Friday, May 7, 2010

Surprised

In 2002, Andy and I retired my mother in - if I do say so myself - a rather spectacular way. We bought her a brand-new, three bedroom condo in the "it" retirement community in South Florida. Then, Andy, Jonah, Erika, Matty, Keri and I all snuck down to Tamarac, and we threw her a big suprise party in it. She thought she was going to a little cocktail party thrown by a friend of a friend, and she walked in, and there we all were - her kids, her cousins, her friends. In an instant she learned both that she had a new house, and that she could quit the crappy secretarial work she had been doing since my parents separated when I was seven. It was amazing watching her at the party, speechless, trying to stay upright while her world lurched beneath her. Her life would never be the same after that, and I remember being just a little bit jealous, because I thought then that I would never experience that kind of life-changing moment.

Until Friday, April 16, when we went out to dinner with Keri and Matty and our friends Lauren and Brian to celebrate Lauren's birthday (I thought), which was that very day. Only I walked into a surprise party celebrating my 40th birthday (which isn't until May 24). Now, a surprise party on a big birthday like 40 wouldn't in itself be a life changing moment, but it was the faces I saw as I looked around that truly stunned me. First I saw Jessica, one of my best friends from junior high, who lives in Seattle, and with whom I hadn't spoken for more than a year. Next to her was Anne, another of my best friends from junior high, who lives in Chicago. And as I was hugging Anne, I heard a laugh I recognized instantly - Katrina, a dear friend I met in childbirth class when I was pregnant with Jonah and who now lives in San Francisco.

Everywhere I turned I saw incredibly special people I rarely get to see: Jamie, from DC, who was inadvertently left off the guest list until Andy called her in a panic the night before the party, but who came anyway; Hylton, one of my two favorite poker buddies, from Connecticut; Joey, the other one, from Maryland; my cousins Darlene and Wayne, who not only came from North Jersey but did so even though they were mired in preparations for their daughter's bat mitzvah the following weekend; and two of our favorite couples, Dan and Lynne, also from North Jersey, and Drew and Meera, from NYC. And that's not even counting all the wonderful local friends who were there. To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement of the highest order.



It's not that I didn't know I had good friends before that night. But I guess I hadn't realized, literally, how far they would go for me. Life is busy; my old friends and I don't gab on the phone like we used to. When we do talk, a couple of times a year, we have so much to catch up on, so many cute stories about our kids to share, we gloss over our frustrations, our disappointments, and our failures (or, at least, I do. It wouldn't surprise me if my amazing friends don't experience any of these). We just don't rely on each other the way we used to. And so, we don't have many opportunities to show the people we love how much they mean to us.

In February, I was invited to a surprise party for my college roommate, Alycia, who lives outside of DC. Andy and I had plans for that night, but no state dinners were involved, so I assume we could have gotten out of them. I didn't go because it seemed too far to go for one night, and because I reasoned it would be more fun to go on a day when I could have Alycia all to myself, rather than share her with 50 other guests, most of whom I didn't know.

Now, I'm sorry. From now on, I will make that drive, or take that flight. Because seeing as clearly as I saw that night, knowing with absolute certainty that, no matter what happens, I will never be alone in the universe - well, if it didn't change my world the way my mother's was in 2002, it certainly did change my worldview. And I can't wait to have the chance to do that for someone else.

Thanks everybody!

3 comments:

Lauren said...

I couldn't have chosen a better friend to donate my birthday to! Happy 40th freakin' Birthday, Amy!

Tibbetts Travels in Thailand said...

Sounds like a wonderful time! I'm so glad it was special and how fun to see Anne and Jessica! Happy Birthday still a couple of weeks early! Wish I could have been there :0)

Alycia said...

I'm glad you had such a fabulous time, but now I do feel worse about not coming up for the party. I was just tired, not incapacitated. But given that neither of us seems likely to be on the next state dinner list, maybe we can at least do our best to get together this summer. How's your July looking?