Saturday, January 24, 2009

So you say it's your birthday.

We celebrate a lot of birthday dinners in our group of friends. It seems like every time we turn around, there’s another birthday dinner. The thing is, the birthday dinner is starting to drain all of us. We’re all either in the midst of baby 101 or trying get into the first class. We’re suffering under budget restraints. We’re all in a kind of family-baby recession, but who is the lucky winner who gets to have a birthday where we do not get together to celebrate? Who becomes the friend known as the friend we do not think it important enough to celebrate. Tough call. Impossible call. Do we cut the ever-generous Arab in January? Monty Python warns us, "never be rude to an Arab." Do we cut Topazi during football season? But no one wants to miss out on Mrs. Topazi's big sandwich that she makes each year for Topazi's birthday. Do we cut Mr. Husband who shares a birthday with Bhavesh? You can't cut two for the price of one. Not fair. Do we cut me at the beginning of May? Not it!

No one wants to be cut. The birthday gathering is an old tradition, if you consider six years to be a long enough time to label as old.
Since 2003 we’ve been gathering for birthdays. Originally, Topazi would call Boat Drink night at Bahama Breeze, which is now closed on Hwy 280. His long emails filled with wit and always at least one reference to poop began what is now our cross to bear—I mean, tradition. The emails would go out to everyone in our division at work and always included others throughout the larger company. It was a big group. What remains, six years later, is a core group that misses its vital member Moser, but still tries to wiggle through without him. Everyone has other groups besides this birthday group. Like we have the Patel faction and Yuri and Clay in Huntsville. The Topazi’s have their Brian and Sarah faction and the Rays. Mindy has her work faction, and so on. Yet, this group continues to meet with each other and with others for every dang birthday. Let us celebrate getting really, really, really old together.

There have been super awesome birthday gatherings like Debbie’s surprise birthday in New Orleans for her 30th birthday over four years ago. Like Topazi’s surprise birthday that he didn’t understand at Macaroni the year he started his own tradition of mooning everyone at the party.
Like Nader’s bowling party birthday where everyone brought cigars and helped kill the Arab just a little bit more by encouraging a bad habit (that feels so good). There was the year in 2004 where everyone forgot my birthday since I was at the Medieval Conference in Kalamazoo during the birthday week. And then there was the year after that when everyone paid penance and had to attend an art festival with me downtown. At least the punishment helped improve their deeper appreciation of art. Okay, there was free beer … but they had to look at the art and fill their heads with the aesthetic of not-beer for part of that time while drinking beer.

After six years, you’d think that everyone gets it. It’s like a mathematical equation that is a universal and a constant: birthday + friends’ knowledge = gathering. Yet, this year, everyone was sufficiently surprised. Moser at the end of April, Me in early May, Debbie at the end of May, Mr. Husband in August, Hind in early October, Topazi at the end of October, Mindy in December, and Nader in January. It’s like a drummer drumming—the way we have to keep up with the birthdays, all of us often planning way ahead of time. While we used to have these big, giant birthdays that often involved travel or wild nights of drinking all night, as we’ve mellowed, the picture has changed. We have evolved with three weddings, one divorce, two babies, and one on the way. Birthdays are now a nice gathering in someone’s home or at a restaurant, but they are still a surprise after all these years.

On Wednesday night, we surprised Nader at the birthday kick-off extravaganza for 2009. Even though he saw Mindy and Brodie as he walked into Kobe on Hwy 280, he still didn’t get it. Even as I walked up to his Hibachi table and announced that we were there for him, he still didn’t get it. Mr. Nader blinked and took it in.
Genuine surprise lit up his face. I was flabbergasted. How can you not know after all these years? Even if Hind had surprised Nader with a birthday trip to Las Vegas on the actual day of birthday—we will still celebrate. We cannot be stopped. Hind did a fantastic job keeping her husband confused. And he was surprised. We are so birthday, we don’t even know it.

No comments: