I had plans for lunch with just Eloise and Carole, or so I thought. Eloise picked me up in her car at 11:45 and we picked up a new wife, Lindy, on base and drove to Lilou’s where Amy was waiting with a gift bag for me and some paper crowns for the surprise birthday lunch in my honor. I serendipitously picked out the crown with a star on top, and wouldn’t be the only one to break the small rubber band on the back.
We were joined by Yanell and Lucas, Reika, and two other wives that sat at the far end of the table and left too soon for introductions. We talked for an hour before ordering drinks. I got a tall Harmonie De Baies Rouges (strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry and lime) with a strawberry on the rim cut into a heart. And at some point ordered food that seemed to arrive, faster than the refreshing beverages, 15 minutes later.
I spent less time devouring the salad with cherry and sun-dried tomatoes, avocado, shaved parmesan, and sun-dried tomato bread on the side than I did delicately eating what came next. Everyone got their food and thirty minutes later when most of us began craving dessert, and Amy stood up to check out the dessert case and was told to sit back down by Eloise, is when the staff came out singing “Happy Birthday”. Something about this as an adult is just as much fun, if not more, than it was as a child. I smiled like a fool as the song let everyone in there know that I had made it another year on this planet.
Another rotation around the sun which included visiting Niagara Falls for a day, getting pushed onstage at a King Khan concert, making it back to Dry Tortugas and weathering the storm, snowshoeing in Yellowstone, celebrating my sixth anniversary at a Cirque de Soleil show, spending St. Patrick’s Day with one of my best friends from grade school, making it to Alaska where I saw my first bear and moose, making my first international flight as an adult (and second flight with Caleb), becoming an expat in Bahrain, riding the World’s Fastest Coaster in Abu Dhabi, and making friends like these.
They are great. They love their husbands; their pets, jobs, and kids (if they have any), and their ability to learn, explore, and travel. They know what they like – laughter, comfy couches, friendship, good food, and are willing to conquer all the challenges that life brings (new traffic laws (or lack thereof), language barriers, and a different workweek with the introduction of Ramadan) for the experience so that they can enjoy the beauty in life to the fullest – even if that means trying new things in a country fond of Molotov cocktails.
I got a plate with the words Happy Birthday written in strawberry sauce (I know because I licked it) with a cube of dessert in the middle. It was white, topped with pomegranate seeds, yellow gel, one yellow and white candle, a chocolate piece with Lilou written on it, and a dropper full of more word sauce. Inside this delicious geometric shape was a custard hiding soft cake that enveloped a white chocolate cup with yet another surprise inside – more strawberry sauce!
I spent a good twenty minutes savouring the separate and mixed flavors as the world around me seemed to melt away. Ok, maybe I’m overstating myself here, but it was yummy and the mood was delightful. Eloise and Carole paid for my lunch. This is, by far, the greatest birthday gift a friend, and group of friends, has given me – a surprise, free food, some presents, and great memories – in years. Thank you Eloise for arranging this. And thank you to the countless other people that have helped make my life memorable, and sometimes forgettable, over the years.
I spent the rest of the afternoon, lunch was three hours, with some me time. I took some selfies inspired by photos online until the sun set. Then I got on the treadmill and just as I found a pace my phone rang. The music app stopped playing so I could hear my dad’s voice on the other end. He didn’t feel like talking to me while I panted into the speaker, so he quickly let me go. I wanted to converse with him, but was grateful to finish my run and shower before he called me back.
I would finish my run with the help of YouTube. I can run without music, but prefer not to when the only sound is my feet pounding on the revolving belt and hard plastic underneath. This was more awesome than I thought as watching videos helped take my mind off what I was doing. The reason for the switch was that whichever app I’d been using (Pandora or Spotify or whatever) can only stream to the U.S. Luckily there will always be YouTube and I found Jango to keep me company too.