The first time we celebrated Amy’s birthday at Disneyland as Annual Passport holders, Amy was granted entrance to the park accompanied by a “Happy Birthday, Amy.” She glanced back at the well-wisher just in time to see the special birthday graphic that had appeared along with her passport photo on the ticket-taker’s screen. It shouldn’t have surprised her that Disney would be so… thorough, but it made Amy beam. What a nice way to enter The Happiest Place on Earth. But then the woman added: “If you go to the City Hall, just inside the main entrance, you can get a special birthday badge. Just show your passport at the desk.” Amy and Mark both thanked the woman and entered the park.
“Let’s do it!” Amy was jumping up and down.
“Really?” Mark was a little surprised. “You want a birthday badge?”
“Maybe… maybe… YES!” Amy had convinced herself. “I don’t have to wear it, but let’s get it and see. We’ve never been to City Hall!”
“You’re right,” Mark chimed agreeably, “it’ll be an adventure!”
“Yeah, an adventure,” Amy had evolved into an 8-year-old.
And off we went.
Taking it to City Hall
The City Hall on Main Street was very different from the one we’d gotten our marriage license at, where somber people abided by a strict set of rules and spoke to you through little perforations in a thick lucite barrier. Here, happy cast members provided advice and program guides to those in need.
When it was our turn, Amy proudly thumped her passport on the counter. “It’s my birthday today!” she announced, and the woman behind the counter smiled at her as she would a child.
“It is?” she said playing into Amy’s exuberance while taking her card concurrently.
Bahnggg, the card-reader had a special birthday gong, or so Amy imagined. Bahnggg might be its only sound.
“Why it is!” the fairy godmother behind the counter beamed. “For that you get a special birthday badge.” Amy’s face was aglow as the woman produced a Mickey badge and a big Sharpie. “And how old are we today?”
Oooh. Amy probably should’ve been prepared for that question, but she wasn’t, and her mind bounced between the number 7 and her real age, which was a difference of about 30 years. Neither quite worked, and the nice lady was clearly prepared for that.
“That’s all right,” she comforted, “we don’t have to put an age. We’ll just make you’re name bigger.” And with that, she printed Amy’s name with a flourish and added a quick Mickey consisting of three proportioned dots to finish the job.
“It’s perfect,” Amy glowed as she reached for the badge. The day could not be starting out better, she thought, and Mark was thinking the exact same thing.
With an exchange of happy thank-you’s we left City Hall and immediately Amy searched for just the right place to pin her badge.
A badge of courage
“You’re really going to wear it?” Mark was both amused and incredulous, for Amy has tended on her birthday to not want to call attention to herself, the backlash from being April Fool’s fodder growing up (for her birthday is April first).
“Are you kidding?” Amy was undaunted, “This badge was made just for me!” With the badge prominently in place she looked to Mark for final approval.
“It looks perfect,” Mark approved, and we’d all but skipped off towards Tomorrowland. In truth, Amy would’ve skipped, and Mark knew it. But there are limits. There are limits.
Amy barely had time to think, “It’s my birthday!” when someone walking past her on Main Street said, “Happy Birthday, Amy,” without stopping.
Both stunned and thrilled, Amy automatically responded with a bouncy, “Thank you,” as she, too, continued on. What a happy, happy day it already was.
And that was not the only “Happy Birthday” said in passing as Amy and Mark walked an aggressive pace to our first destination, “Space Mountain.” Even in line, Amy was greeted with birthday acknowledgments by kids and adults alike, as if all along there’d been an underground brotherhood of birthday happiness that one would never know about were it not for the badge.
For a song
More birthday wishes were bestowed upon arrival at “Star Tours,” which Amy also would’ve skipped to had Mark been amenable.
Mark was starting to breathe easy: At last, a birthday that was finally undoing the many years of mortifying April Fools Day birthday parties Amy had endured growing up. It had been a struggle.
We took our seats in the “Star Tours” transport and buckled ourselves in.
“I see we have a birthday among us,” called out the Star Tours flight assistant as he went through the pre-flight safety check. Amy glanced around, hoping there was someone else wearing a birthday badge. “How old are we today, Amy?”
Darn, Amy inwardly grimaced. He was referring to her. She sank in her seat, her face feeling instantly hot, but there was nowhere to hide. She held up her left hand and spread five fingers, opting for her mental age in that moment.
“Five! A very mature five, I see.”
Oh, please, please, just start the ride already! Amy’s brain was screaming.
“Well let’s all sing Happy Birthday to Amy on her fifth birthday!” And he began singing, “Hap-py birth-day to youuuuu…”
The thrill before the ride
Oh gawd, no! This can’t be happening, Amy’s inner child was shrieking as everyone on the ride chimed in. Worse, Amy and Mark were sitting in the front row, so it did not go unnoticed that Amy was shrinking in her seat as much as she possibly could, given that she couldn’t unlatch the seatbelt.
“Hap-py birth-day dear A-my, hap-py birth-day to youuuuuuuuuuuuuu,” the chorus finished with a round of applause.
The ride couldn’t possibly be more terrifying than this, Amy reasoned while dying a thousand deaths that her birthday was now responsible for delaying the ride for her group and every subsequent group thereafter. Amy was convinced she would be hated for this.
At last, the overachieving cast member flipped the final switch, shut the control box and ducked out the door, but not before bleating out one last “Happy Birthday, Amy,” before locking them in for the ride we’d all been waiting for.
As the lights went out, Mark had to unhinge Amy’s hand from his own in order to regain his circulation. He could only hope this wouldn’t be another permanent scar like all those birthdays past.
Fortunately, our fellow ride-goers had a much more lenient attitude than Amy’d expected, and she was overtly congratulated with laughter and good humor as we made our way out the ride and poured into the gift shop. Hard to say who was more relieved, Amy or Mark.
“Well, that was quite a ride,” Mark finally observed once we were outside, “and I’m not referring to the ride.”
“Quite,” Amy was still breathless.
One more time
“Still wanna wear the badge?” Mark’s inquiry was justified.
“I’m committed now,” Amy was not to be daunted, and her pluck would be rewarded: She was “Happy-Birthday’ed” by princesses, cast members, and guests of all ages and nationalities as the day progressed, and with each cheery acknowledgment Amy curtseyed a gracious thank you. Her childlike glee had quickly returned and Mark couldn’t have been more relieved and grateful himself.
We had, after all, come to the Happiest Place on Earth, and for Amy, “Happy Birthday” was finally living up to the happy.