My friend Penny turned 50 yesterday (there is probably a half-dollar joke in there somewhere) and tonight there was a surprise party held in her honor at Cowboy Jacks in Bloomington. Twenty six years ago this past Monday was the night I met my husband and we attended a rehearsal dinner for a wedding we were both in at the same location. It was a Steak & Ale at the time and neither of us thought much of the other. We were married seven months later. Life is full of surprises!
Penny is a friend from a girls organization I was in during high school. A few of us have stayed in touch and we have reconnected with Penny in the last few years. I went to Minneapolis Southwest, as did Heidi who drove in from Wisconsin today for the festivities, Molly was there who went to Washburn and Penny was an Edina girl, a couple of years behind me in school. Penny has two adult daughters and went through a divorce a few years back. A couple of years ago a picture of Penny, Molly and I (circa 1980) got posted on Facebook. A boy who I remember best from seventh grade choir inquired as to how I knew Penny. He acknowledged that she had been his first love when he was 17 and she was 14. I encouraged him to connect with her, telling him that I had recently gotten together with her and he would find her to be much the same as he remembered. They were both battling jet lag tonight after returning from a European vacation together. Just another surprise that neither saw coming.
When we arrived tonight at the bar we entered with a woman whose resemblance to Penny was uncanny. It was her sister who had driven Penny’s biological mother down for the festivities. Marilyn, the mother who raised Penny was also in attendance. I’m sure fifty years ago that was not something that anyone could have imagined. The more, the merrier!
We did not stay late, as we have an early departure tomorrow to see our daughter at college. Her birthday was this past Monday as well, she was born on the four year anniversary of the day her father and I met. I am fascinated by how interwoven life is. At milestones (such as fiftieth birthdays) it is nice to stop and reflect on where we have been and who we have met along the way.
Penny was surprised tonight! Her mouth hung open as she scanned the room and there were people who knew her from the moment she was born to more recent friends she has met through her boyfriend. All of them coming out to wish her well and let her know that she is a special person in their lives. It made me reflect on the surprise parties my husband has orchestrated for me over the years and the monumental birthday parties I have hosted for him (he does not like surprises). Each is a snapshot of life at a very specific moment.
Twenty one years ago this week was my daughter’s first birthday party. There is a picture that I love that was taken that day, a group of us standing in the front yard of the home I grew up in. My husband is holding our daughter, his two sisters are posed with husbands who are now exes, his little brother and his wife have their oldest with them. A dozen years later his brother had three children and died of cancer. Our eldest nephew is squinting in the picture, he now lives and works in Colorado, his sister lives at home with her mother.
Life is full of growth and change, unanticipated situations and interactions. It needs to be breathed in with small breathes. You could not fathom enduring it were you provided the plot line at the beginning. Movies have trailers, where much of the story is shared with you in advance, so you can anticipate the emotional arcs. Life doesn’t work that way and that is how a person who has been on this earth for fifty years can open a door and for a brief moment have their life pass before them. Surprise!