Happy Birthday

I sat in the front seat, blindfolded, a gaggle of giggles surrounding me in the SUV.

“Where are you guys taking me?” I laughed, trying to go along with the good natured fun my three girlfriends clearly had meticulously planned.

It was my 40th birthday.  I had wondered how the evening would play out, with R slyly mentioning something about us not needing a babysitter that evening.  I’d pouted and sulked, thinking that he hadn’t done anything special to mark the occasion.  Some of my girlfriends had been given diamonds or trips to the Bahamas for their 40th.  Normally a nice dinner at home would be fine with me, but tonight it just felt like I wanted a little more effort.

Instead, my girlfriends had shown up on the doorstep, with matching shirts emblazoned with “Birthday Bitches” on the fronts, handed me one of my own, and whisked me away.  We were currently on the “journey through my life”, which I found funny since none of them knew that I was secretly writing the story of my life, on this blog, and had been all year. I laughed when they took me to a playground and handed me a Happy Meal, all to symbolize my childhood.

If they only knew.  If they only knew that when I envisioned my childhood, I didn’t think of swingsets and laughter and girlfriends.  Or of Ronald McDonald and cheeseburgers and collectible Muppet glasses.  None of them had divorced parents, my sweet girlfriends, so they couldn’t possibly know that the symbols of my own past were much different; yelling, screaming matches; visits to my brother in the mental hospital; padlocks and harsh words.  I blocked out all of these voices in my head and smiled at my sweet friends, none of whom could imagine the pictures floating through my head at that moment, and smiled dutifully on the swing as they snapped my photo.

The next stop through our tiny town was meant to represent my early twenties; I donned the pink feather boa and tiara I was presented with and entered the liquor store.  Didn’t every girl in her early twenties binge on the Boone’s Farm sweet wine and wine coolers?  Again, I chuckled at my naive friends.  Of course they all knew that I’d had my son at age 19 and lived at home; my early twenties were marked first by diapers and later by caring for my mother as she withered from cancer.  But yes, there had been enough of the fun, booze filled nights with my girlfriends in between it all that I was able to muster the proper amount of excitement as we plucked bottles off of the shelves and went onto our next destination.

We all laughed as they’d posed me in front of our town hall with totally inappropriate signs to mark my 30s.  It was true that I’d found my activist voice in my 30s, and this one was right on the mark.  I’d gotten involved in politics and even though I’d lost the election, I’d learned a ton about how our tiny town worked.  I’d certainly met a lot of wonderful people, these three girls amongst them, and I posed outside of our town hall for their photos wondering what would come next.

Before long, I removed my blindfold to find myself in front of my girlfriend’s house, with twenty women on the porch waiting for me.  It was a surprise birthday party, and all of my friends were here to help me celebrate it.

“I’ve never had a surprise birthday party before,” I laughed, looking up at the expectant faces.  In fact, I hadn’t had a birthday party of any signficance, really ever.  I’d been allowed to have a few friends over in 5th grade, as I recalled, and I’d invited two friends over for one in high school.  But no sweet sixteen, no graduation parties, nothing other than my own wedding to really celebrate anything to do with me and my life.

It was an overwhelming moment.  To think of how far I’d come, how many places I’d been to lead me to this moment, this place, with all of these amazing people gathered together…for me.  I looked around, and realized:  I am no longer who I was.  I am no longer tied by the harsh, negative experiences of my past.  I’ve taken all of them, all of those things, and used them to make a stronger, wiser, happier person.  A person who had friends who wanted to throw her a big, beautiful party to move her into the second part of her life.

And for one shining moment, I was at peace.

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2 Responses

  1. So happy you finally got to have your birthday party!!! I hope the next 40 years will be wonderful for you!! Hopefully you’ll post to the blog to share with us this next chapter in your life. You are an inspiration to me!! And I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend Tom.

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