the bus. Someone thought it was funny.
I vowed to get ready for bed and go straight to sleep, but as soon as I saw my laptop looking invitingly up at me I thought I'd just check to see if I had any important emails (and by that I mean Facebook birthday wishes). I'm so glad I checked. On there was a video posted of Boo, the little girl that I was nannying for before I came to Disney World. But an older version of her. She was singing happy birthday to me. I miss Boo so much more than I can explain to anyone- she was my best friend and the person I spent all my time with for three months, and hearing her little voice again finished my birthday in the most perfect way possible.
12. Two nights before my birthday Aladdin let me know that I needed to keep Friday free for my present. All week I tried to work out what on earth it could be but to no avail- I had absolutely no idea at all. Friday morning came and passed- I still didn't know. Then Friday afternoon he arrived at my front door. With tickets. To Cirque Du Soleil.
I would never, ever, have guessed that that would be my present.
It was absolutely amazing. If you have never been, go.
We spent the entire night totally aware that our mouths were hanging open but unable to close them, then for hours afterwards we would just randomly say 'Ooh and the bit when...'
And now it's June and the countdown to my next birthday has begun...
To every single person that was involved in this one: thank you. Everything from the wonderful video that my mum made of herself singing Happy Birthday, to the card in which my baby brother was thoughtful enough to write 'Keep It Magical', and The Lorax that my wonderful roommate thought to leave on my bed with a note in French was just perfect. I'm so grateful for everything that's happened in the last week and to every single person from all over the world who thought of me and made an effort.
So twenty-four has been the best birthday yet. Here's to the best year...