Yesterday was my birthday.
When I was a child, birthdays revolved around presents. A time in which party themes were simply "Happy Birthday." Decorations were limited to pastel or primary colored streamers and a dozen balloons taped to the backs of chairs with some hanging from the dining room chandelier. Party fare generally consisted of cake and ice cream. Though there were times when we went all crazy and ordered a cake half chocolate and half yellow. And, 30+ years ago, it was customary to only invite kids of your gender and to play party games in which not everyone wins. Classics included Musical Chairs, Pin-the-Tail-on the-Donkey and Hot Potato.
Some birthdays stand out more than others.
The day I turned 10 was also the day my paternal grandma, Frances Rozkiewicz House, died.
For my 15th birthday, I tried to organize a group of friends to go to the movies or have dinner at a favorite restaurant of the time --TGI Fridays. Everyone I asked turned me down. I ended up accepting a babysitting gig, but about 30 minutes after the mom left, she returned home saying her plans fell through. Par for the course, I thought. I walked home slowly with plans to just go to bed early. So, imagine my surprise when I opened the door and was accosted by bright lights and a half a dozen girlfriends yelling, "Surprise!"
Birthdays from my 20's involved a lot of booze and bars. Most of my friends were single and fancy free. My 23rd was spent in a piano bar with a group of college chums and at one point I found myself on stage being serenaded by everyone in the bar. I've since lost contact with many of these friends, but still enjoy reminiscing over the many adventures we shared. For my 27th, my ice skating pal, Claudia and the ladies from our precision team threw me a surprise party. I hadn't known any of them very long so I was really blown away by their friendship.
My 30th, another surprise party. At this point, you'd think I'd come to expect a party, but I will tell you each time I've been more taken aback than the last. Most of the partygoers were family members. At this time in my life my social circle was much smaller...okay it wasn't so much a circle - it was basically Steve. We were engaged and very much looking forward to sharing our lives together.
Birthdays from my 30's are a blur as a result of years of extreme sleep deprivation. But, Noah and Natalie were worth it and Steve was there for all of them. My 40th...yeah, you may have guessed it, but I didn't. I was completely in the dark...or should I say, dark chocolate. This time Steve and my friend Barb and several girlfriends organized a surprise wine and chocolate tasting party for me at Kakao Chocolate. The gathering, a perfect melding of family and friendships both new and old washed down with a glass of merlot and half a dozen milk chocolate sea salt caramels.
This year's birthday wasn't a milestone and I had no expectations other than to not do laundry for the day. That morning the kids entered into a debate about what to get me for my birthday. I assured them that they didn't need to buy me anything but shared that I would love a hand-made card. However, Noah, a practical yet thoughtful soul believes in going big or not at all as evidenced by the following convo:
"Noah, aren't you going to make Mom a card?" asked Natalie.
"A card isn't special," said Noah.
"Sure it is!" I interjected.
"No. It's not," he maintained.
"Well, what is something special that you'd want to get me?" I inquired.
"An air-conditioner," said Noah.
I think my heart grew three sizes. I assured him our current A/C was just fine and all I needed from him was a big hug.
Natalie made me a set of cards and sent me on a scavenger hunt with the gift leading to one of her favorite necklaces - a pearl choker. But, it will be years before she understands the real gift was the joy I received from the hunt and her lovely drawings.
Steve, while mostly a "wait til the last minute" kind of guy, arrived home with a Racanelli's pizza, a bag of my favorite chocolates from Kakao and a receipt for us to take swing dance lessons together beginning next week through the community college.
Talk about your surprises.