The next thing I knew it was morning, and the boys came running into the bedroom followed by Ethan and the cameraman.
“Happy Birthday, Hunter!,” the boys said. They looked very excited.
“Whoa…my birthday was yesterday.” This was how I expected them to act on my birthday, but it wasn’t what I got the morning before.
“Not for the show,” explained Jacob.
“You didn’t think all that lame stuff we did yesterday was how we wanted to spend your birthday, did you?,” asked Matteo. “It’s your 30th birthday. Of course we had something special planned.”
“What is it?,” I asked.
“A surprise,” Matteo said.
I instinctively looked over at Ethan.
“My lips are sealed,” he said.
With the camera in place, Belen came in with the breakfast tray, just like the day before. Same menu and coffee pot and everything.
The boys stuck around while I was eating. Then Maya and Robert came in, still in their bathrobes.
“Hurry up and eat,” Maya said. “We have to get going as soon as possible.”
“We’re going somewhere?,” I asked, washing down a mouthful of bacon with some coffee. “Where?”
“We told you, it’s a surprise,” said Jacob.
I had five people and a TV camera watching me eat breakfast in bed, which was when I realized that I hadn’t even been able to comb my hair and must have looked as rumpled as the covers. Usually things like my birthday surprise breakfast aren’t as spontaneous as this one was.
“Go get dressed,” Matteo said. “Wear something warm. And comfortable shoes.”
“We’re going to be outside,” Maya explained. “Dress in layers, since it’ll get even cooler at night.”
“Yeah, but where are we…?”
I think everyone said “it’s a surprise” together.
Ok, now I was really puzzled. Why was my birthday surprise happening the day after my birthday? Finally, under the shower, I put it together. If we were going someplace outside, we obviously couldn’t have gone on Tuesday, because it was pouring rain. Then it all fell into place: what they were doing today was what they were supposed to do yesterday, but the rain spoiled it. That’s why Joyce changed our plans from Wednesday to Tuesday; she must have been in on Maya’s plans and had to turn everything around when they got the weather report..
That didn’t do anything to tell me what the surprise was, a day late or not. I followed instructions about dressing in layers, which was definitely going to be necessary if the weather in the morning was anything to judge what the rest of the day was going to be. And I put on a pair of Nikes that were great for walking in along with some high performance socks. And of course a Dodger hat and some sunblock. Yeah, I’m still mad at the Dodgers, but Dodger hats are pretty much all I’ve got in my closet at this point.
Then the camera was back, along with Maya, Robert and the boys, all of them dressed in layers. They handed me a black sleep mask and told me to put it on.
“We want it to be a surprise until we get there,” explained Jacob.
“Wow,” I said, “you guys are going all the way with this, aren’t you?”
“Put it on,” Matteo said.
So I went to put the blindfold on, and, wouldn’t you know it?, the elastic snapped.
There was a moment of everyone looking at each other in stunned silence. I reckoned that was the end of the blindfold, but that wasn’t counting with the people who’d managed to reschedule my entire birthday on probably 8 hours’ notice.
“I’ve got something,” Maya said. “Let me run upstairs.”
I thought maybe Cassandra was in the house and she could sew the elastic back on, but that wasn’t what Maya had in mind. She came back faster than I thought she might carrying another sleep mask. It was sturdier than the one they’d given me that had snapped.
It was also made of lavender satin.
I could already hear Keaton in my head lol.
But there was no choice: they were insisting I have a blindfold, and that was as close as we were going to get. Although they could have put the blindfold on me after we got to the car, someone thought it would be fun to have a shot of me being led out by the boys, so that’s how we did it.
Then I sat in the car for over an hour not knowing where in the heck where we were going. I don’t usually get motion sick, and it’s not like I threw up over my layers or anything…but I did start to feel a little woozy, never being able to predict which way we were going to turn. It got curvy about ten minutes after we left the house, so I could figure out that we were on the 110 and heading south (that’s the only way you can go on the 110 from Pasadena), but, after that, I really had no idea where we were headed. I wouldn’t even have put it past Robert (who was driving the Maybach with me and the boys in the back and Maya in the passenger seat) to have made a couple extra turns just to confuse me. I was woozy and stumped…and, to be perfectly honest, getting kinda tired of not being able to see.
Finally the SUV came to a stop, only then I had to wait for the car with Ethan and the camera to come up and film me taking the blindfold off. Ok, then the game really started to get old, especially as I needed to go to the restroom, like a lot of people have to do after a long car trip. I couldn’t see my watch, but, from the feel of it, we’d been driving for like 90 minutes. (In reality it was closer to 60, which should tell y’all how much fun it is to be driven around in a lavender satin blindfold.)
So finally Ethan and the cameraman found us in the parking lot to wherever it was we were stopped. The boys helped me out of the car so that the camera could capture my reaction to finally finding out where we were.
“Ready?,” the boys asked, together.
“Ready,” I said.
And I took off the blindfold…and saw we were in a bigass concrete garage. That’s about all I could see at first since my eyes were dazed by the brightness. I don’t think it was the shot that they were hoping they’d get, since all I did was blink and look puzzled. Finally things came into focus and I saw that there was a picture of Goofy on the closest pillar to me. From there I was finally able to put two and two together and realized we were at…
Y’all can see how happy I was to be a the Happiest Place on Earth by the way I smiled when I figured out where we were spending my birthday. I really was glad…and I really was surprised.
“You talk about that time you went with Keaton all the time,” said Jacob. “We were sure you’d figure it out while we were on the way.”
“I honestly didn’t,” I said. I gotta admit, I couldn’t wait to get started and get to the park. So I started off in the direction of the escalator and the tram with the boys. I pretty much forgot about Maya and Robert…although Ethan’s joked a few times too many that he likes getting shots of my butt lol.
It wasn’t until we were on the tram that Maya explained that they had spent the day before “doing headstands” changing all the plans for Tuesday over to Wednesday. It helps to have your own TV show, but, while Disney was willing to let At Home with Maya film in the park, they weren’t going to roll out the red carpet for us. That was ok, since what Ethan wanted was film of an ordinary-as-possible family having a fun day at Disneyland, but there’s a whole system of reservations they’ve had since COVID that means you can’t just pick up and go to Disneyland because you wake up in the morning and feel like it. That included our dinner reservation at the restaurant in Pirates of the Caribbean – in it…and, yeah, it’s as cool as it sounds – where it apparently isn’t easy to get a table. (Maya: “we’re all out of favors at Disney after this…so you’d better enjoy yourself today.” She said it way more nicely than it looks when you write it down, but I was ready to have a great day anyway.)
Maya also told me that the plan was just to go to Disneyland. The place was closing at 9:00, and everyone felt that there was enough to do at just that park. Me and Keaton came to that decision on our own the time we went. I gotta admit that I’m curious about what it’s like over at California Adventure, but I’m only 30…I still have some time to get there before I die lol.
The first thing we did when we got inside Disneyland was go to the City Hall. I wasn’t sure why at first, but it turned out to be because they wanted me to get one of those Happy Birthday buttons they give out. I put it on – it seemed like the fun thing to do – only I forgot that I had it on, so I was really taken aback the first time someone said “Happy birthday, Hunter” to me. I mean, y’all know I like having people take note of my birthday, but it was weird having a total stranger say it to me.
“How’d that person know it was my birthday?,” I asked the boys.
“Dude,” Jacob said, “you’re wearing that button.”
“Duh,” echoed Matteo. “And that person is called a cast member. Anyone who works at Disneyland is a cast member.”
After that I got used to all the well-wishing, and, yeah, I thought it was pretty cool. I just wondered what kind of a bet I’d have to get Keaton to lose so he could wear one on his birthday at Disneyland lol.
Ethan and the cameraman had a very small camera with them, so it was easy for them to carry it around. And there was a lot of carrying for them to do: we must have covered the whole park end to end at least twice over. Once I had my button, the first thing we did – the boys insisted – was go over and meet Pluto, who was standing in that main square across from the City Hall.
I met some of the characters at Disney World when we went as a family when I was a teenager, but this was the first time I was doing it as an adult. The boys seemed to know what to do, and Maya got some pictures of them with her phone while Ethan got some footage of Maya taking pictures of the boys. Then it was my turn. I gotta admit I didn’t know a whole lot about Pluto – I’m not an expert in Disney cartoons or anything, although I did know that he’s Mickey’s dog and doesn’t talk. But I went up, and shook his paw, and thought it was going to be totally awkward. But it wasn’t: Pluto pointed to my birthday button, somehow “said” happy birthday to me, and then gave me a big hug. It was actually pretty cool…and the thing that most surprised me was that I didn’t think about the dude inside the costume until we were walking away. Something about Disneyland gets you to believe that that really is Pluto.
The park didn’t strike me as too crowded, and the lines weren’t too long. The one exception was the Peter Pan ride, which Maya said was her favorite. I’ll admit it is pretty cool…but it’s also pretty dang short for how long you have to wait to go on it. I don’t remember exactly in what order we went on all the rides, but we got onto a lot of them. Y’all will have to ask Matteo for the exact record; he was keeping track of it all day.
And it was Matteo who made us get on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, and, dang, does it live up to it name! I wasn’t prepared to die twice (once by dynamite and once by getting hit by a train) and end up in hell…but that’s what happens. I didn’t know that Disneyland can be that crazy…although there’s something pretty dang crazy about that It’s a Small World ride, which I really liked (it’s fun figuring out which countries the dolls come from), but which gets a little weird when you realize that all the singing dolls have the same expression lol. Maya and (especially) Robert complained about how the song gets stuck in your head for the rest of the day, but that didn’t bother me. I actually had a much harder time getting “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast out of my head after it played while we were on the carousel.
We didn’t just go on rides in Fantasyland, though. In Tomorrowland, I especially enjoyed the Buzz Lightyear ride…and Papaw would have been proud of my score. I reckon I can still shoot straight lol. The very last ride we went on was Space Mountain, which may not make the most sense after a big dinner (and you do get a lot to eat in the Pirates of the Caribbean restaurant), but we had Pirates as an immediate after-dinner cruise, and that’s pretty easy on the stomach. Yeah, there’s that one drop, but it’s no big deal…although Matteo told me he’s still kinda scared of it.
The one big disappointment was that we didn’t get to go on Splash Mountain: it was just too cold. If Maya won’t let the boys go swimming on cool days, y’all can imagine how she feels about walking around a theme park in wet clothes when it was like 60° all day. So that’s going to have to wait for another visit, even if it’s the ride that me and Keaton thought was the most awesome the time we went together.
We did go on the Winnie the Pooh ride, which is right across from Splash Mountain, and I thought it was kinda lameass, honestly…until we got to the end and all the characters said ‘Happy Birthday!’ to Pooh. It was pretty cool to feel included in that. Pooh and Tigger were meeting people outside the ride, so of course we had to get in line to meet them so they could get film of me hugging dudes in furry costumes and big heads lol. Actually, I didn’t feel like such a smartass when I got to meet them: I even told Tigger that his song was exactly the right length for 20 seconds of anti-COVID handwashing. Tigger probably thought I was crazy, but he high-fived me anyway.
Other highlights of the day included the Haunted Mansion, which they redo every year to match The Nightmare Before Christmas. That’s not one of my favorite movies, but it’s pretty awesome the way they do it up. I think I like it the “real” way better, and I’m glad that that’s how I saw it the first time, but this is still pretty cool. (Both boys are big fans of the movie – we had to watch it the day before Halloween and the day after – so they thought it was awesome.)
And of course there’s Star Wars Land, which was totally new to me. Y’all may lose all respect for me, but I haven’t seen all the Star Wars movies, maybe because science fiction was never my thing. My mind growing up was always too stuck on earth and obsessed with baseball…and now that I’m a full 30 years old, I’m still not all that into it. Still, what they built at Disneyland is pretty dang impressive, and the ride was fun…although I kinda forgot all about it when we followed it up by a visit to Adventureland and we got to ride the Jungle Cruise, which I thought was going to be pretty lameass. Instead I thought it was hilarious. I laughed at every sillyass joke the ‘skipper’ made…probably more than everyone else in the boat. There’s probably some really funny footage of me laughing my head off that’s gonna make it into the Hunter’s Birthday Special episode of At Home with Maya. I’m not sure, but I think that was my favorite ride of the day.
I had a turkey leg for lunch, even if we had reservations in a sit-down restaurant for dinner. I wasn’t gonna miss out on a turkey leg while I was at Disneyland. I also had a churro (it was a really good one, too, nice and crispy) a little after the turkey leg. The only thing I didn’t get was ice cream…but it wasn’t the kind of day when you needed something to cool off lol. (I did wonder what my nutrition and fitness coach – known to y’all as Lucas – would say to everything I was eating, but you get plenty of exercise walking it off at Disneyland.)
I was a little disappointed when I found out that they weren’t having fireworks that night, I reckon because kids were in school (except for Matteo and Jacob) and it wasn’t a really busy day. They were starting a holiday fireworks show later in the week which we just missed, but I’m not greedy. The whole day was totally dope…and y’all will be able to see just how good a time I had when the show airs. We stayed until closing time, and then we stuck around and did a some shopping. I picked up a couple tshirts and the boys insisted on getting me a plushy Tigger, since I reckon they reckoned he’s my favorite. (I guess he is, now that I think about it, although I also think that Pooh is pretty awesome.)
Then it was back in the Maybach for the drive home. Everyone was exhausted, so much so that Robert had to stop in the Starbucks they have on Main Street to get a coffee to wake him up for the drive home. I offered to drive, but I was relieved when Robert insisted on doing it himself. Although they’re a little old to fall asleep in the back seat on the way home, that’s exactly what the boys did, and I gotta admit I nodded off a couple times. My feet hurt, too: you not only have to walk a ton, you also have to stand a lot, and that’s when your feet and back really start to feel it. That’s one of the reasons why ball players move around a lot when they’re out in the field.
Once we got home, I took my Tigger and headed straight for the pool house. It was another of those nights when all I wanted to do was go to sleep, but I also felt like I wanted a shower. I took a hot one to warm up, and then it was into pajamas and right into bed, without even calling Joyce. (I knew that Joyce knew where they were taking me today because she was in on all the plans and how they had to flip-flop them when they got the weather forecast for my birthday.)
The last thing I did was pin my Happy Birthday button on Tigger.
And I still wasn’t done celebrating my birthday.