As the princess-themed birthday cake was placed on the table, I leaned in to blow out the candles.
Surrounded by pink cups, party bags and balloons, it was a party fit for a little princess… but I’d just turned 67!
Joined by my husband Robert, 70, daughter Debbie, 43, and grandkids, Lily, 13, Lachlan, nine, and Flynn, seven, my wish had already come true.
Though it might seem a bit mad for an older lady like me to have a princess-themed party, I couldn’t imagine celebrating any other way.
Growing up, I’d always been mesmerised by the enchanting characters and drawings in Disney films.
Then, when I was in my early teens, my parents took me to see the stage show of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and I was captivated.
There wasn’t much merchandise available in Australia back then, but I treasured the beautiful Snow White ornament my mum placed on our tree every Christmas.
So when my sister, Jeanette, travelled to Disneyland in 1978, she bought back an Alice in Wonderland doll and costume just for me.
At 25, I’d long outgrown dressing up dolls, but this one was special.
‘She’s beautiful,’ I smiled.
When we welcomed our daughters, Debbie and Deanne,
I couldn’t wait to dress them up as princesses. But the girls had other ideas.
‘We don’t like princesses,’ they declared, preferring to play ‘horses’ instead.
In time, they warmed up to watching princess movies with me, but their interest was short-lived.
When the girls grew up and started families of their own,
I secretly wished for a granddaughter to share my passion with.
So when Deanne welcomed her daughter, Bethany in 2004, I was over the moon.
Heading out to the shops to buy her presents, I was drawn to a pink and purple dressing table and wardrobe set.
With special lighting and sound effects, it was the perfect addition for her to play with in the toy room in my house.
But I couldn’t just stop there.
I picked up Disney princess dolls, bags, and even a table and chairs for tea parties.
While I knew some items weren’t yet age-appropriate for Beth, I couldn’t help but collect them for me.
Scouring shops for more every weekend, I’d bring home teapots, mats, curtains and furniture covers.
Before long, I’d filled up the toy room and started placing my pretty pink decorations in every room
of the house.
Replacing the TV unit, bathroom mats and even the toilet-seat cover with Disney princess-themed versions, my house was becoming a real-life castle.
‘Promise me you’re not going to bring in anymore of that stuff,’ Robert begged one day.
‘Of course not,’ I smiled back sweetly, intending to sneak things in instead.
I’m sure my friends and family thought I was mad, but I couldn’t stop!
In time, they even began to purchase things for me.
But the best part was playing dress-ups with Bethany, who adored my collection.
‘You’re my real-life princess,’ I smiled, watching her twirl around wearing different costumes.
I wasn’t afraid to let people know about my obsession either.
The cashiers at the shops assumed the dolls were for someone else.
‘You’re going to be a popular grandma,’ a girl smiled one day.
‘Actually, it’s for me,’ I laughed back.
Then in 2015, my dear mum Linda surprised me and Jeanette with a trip to Disneyland in Japan for my 62nd birthday.
Taking turns on the rides as many times as possible, we felt like kids again.
But nothing topped the magical atmosphere at the theme park.
It really is the happiest place on earth, I thought.
Back home, my obsession only grew stronger.
‘There’s pink everywhere I look!’ Robert said.
While I loved scouring the shops for new finds, I also found great comfort in scoring a bargain from second-hand stores and even Facebook marketplace.
But the most special item that I ever got my hands on was a Snow White snow globe, which was gifted to me by a friend.
While I’ve lost count of how many items I’ve purchased, I estimate there are more than 1000.
I must’ve spent around $8000, but I don’t go to the hairdresser, have any hobbies or go out to dinner.
I just look after my family and buy princess things.
Though I have sold some of them, I’ve taken a photo of every item so I’ll always have a piece of it with me.
Better still, I’ve passed my passion to my grandkids, including Bethany, now 16, who still loves dressing up as Disney princesses.
Even her brothers, Blake, 13, and Logan, six, humour me, helping me sort through my collection.
Some days the two youngest boys even dress up in their own Prince Charming outfits!
I’ve also made friends from other diehard Disney fans online from Australia and around the world.
‘We’d love to come and visit one day,’ some say.
‘You’re welcome for a tea party any time,’ I tell them.
While some people think I am too old to be pretending I’m a princess, I’ll never stop expanding my collection.
As the legend Walt Disney himself said – Disneyland will never be completed. It’ll continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.