Some years I’ve had well-planned, spectacular birthday celebrations. This year’s snuck up on me. And might have been the best birthday yet.
Two former co-workers and dear friends were having their wedding celebration in Guerneville this weekend. It was to be an all-weekend affair: Friday barbecue, Saturday morning hike, Saturday afternoon ceremony, Saturday evening dancing and merriness, and a Sunday morning brunch. I wasn’t sure when I’d be back in San Francisco, so I declined plans to do anything on my actual birthday, today.
I didn’t anticipate that I would know so many people at the wedding. When I arrived at the barbecue on Friday afternoon, it was such a pleasant surprise to see former co-workers and other friends I hadn’t seen in a while. I felt as though I was constantly standing up to give and/or receive hugs. Never a bad thing. For dessert, we roasted S’Mores around a roaring campfire while huddled in blankets to ward off the descending chill. I drifted to sleep with campfire in my hair – one of my favorite smells.
Saturday morning found five of us squished into a vinyl-covered, ruby-red padded booth in an all-American diner, ordering steak, eggs, hash browns, bacon, laughing over the previous night’s antics. Afterward, we wandered through a redwood forest, gazing intently at majestic redwoods over a thousand years old. Sunlight danced, sparkling intermittently through the tops of the trees.
Watching Dustin and Laura exchange their vows in a meadow surrounded by redwoods, friends and family gathered, gave me pause. I have so much to be thankful for. I live in a beautiful part of the world. I’ve had amazing jobs that have challenged me to grow both personally and professionally. I’ve met incredible and interesting people and have maintained lovely friendships. And I’m sitting here, watching two of my dear friends share vows to start a life together, surrounded by family and friends who love them and will support them in reaching that goal. Love and joy and hope filled the air.
Dinner in the orchard was followed by dancing by the pool. The band included a banjo player – how can you not be happy when listening to a banjo’s twang? It’s impossible. Know what else is impossible? To dance and not feel pure joy. We swung, we stomped, we hora’ed, we moshed.
A few minutes after the stroke of midnight, I heard a commotion behind me. I turned around to see two friends approaching, singing a rousing rendition of the Happy Birthday song, carrying a cupcake overflowing with brightly burning candles. What could I possibly wish for? I hadn’t stopped smiling all weekend.
I arrive home, tired but happy, looking forward to a quiet evening. I opened my door and noticed a “Happy Birthday” banner hanging across the wall. I paused for a split second, trying to remember why that would be there. Had I hung it up and forgotten about it? No. When I left on Friday my apartment was in its normal state. What was this? I entered the living room and saw multitudes of brightly colored shiny twirling ribbons streaming from the ceiling, with balloons floating in the corner. I squealed with delight, jumping up and down and clapping. Who had done this? Who has keys to my apartment? I searched the apartment, looking for a note, a card, a clue to who had done this. I love surprises, especially when I have no idea they’re being planned. I made a couple of calls, expressing delight and gratitude, hoping that I had guessed correctly about who might have done this.
A quite unexpected, but most wonderful birthday.