Guest Author: Betty Mercier
I share a birthday with Walter Elias Disney. This does not win me any awards or accolades, and most people don’t even know, and perhaps don’t even care. That’s fine, because it’s simply something that makes that day extra special to me, and when I am lucky enough to be in Walt Disney World on my birthday, that special fact I hold dear becomes exceptionally wonderful.
I usually play a big role in the planning of our vacations, but in December 2011, I was closing in on my 4th semester of college, having gone back to school to follow my dreams. This would be my 50th birthday, and Dave decided to give me a vacation to remember, and took over the planning completely. This was to be a surprise for me, and I was only allowed to know the dates of the vacation, that the youngest (Nicole, a senior in high school) would be coming with us, and that we were going to WDW. Otherwise, I wasn’t allowed to ask or snoop. Part of me was quite happy about this, as I did not need to worry about planning a perfect vacation on top of all of my school work, and it was refreshingly exciting to wonder what would be in store. I had no idea.
We arrived off the Magical Express on December 1, and our vacation began. It was a strange feeling not having any idea what the plans were, which part of the World we would experience next, and what surprises might be in store, but I looked at it as an adventure. And since I didn’t have any responsibility at all to be looking at a planning calendar or checking things off a list, it gave me complete freedom to enjoy every minute, take tons of pictures, and pay attention to the details. On the 3rd evening of our vacation, we boarded a Disney bus headed for Port Orleans, Riverside, and I knew that meant Yehaa Bob, a show we try not to miss each time we’re in Disney. The show was great, and I was focused on whatever antic Bob was up to at the time, when I turned to look at Nicole, and did a double take … my daughter Jen, a freshman in college, was sitting right next to me!
I couldn’t believe it, I was so surprised! She had snuck in when I wasn’t looking, sat right down, and waited for me to notice. Funny thing, we were just texting earlier that day, and she had said she wished she could be there with me for my birthday, but I knew she couldn’t get away from school at that time. I wasn’t allowed to know just how she got there yet, but I was so happy to have the four of us together, and I thought – Oh that must be my big surprise!
The next morning, we headed to Epcot. We were there for just a short while, when someone tapped me on the shoulder and I thought I heard “Auntie Betty”, but why would I hear that? I’m sure that was just a coincidence. Turning around, I see my sister and her family standing there with big grins on their faces! This seemed just too good to be true. I hadn’t been to Walt Disney World with any of my brothers and sisters since 1979. And so this was truly an amazing surprise. I was reunited with my sister in Disney, and now her family as well. Her girls were beaming with excitement to start exploring with Jen and Nicole! And I thought – Okay, this time it’s definitely the end of the big surprises. Now our group had grown from three to nine!
The following day was my birthday, and though I knew there were going to be some fun things in store for me today, I wasn’t expecting anything as amazing as what had already occurred. This was our fifth day of vacation, and we had already done some really fun things we hadn’t done before. We headed to Animal Kingdom on this day, and it was a bit melancholy, since Jen had to leave in the afternoon to go back to school. It was really hard saying good-bye, but I felt so happy to have had the time we did. My sister drove her to the airport, and we headed to the Magic Kingdom. After some time, I was lead to Cinderella Castle, and Nicole took me shopping at Sir Mickey’s while I noticed Dave was walking toward this sign: I’ve never eaten at Cinderella’s Royal Table before, and started to feel pretty excited that we were probably going to have my birthday dinner there! And I was right. The meal was really good, and I love the theming. At this time, New Fantasyland was not open yet, and we had a great view of the construction, which was a nice bonus. But what happened next was the highlight of the trip, and one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me.
We had just ordered dessert, and the princesses were making their rounds. If you haven’t done this dining experience before, this is a great opportunity to have pictures with many of the princesses. Everything seemed so surreal and I was lost in the experience, when our waitress placed a white covered dish in front of me. She lifted the lid, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. There sitting on a bed of red roses, was a glass slipper, which held a diamond ring, which had red roses rolled delicately inside! I felt I was in a dream. I was still trying to comprehend what was happening, when Dave got down on his knee, and made the most amazingly romantic wedding proposal. He took my breath away, and I felt I was in shock, when I realized he was waiting for my answer … and all I could blurt out was “Of course!” Many of the guests and princesses were clapping, the Disney photographer was snapping tons of pictures, and I was shaking with happiness. I had never in my wildest dreams, imagined that I would be proposed to in such a magical way. I have tears in my eyes, just writing about it. And once we somehow settled back into our seats, we were served a special dessert.
I feel special to share a birthday with Walt because he has played an integral part of inspiring us to keep moving forward and follow our dreams. Celebrating my 50th birthday in Cinderella’s Castle, being proposed to by my Prince Charming, surrounded by princesses, was the best birthday I have ever had! Walt Disney World is a place where dreams come true every day. I know, because it happened to me!