Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Perfect Birthday

It had all the ingredients of a birthday from a spoof disaster movie.

One, the birthday girl's little boy gets flu-bugged the night before and she spends the early hours of her birthday morning waking up to check his temperature and make him take his medicine. Two, the sleep-deprived birthday girl goes to work but promises to end the day early for the celebration dinner with her family. Three, she reneges on that promise as her final meeting for the day runs longer than planned and an unexpected deadline pops up. Four, she makes it to the restaurant only to discover that her little boy, after being OK during the afternoon, is running a temperature AGAIN. Five, just as the waiter finishes serving dinner on the table, the little boy, without warning, begins to vomit. Six, the vomit episode sends the adults to decide to cut dinner short and just have the food packed and taken home. This decision sends the teen daughter into tears as she starts pleading for them to stay just a little longer. The request for an extension tells the birthday girl that a surprise is in the offing so she relents. Seven, with a little boy with high fever squirming and screaming on her lap, in vomit-stained skirt and shoes, the birthday girl sits and listens to four jolly waiters singing Happy Birthday as they bring in her birthday cake. Eight, atop the birthday cake are numerical candles that scream “41” as brightly as flare guns. Why, people who are lost within a fifty mile radius get to find their way to the mall, thanks to those candles!

In the spoof disaster movie version, the birthday girl would probably have flung the little boy aside, punched the waiters hard, sent the birthday cake flying in the air, crushed those candles to pieces, run out of the restaurant and cried tears of despair.

In real life, this birthday girl stayed put...and had the time of her life!

After all, I couldn't be forty-one if I didn't recognize and embrace the essentials that make it a very special day for me. I got to spend the day with close friends at work who made a herculean effort to find a free slot in their fully booked calendars and defied deadlines to spring a surprise for me. I got to bond with God during Holy Mass, always the highlight of all my birthdays. I got to feel loved all throughout the day by birthday greetings via SMS and email from so many people who truly matter to me.

Most importantly, I got to celebrate and cap the day with my family. My daughter’s tearful disappointment over the failed dinner and her sobs during the ride home were heartbreaking. But at the same time, I rejoiced at the bigness of her heart. Especially when I learned how she had saved money from her allowance because she wanted to be the one to buy the birthday cake, how she had conspired with the maitre d' to have waiters sing the birthday song for me and how she had “bullied” her school barkada into helping her make art paper chains which she hung on the windows in the house. The surprise may have been foiled but knowing these already make it the best gift ever.

So, just a few hours before my birthday drew to a close, there we sat around the table, eating dinner out of disposable takeout containers with our little boy finally in restful slumber.

And as the birthday girl looked at the windows festooned with art paper chains and then at her family, she knew there wasn't anything about the day that she would change.

Her 41st birthday was perfect. Just the way it was.