And more… and more. This has been the most amazing birthday. I know we attention hogs all talk about milking birthdays and making them last, but this one really did.
First I got to see Steve and my girls on the actual day. Then that following weekend, John fussed over me, taking me to a lovely dinner in Old Town Pasadena on a warm night, so we enjoyed patio seating. Here we are passing a gelato shop, where we posed in front of a giant ice-cream cone:
And then of course I had to do this, because you can’t take me anywhere:
After that, I figured OK, we’re done. But no… John mysteriously insisted that we were going to keep celebrating into the following weekend (which was this past weekend). He would not tell me where we were going, or what we were doing. All he would tell me was that he’d be wearing a suit and tie, and so I should dress accordingly.
What could it be? Where would he need to wear a suit?? Was he taking me to the symphony or to a play or something? I didn’t try cajoling him to tell me, because he was having too good a time torturing me with wondering. So I packed my favorite red dress and my highest heels for Saturday night. Even on Saturday, all he would say was that we had to leave at 6:30.
I was nervous, I admit it. I don’t like not knowing where I’m going. John kept pointing out that I was driving well below the speed limit and I needed to pick it up! It didn’t help that we unexpectedly got caught in Hollywood Bowl traffic; apparently Idina Menzel (or Adele Dazeem, as John Travolta called her) was having a concert and the street was completely jammed. And when we finally got past that, John had me make a wrong turn and we drove way up into the hills before he directed me to turn back around. Argh. “Don’t worry,” he said. “It’s not a show or a play; it’s OK if we’re a few minutes late.” And then he guided me back to the street that I recognized from years ago: the one that takes you up a winding road to Yamashiro, a gorgeous hilltop restaurant and a Los Angeles landmark. He’d taken me there twice before, but not for a long time. It’s definitely a “very special occasion” restaurant.
And once we went in, who was waiting for us in the bar but Alex, Paul and SpankCake? Surprise!!!
Turns out John’s suit was kind of a red herring; he really didn’t have to wear one, but he figured that would throw me off. Plus, Paul was wearing one too. Both men looked wonderfully sharp and Alex and SC were dressed to the nines. I was overjoyed as the hostess led us to our window-side table, with a view of the Hollywood Hills spread out behind it.
The first thing John did was order a bottle of champagne, and we got an edamame appetizer to share. I wasn’t expecting anything else — especially since the girls had already given me presents — but they had packages! We put those aside for the time being to enjoy our champagne and then the fabulous meals, talking and laughing. And of course, we had to have dessert too. They had something they called their “S’Mores Brownie Sundae,” which turned out to be a large warmed brownie, topped with marshmallow that had been toasted under the broiler, with chocolate sauce and graham-cracker ice cream. Yes, it was as amazing as it sounds. Also ordered some ice cream, and then our server brought me another brownie with a candle in it, so we had plenty of sweets! Sooooo good.
I’d already eaten some of the smaller brownie, but wanted to get a picture of the artful “Happy Birthday” drizzled on the plate:
And then, the gifts. First, John gave me a gag gift: he has had the unfortunate habit in the past of giving me gifts that are practical rather than fun. He thought they were great, and I know he meant well, but… ! I mean, for my birthday a few years ago, he actually gave me a Leatherman multi-tool for me to keep in my trunk in case of emergencies. He was rather shocked when I burst into tears after opening it!! When he and SC & Alex were exchanging emails before the gathering and were talking about gifts, SC quipped, “Don’t get her any more tools!” He didn’t… he got me pepper spray instead. This time, I laughed. Ever practical and watching out for me, my beloved.
SC’s gift was actually a gift to the three of us, which made it extra special. I opened the package and found a delicate silver bangle, with cursive writing inscribed on it:
It reads “I get by with a little help from my friends.” She’d gotten identical ones for herself and Alex as well: friendship bracelets. How wonderful is that?? I nearly cried. Then I opened the package from Alex and Paul; it was heavy, and as I tore the paper off I could see it was a framed picture… of what? She’d taken one of the shots from the last 50 Freaks party, of the three of us in the giant bubble bath, blown it up, printed it and framed it! Oh. My. GOD. It was perfect.
So as I was sitting there oohing and ahhing and getting teary, John mused, “Wow… seeing all these thoughtful gifts makes me wish I did something more!” He paused, then added, “Oh wait… I did!” That’s when I looked down near my plate and noticed another wrapped package sitting there. The others were all looking at it expectantly, waiting to see just when the hell I was going to notice it.
I picked it up. It was smallish, but heavy. My heart started to pound as I unwrapped it. “John, what did you do?” I blurted.
What he did was get me a vintage 18-karat gold Rolex watch.
As I sat there with my hands clamped over my mouth, John went on to explain how he’d gotten this a few years ago, after careful searching online, and how he kept it, waiting for a special time. SC then asked what made him choose this occasion.
“Three reasons,” he said. “First, I had open-heart surgery this year, I survived it, Erica took such perfect care of me, and I wanted to celebrate that. Second, we’ve been together 19 years, and we’re not getting married, so I wanted her to have something really special in lieu of an engagement ring. And third, you’re all such wonderful friends to us, I wanted to share this with you.”
By now, I was crying. I was completely, emotionally overwhelmed, but in a good way. I was surrounded with people who love me, and my heart was bursting. Good friends, the love of my life, wonderful food, incredible presents… the night couldn’t have been more perfect.
Aren’t we a happy (and damn good-looking!) bunch?
As usual, we closed the place… we were the last to leave, around 11:15, I think.
Today is John’s birthday. But unlike me, he hates attention and fanfare. He didn’t even tell anyone at work about it. (sigh) Soooo… we’ll celebrate this coming weekend. I’ll take him for a special dinner, and I have presents. It won’t kill him to be fussed over just a little bit. 🙂
Oh! and guess where I hung the bubble bath picture? In my bathroom, of course!