I was part of four birthday celebrations this past week.
I sent my friend, who has been living in the Bay area for fifteen years, a card. Mailing it a week before the actual date to demonstrate the occasion was important me, she texted me to confirm its timely arrival.
Just last night, I met a circle of gal pals at a Hawaiian supper club for a luau style dinner and floor show. Her actual birthday was several weeks ago, but this past Saturday seemed to be the best date for the greatest number of people on the birthday babe’s guest list.
My evening at the Tiki Terrace, around a table of women who are not afraid to laugh out loud, was fun (Who does not enjoy an occasional fruity cocktail served with a paper umbrella?), but the other two birthday parties have stuck in my mind.
Last Sunday, I took advantage of the nice September weather and sat on my back deck and read for hours.
While turning pages and slowly sipping a plastic tumbler of LaCroix on ice, I observed the transformation of the backyard two doors to the east. Preparations were going on for a little girl’s birthday party.
Two long folding tables, covered with white plastic, were surrounded by an assortment of folding chairs they used for other backyard celebrations.
White paper plates and matching plastic utensils were arranged for a gathering of around fifteen people. Pink and purple helium-filled balloons were tethered to the back porch.
I observed a pink rubber square covering the grass close to the garage.
I must have gone in my kitchen while the bouncy house, actually, a castle, was brought up on the site. Also pink and purple. I used to think they had to be inflated by an outside service like they might have for block parties, but I guess you can buy easy to inflate models on Amazon.
There was food galore, a very nicely decorated cake, and plenty of grown-ups — parents and aunts and neighbors — to cater to the whims of the partiers. I heard laughter and some crying (maybe there were disputes over “who” was next up for a treat or getting the present they brought unwrapped), but overall, the yard exuded good vibes.
No filters. The birthday girl, her cousins and classmates, never seemed to get tired of feeling wobbly in their legs and falling down in the in the inflatable manor house.
The day before, I attended a good friend’s 90th birthday party. The occasion was announced weeks earlier through Evite. The details — the who, where and what of the celebration — just showed up in my inbox. The full guest list was shared, along with confirmation of who accepted the invitation.
A chance to send a message to the birthday boy and his loving wife, the official hostess, was supplied. Guests were promised birthday cake and champagne to wash down Ben and Jerry’s. (As a former marketing executive for the renegade brand, this was sort of an insider’s joke most of us knew.)
The party was also held in a backyard on a perfect end of summer day. Family and friends, having been to their share of networking events and social gatherings, had no problems introducing themselves to people they didn’t know. Toasts were made. Love was expressed.
The birthday boy, about to join the nonagenarian set, shed a few tears as he thanked everyone for coming, especially his wife, who helped him re-start his life in so many ways thirty-five years earlier. He only glossed over his personal history. The details didn’t seem to matter.
Like most of us, he lived through disappointments and what felt like failures. More recently, he discovered a purpose for writing beyond crafting scripts for commercials and grew into later in life roles, leading workshops and having tea parties with his granddaughter.
Like the kids I witnessed at the other backyard party, he celebrated all the choices he made that brought him to the moment and learned that, after falling down, to embrace getting back up.
I think most people love birthday celebrations for this reason. They remind all of us we get to CHOOSE how we want move forward ANY and EVERY DAY. Being surrounded by people we love, it’s hard not be grateful for all the times we’ve chosen to get back up.
Sharing cake and ice cream with your friends and family is no small thing.