Jenny Knaak: A birthday of surprises
Park Record guest columnist
My birthday was earlier this week, and it was unexpectedly wonderful.
It was not a “significant” birthday — didn’t end in a zero — and it was on Monday. Lamest day for a birthday. And, you might not have noticed, but there’s been a clamp down on fun — at least, on the going-out-and-whooping-it-up kind of fun. So I didn’t expect too much.
A former coworker texted me in the morning: “Happy Birthday! Any fun plans?”
I replied, “I have a Zoom cocktail with my oldest dearest friend, and then the boys are taking me to dinner — in a restaurant!”
I was really excited. We’ve had a lot of takeout, but we haven’t eaten in a restaurant since the first week of March. I couldn’t wait to go and relax and be waited on. And that was going to be after a Zoom call with Sam. And I’ve really missed my friend … we met when we were 13, and have been close ever since. So, not to tell you how old she is, but that’s somewhere north of three decades. And she’s moved around a lot since college, but for almost 10 years she lived just a few miles away — until last year, when she and her husband moved to Kanab. I visited her in January, and the four-hour drive wasn’t bad at all. I’d planned a spring trip, but that was side-railed by current events.
So, I got dressed, ran a few errands, picked up lunch, headed home.
And I got a text from my mom: “Headed to your ’hood with something for you. Going to drive thru to get a drink — do you want anything?”
I replied: “Iced tea please!”
And about 30 minutes later, she was at my door.
Now — I did not expect to see her. I had just been at her house the night before, with my family and my brother’s family for a backyard barbecue. We even had birthday cake — so I figured that was the extent of the celebration this year, and I was totally fine with that. But there she was, with an iced tea and a festive bag. We chatted for a few minutes and then she left. And I went through my bag of goodies. Cool swirly candles that we’d forgotten to put on the cake the night before, sunglasses my son had left at her house and seven envelopes. Seven! I opened the first one — it looked like a party. A tiny Happy Birthday garland hanging over folded paper decorations and 3D sticker cakes. And a really nice note — wishing me an amazing year, and promising a spa day, as soon as we felt like it would actually be relaxing. And all the cards were like that — with beautiful 3D, multi-media elements, nice notes and promises of future fun in each one.
About 30 minutes after she left, my brother showed up. Again, totally unexpected. He had a bottle of champagne and a card he made. “I got crafty!” he pronounced proudly. The top of a wine box boldly said “Happy B-Day” in spray paint and multi-colored rhinestones were glued at the bottom. I started to giggle. It was silly and sweet, and it was really nice of him to stop by.
I popped my champagne and got ready to Zoom. Sam texted me: “Running a few minutes late — I’ll Zoom you in 10.”
I ran out to my car — because I remembered that I’d left something in it that might literally melt — and a car pulled into my driveway. I figured it was someone just turning around, until the driver started honking and waving. And there was Sam!
She explained, after we stopped squealing like 13-year-olds, she had needed to come to town to deal with some family things — a doctor’s appointment with her mom, things like that.
But there she was. In my messy house, drinking champagne with me. We had a solid hour to catch up and talk, like only old friends can, before the boys descended. My son came home from football practice and my husband came home from work. And somehow, we all ended up wearing fake mustaches. I had ordered some for an upcoming party, and they had just arrived, and were laying on the table.
We all put them on, and took group selfies, which she immediately posted on social media. And she couldn’t wait to go to her daughter’s house with the requisite mask on, and take it off, revealing her mustache.
We air-hugged goodbye, and she was off.
I couldn’t stop smiling. It’s the best feeling in the world to hang out with someone who knows about all the bad decisions you made in your youth, and loves you despite them. Or maybe because of them, but loves you nonetheless.
And then the boys and I got ready to go to dinner. But by the time we got to the restaurant, it was closed. New, abbreviated hours because of COVID-19. We drove to a second restaurant that had also just stopped taking customers. Undaunted, we pivoted, as we’ve learned to do so well the last few months, and joined the long drive-thru line at our favorite taqueria. And, because we felt like being silly, we put our fake mustaches back on, which seemed to both surprise and delight the staff at the window. It certainly amused the people inside the car.
Back at home, we dove into our nachos, had some leftover birthday cake from the night before, and were still giggling at ourselves as we readied for bed.
Literally not one thing happened the way I thought it would, and I couldn’t have been one bit happier. It was a good lesson to be reminded of … that things don’t always go as planned, that people you’ve known forever can still surprise you, and that if you just embrace silly fun, you can have an amazing day. On your birthday, on a random weekday, really any day, even Sunday in the Park…
Jenny Knaak is the daughter of columnist Teri Orr. She grew up in Park City — mostly.
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