Birthday Bliss

I’m nervous and excited all at the same time.  I haven’t been ice skating in years, so I hope I don’t embarrass myself in front of my new friends.  I have two pairs of socks on, sneakers, a tank top under a long-sleeved shirt under a big black sweatshirt.  I have gloves and a winter headband in the pocket of the sweatshirt. I’m ready.

It’s my fourteenth birthday and I have survived the first half of my freshman year of high school.  Not only have I survived, but I had already – in those four short months – developed an intense connection with a group of girls who I shared many classes with.

I can barely contain myself in the car as my mom drives me the 20 minutes to my friend’s house, where we’re all meeting before we go out.  I can’t sit still.  I talk just to fill the silence.

I almost pitch a fit when my mother turns off the car and starts to get out.

“What are you doing?!”
“I’m coming in.”
“You are absolutely NOT coming in.”
“I absolutely am. I need to make sure her mother is really home.”
“What?! You don’t trust me?? Why would I lie? I’m obviously dressed to go ice skating, not to some drinking party.”
“I’m coming in to meet her mother, or neither one of us are going in.”
“OH MY GOD YOU’RE SO EMBARASSING!”

I try to hide my sulking as we head up to the door.  My unhappiness disappears suddenly when my friend answers the door with her mother not too far behind.  She tells me that I’m the first one to arrive while our mothers start chatting in that annoying happy way mothers do.  My friend tells me we can wait down in her basement, and I’m happy to be away from my mother’s annoying eyes.  [Why hasn’t she LEFT yet, she MET my friend’s mother already, GOSH!]

My friend leads the way down the stairs and stops at the bottom.  She waits until I meet her there and turns on the light and goes, “So…this is my basement.”  Not really sure why we stopped walking or what I’m supposed to say, I nervously shift my weight to my other foot and look at her, waiting for her to say something else.

The next few moments happened in a flash.

I hear some giggling and some whispering.  I turn to try to figure out what it was and I’m greeted with a jumble of asynchronous voices.

SURPRISE!!

One of my friends pops out from behind a chair, three girls trip over each other as they scramble around the corner, two tumble out of a closet and land in a giggling heap on the floor.  I can’t help but laugh, though I have no idea what to make of this.  The jumbled mess of teenagers before me then yelled something that could barely be deciphered to mean “Happy Birthday!”

I stood in utter shock.  A reflexive smile takes over my face and an overwhelming sensation of excitement floods through my body.  I look around the room at this group of girls that I had met mere months before and realize what they had done for me – they had planned my first surprise party ever.  My happiness is so encompassing that I feel a little light headed.

After lots of hugs and laughter and a dramatic reenactment of the great reveal, we all settle down a little and sit together on the couches and on the floor in a lopsided circle.  They excitedly chatter about how long they had been planning it, who came up with ice skating as a cover, how hard it had been not to tell me.  They tease me for my ice skating outfit and tell me how many times they almost let something slip and how sure they were that I had caught on.

I had not caught on. I had no idea. I really thought we were going ice skating. I have never felt so happy or so much a part of a group of friends.

We spend the rest of the night playing games, laughing, and talking.  At one point, one friend says, “Let’s double-oh-seven”.  We all look at her with raised eyebrows and she clarifies, “Let’s bond! Let’s all ask each other questions – no answers will ever leave the circle!”  It was basically a rudimentary version of “Never Have I Ever”, but it was long before any of us actually learned that game, so it was just us taking turns asking different questions, sharing different feelings, fears, experiences.

It was basically what we would have ended up doing anyway as a group of girls, but with a fun little intro.  For years to come, we would refer to conversations like this as “007ing” or jokingly asking distressed members of the group if they needed to 007.

Somewhere between playing volleyball with balloons and doing impersonations of teachers, I feel my heart catch in my throat.  The wind is momentarily knocked out of me as I realize how perfect this moment is.  For the first time in my life, I have a group of real friends.  This wasn’t like elementary school, where we were forced to be with the same 18 people for 9 years in a row.  This was high school.  You choose your friends and your friends choose you.

These girls chose me.

I tell myself to remember this moment. To file it away amongst the best of them.

To this day, there it has stayed.  Tucked away in a special place that I’ve held on to dearly, as a few of my later birthdays were far less enjoyable.  Now, whenever I start to dread my birthday or think of bleaker birthday memories, I push them aside and pull this one out of its nook and love it and squeeze it until I don’t remember ever having a bad birthday.

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~ by Valerie Anne on 01/09/2011.

2 Responses to “Birthday Bliss”

  1. I fell for it. It wasn’t a trick to fall for, but I did anyways. I was like “ice skating for her birthday again?? i wonder if it will happen this time” katie you are a fool.

    • WIN! I almost named the post something like “Fourteenth Birthday” or “Ten Years Ago Today” but I wanted to see if I could pull off the literary device of writing in present tense about past events.

      Thank you for letting me know I succeeded!!

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