I'm not much for fancy dinners.
Cake is good.
Hugs are good.
My favorite birthdays are the quiet ones that unfold into something unexpected.
One year I spent the entire day alone, no cards, no cake, no birthday wishes from anyone, it was just a quiet, normal Sunday. But that night....that night I had arranged to pick up my daughter from her across-the-state bike ride which had just ended that day. Her team bus would be dropping her off at an interstate rest area near our home town. At the appointed hour, I got out of my car as the big bus pulled into the rest area parking lot. From the bus poured a herd of sweaty and road-weary bikers. They'd just pedaled about 400 miles over the preceding week and it was right around 100 degrees outside.....at night. My daughter amongst them, dusty and dirty as the rest.
Not gonna sugar-coat it.
They'd been doin' a bit of post-ride drinkin. A few of those boys and girls were pretty tippy and it made me laugh. Once assembled on the blacktop right alongside the bus, the entire lot of them broke into a spirited.......albeit a slightly inebriated version....of Happy Birthday to Mama Debbie.
My daughter was dead-center. I collected about 30 hugs of varying styles and several of near frightening levels of enthusiasm. But I was "birthday'd" right proper, right then and there. That's for sure. And I was grinning big. I'll never, ever forget my rest-stop birthday.
A few years later I had yet another amazing summer-night birthday.
A really dear friend was in town. He lives far, far away and we keep in email, chat and text touch, but I just never, ever get to see him. We're not a dating thing. Not a romance thing. We're a really, really dear friend thing. That night he was only in town for a short while with plenty of people who wanted to spend time with him, too. But he came and spent my birthday evening with me.
We stood in line at Arby's for take-out sandwiches.
We found a park bench on the quiet, grassy banks of a small town pond.
And we sat there, miles away from the city. Miles away from real life.
We sat and we sat and we sat until the sun went down.
We shared stories. And we laughed.
It got chilly.
We got a blanket from the trunk of my car.
We wrapped up in it there on the bench and got really quiet.
You know how it is; how you can really tell how you're connected with a person by the way the two of you manage silence? It can be natural and sweet. Or it can be uncomfortably awkward.
That night we sat there and shared the most comfortable silence for the longest time as the moon rose over the water. It was freakishly perfect, like something out of a movie.
Crickets chirping in the grass.
Breeze rattling in the nearby cornfields.
It was a like a magic picture someone was painting for my birthday.
We told more stories. And we laughed again and again.
Next morning he flew home.
We both love the memory of that good, good night.
Simple. Cheap. Unexpected. Memorable.
Perfect birthdays, both. The very best kind.