My birthday celebration ended at 4:30 in the morning, four days after I turned 29.
I woke up in Audrey’s basement: alone, in the dark, and uncomfortably warm. Blinked. God. My mouth tasted AWFUL. The last thing I remember was curling up in a near-fetal position against the wall, telling Auds and Tony that if I just STAYED LIKE THIS, I would be fine. I’d helped finish another bottle of wine– our second that day– and was drunk. I’m pretty sure before I passed out I announced that this wasn’t even the MOST drunk I’d been, ONE PASSOVER I ENDED UP CRAWLING ON THE FLOOR IN FRONT OF MY BOYFRIEND’S MOM. I don’t know why I brought this up. One: it wasn’t a high point in my life. Two: it was embarrassing enough that I have not been drunk since. In twelve years.
Before I fell asleep, Tony and Auds were trying to give me medicine. Pepto Bismol tablets. Aspirin. I’M FINE, I insisted. I don’t know if I was as belligerent as I felt: HOW DARE THEY TELL ME I CAN’T HANDLE THIS. I handle BUSINESS, son. That’s what I DO. I said I’d sleep it off. The last thought I had before I did, in fact, sleep it off, was that I didn’t even want to wake up because I was going to regret that decision SO MUCH.
That’s me. In a nutshell. I’d rather be dying from an avoidable hangover than accept help or pity.
But then when I DID wake up, and– aside from the disgusting taste in my mouth– was completely fine, I just laid there and enjoyed the sense of victory that spread over me. JOKE’S ON YOU, WINE. I’m painfully alert before dawn with nothing to do, but JOKE’S. ON. YOU.
I tried to get back to sleep a couple more times, unsuccessfully. Finally got up and surveyed the damage. Food trash. Empty water glasses. Bed in disarray, rug flipped over. Tony had bought speakers for his iPod so we could listen to (more) of his music (we had been listening to it in the car for hours already), and the speaker packaging was everywhere: the cardboard body eviscerated, its insides of adapters and plastic bags and instruction manuals littering the floor.
First thing: brush teeth. Next thing: clean.
So I did. I picked everything up, very carefully. I tiptoed upstairs and put the glasses by the sink and threw the trash away, then tiptoed back downstairs and repackaged all of Tony’s stuff neatly. I washed my face, I packed my bag. It was impossible to get a cell phone signal in the house, so I went outside. Texted Michelle– the only other person I thought would be awake at that hour. She was. She texted back she’d pick me up, we’d get breakfast. Auds was supposed to drive me to the train station, but I didn’t expect them up for two or three more hours, and I was losing my mind with boredom already. Plus, you know. I love my sister more than anything. And I was STARVING like I haven’t been in years. I’d had almost nothing the day before– dinner was the free bread at the restaurant and two bites of potatoes– so some Panera was heavenly.
Went upstairs to tell Audrey I was taking off. She answered the bedroom door in her trademark shirt and underwear. Heh. “Are you okay?” she whispered. Auds has the cutest, throatiest voice in the morning. I nodded.
We thanked each other for the previous day slash night, and hugged, and she said she’d tell Tony goodbye. Tones was a mountain of unmoving sheet on the mattress behind her.
Wait for Shells outside. When she arrives, I put my suitcase in the back, and climb in the passenger seat. “Did you end up going out?” she wonders.
“Yeah,” I admit.
“Really? Did you drink?”
“Yeah, way too much. I honestly don’t even know what happened. I remember a lot of Audrey’s eyes. And I think I kicked Tony.”
“You don’t look like you’ve been drinking,” she answers, which was sweet, and I’m like, “I don’t feel like it, either. I cleaned a lot, too. This morning.” Pause. “Girl, you look good yourself.”
“Are you joking?” she gasps. “GIRL. I have gotten like thirty-two minutes of sleep, between baby and work and marriage stuff. I am barely running on fumes.”
“We hide our burdens well, girl,” I answer, which makes her laugh. She’s still kind of giggling when we pass a van with the license plate YU CRYIN, which I read out loud (“Why? You? Cryin’?”), which makes us both lose it for some reason and we’re stopped at an intersection, ACTUALLY CRYING, rubbing our cheeks and laughing and like WHY IS THIS SO FUNNY? and I DON’T KNOW, GIRL, WHY YOU CRYIN’? until one of us is like, “I love you so much,” and the other one is like, “I’m so, so tired.”
This birthday started on a totally normal note. Jason got up early, like he always does, and got the kids off to school so I could sleep in. I wake up normal time anyway. This is totally different than the dark basement post-drink wake up: our bedroom is a wonderland of sunshine and yellow sheets and television and books and things to enjoy. J comes in to cuddle with me. We get dressed for a run together afterward, and I wear my new jogging stuff. We run through the woods. Well. Kind of. We start off running, and then J wants to walk, so I bound next to him as slow as possible while two old guys pass us. Heh.
Still. It was a great thought, and I love him.
We go home, and I shower and change. Wear my Birthday Dress– which, since Audrey and Tony will read this and be all THAT’S THE SAME DRESS YOU WORE WITH US!– exactly, it’s my BIRTHDAY DRESS, I had to keep it on through all celebrating.
We have breakfast at Panera (it’s a theme). Michelle and Mom have planned a day of Awesome Surprises for me, and J is supposed to deliver me to Location Number One after we eat. I’m beyond stoked. I told Michelle all I wanted for my birthday was for someone else to do the planning. You know how you’re always booking things and making appointments and coordinating schedules as a mom? I didn’t want to do that. I wanted a day to relax and have someone else figure out details.
And that’s totally what they did. Jason drove me to a nearby spa– nearby, as in the same parking lot– and we waited about two minutes before THE PARTY WAGON pulled in beside us.
“OH MY GOD ARE YOU GUYS KIDDING!” I squealed when I got out. Michelle was already hugging me. “GIRL!” she screamed. My mom was slightly more demure: “BECCA! This is going to be SO MUCH FUN!”
Jason– best husband ever– told me to have a wonderful time, and he’d see me later. He said the kids were taken care of: don’t worry about a thing.
So we go into the spa, and WHAT THE WHAT. Here’s more pictures because mere words won’t do this justice.
Random and borderline inappropriate Becca dancing, which was another running theme.
After this series of shots, an employee came in to whisper SPA VOICES, LADIES, which would’ve been embarrassing if we were able to be embarrassed. As it was, we were just stupidly happy.
Got our nails and toes done. It was my second pedicure EVER, and amazing. I couldn’t stop thanking them as they were painting. Just so appreciative.
Michelle: “Hot mittens, girls!”
Mom laughing at Shell.
Me, waiting for my toes to dry.
Me, more with the inappropriate booty-popping.
Shell LOVES IT.
Mom and Shell disappear for a massage and facial– I know, I’m typing this out and can’t believe it happened either– so I wait in the lounge.
Then I’m called back for my own massage. OH MY GOSH. Did you know they BRUSH YOUR SKIN, like– it feels like the amazing tingling sensation of someone brushing your hair but it’s EVERYWHERE. I keep being like, THANK YOU, you’re the best, you don’t have to do this, and the masseuse– Susie– is like, Aw. Yes, I do. Heh. At one point she’s massaging my legs, and she comments, “What do you do for exercise? Your muscles feel amazing.” Me: “!” When I tell her I run, she said my muscles aren’t as hard or knotty as most runners’. Which was a huge unexpected compliment. I’m glowing when I leave.
Mom and Shell are done, too. Susie tells my mom I’m the most grateful guest ever. We laugh. Then Moms, Shell and I go into the sauna for a couple minutes.
(That’s the only good photo. Trust me. Saunas don’t do anyone favors.)
Back downstairs to change and leave.
Michelle and I make up for the fact that we were too old for the MySpace phase.
TO THE PARTY WAGON!
I know. This whole thing is so amazing, I can’t. Then it gets even more ridiculously great: she and Mom planned a scavenger hunt for me. There are six clues, and each has an address. I guess, we GPS where it is, and then drive and find out if I’m right.
Also we wear tiny hats while doing so.
First to Panera, though. For lunch this time. I eat my second blueberry muffin of the day. The guy at the register gives it to me free because it’s my birthday. FREE MUFFINS TASTE EVEN BETTER.
Two weird photos of me talking while I read my first clue.
“All your 29 bombs are belong to us.” IT’S LUSH!
BATH BOMBS! And we see this, which Michelle and I lose our mind over:
Next is a candy store called The Lollipop Shop–
– and then a clue about how people can tell I handle business. I give lame answers (“Because my life is in order?”) until we arrive at the answer–
A GIANT BUTTON SHOP.
Jet off to The Cupcake Shoppe, which has an order all ready and waiting for me–
– and totally guess the second-to-last clue, which is “Number 29, clearly you were not my first choice“. (Well, almost guess. I knew it had something to do with my Trekkie side.)
LAST BUT NOT LEAST is a big group dinner at Los Tres Mageueyes, which is my favorite restaurant, and we are running like an HOUR late for, and Michelle and Mom and I are rushing to get there and I’m feeling terrible because the day was wonderful but I HATE keeping people waiting, hate hate hate it, I’m the most obscenely punctual person in the world and J is texting Shell, like, CAN WE ORDER? WHERE ARE YOU?, and I’m afraid my whole party will leave before I get there.
But we make it. And people are just getting their food. It works out perfectly.
My buddy Laura showed up–
Along with all the usual suspects.
Michelle made me even more cupcakes, which read IT AIN’T TRICKIN IF YOU GOT IT and LOOK AT YOUR LIFE LOOK AT YOUR CHOICES.
Kids devour those while I eat the one from the bakery (no offense to Shell: I only had room for one and am about to finish the rest of hers after this entry).
Then the waiter puts a giant sombrero on my head, and the restaurant sings to me. I have a picture. Everyone else looks cute in it but I look crazy, and normally I’d post it anyway, but it’s my birthday and I don’t want to remember it including my psycho grin. So instead, look at Elias in the sombrero:
(Yeah, not waiting till the end of the entry. I’m eating the cupcakes now.)
We go home, I pack a suitcase and say goodbye to the kids and J. The last part of the birthday extravaganza involves a cabin sleepover.
Cutest cabin ever. I do my patented mirror face in the kitchen:
Dad pointed it out to me in New Orleans. Every time I see my reflection, I go all Zoolander. I didn’t even realize it was a thing until he started laughing about it, and then– when I asked everyone else– they laughed too. YEAH YOU DO! they admitted. LIKE, EVERY REFLECTIVE SURFACE MAKES YOU WHIP OUT BLUE STEEL.
Get a fire going outdoors and roast marshmallows for s’mores.
At some point during the night, while my mom is outside doing something normal and responsible, Michelle and I are alone in the cabin. I break out into the inappropriate dance again, which involves holding onto a chair so I can drop it low. While I’m popping, Michelle pretends like she’s raining money on me and starts going GET IT GURL and then announces NOW I’M THROWIN’ DICE! and shakes some imaginary dice at a table. I’m still dancing. We both pause at the same second, and she looks at me. “This relationship would be hard to explain to anyone that walked in,” I tell her. “Let’s not ever talk about this,” she answers.
(It promptly gets brought up at breakfast with Tony and Audrey a couple days later, and with Mom as soon as she walks in. “YOU GUYS,” she sighs. Like she didn’t MAKE US.)
I call top bunk. We climb into bed. Shell and I need the bathroom light on. I’m a grown-up about everything but the darkness. Mom complains about the brightness, and hangs jackets on her bunk like blackout curtains. We all fall asleep at the same time.
Next morning we get up, and take turns showering. Tell Michelle I’ve been getting ready for the last week to “Night Cap”. Put on “Night Cap” while we ready.
Michelle loves this as much and as inexplicably as I do. Mom tolerates it since it’s a harmless (and hilarious) rap. For the rest of the trip, we reference the song– including Michelle asking Chris if he was going to sleep like an old timey dude tonight. Chris retorted, “What the hell, Michelle?” and the two of us started giggling behind our hands.
Take a timed group shot at the cabin to commemorate our trip. I was going to crop the photo but I kind of like the weird framing.
Car ride back. Talk about how awesome everything was. Tell them how awesome they are for planning it. Lots of relationship talk, lots of politics, lots of weird jokes that I can’t fully remember. It was a quick trip. Four hours– felt like one.
My kids’ll be home in a half hour so I’ll try to move this next part along quickly. First night in Virginia: through a long, not-interesting story, I end up at my mom’s house for dinner– she and my dad leave to go pirating, Auds and Tony come over– they hang out about an hour before leaving to eat– Michelle swings by about fifteen minutes afterward for a sleepover at her house. We don’t do anything super exciting. Watch a taped episode of “Operation Repo”.
Take Millie out for groceries the next morning.
Then Shell and I grab breakfast out with Audrey and Tony. Audrey picks Bob Evans. We show up early, they show up late. Heh. Tony, who checks himself in EVERYWHERE on Facebook– particularly if it’s exclusive and in his home city of Chicago– makes an effort not to let the world know he was TOTALLY AT BOB EVANS IN THE VIRGINIA SUBURBS.
Grilled cheese. It was okay. I’d give it a B, B minus.
Drive back to Shell’s, pick up my luggage, carry it up the hill to where Audrey’s parked. REFUSE ALL HELP.
The whole rest of the day starts clearly and then ends up with me against the wall in the basement, lamenting my life choices. I picked the Winery at La Grange for us to do wine-tasting together; since I like wine (obviously: see Passover story) and Tony likes all alcohol. Audrey drives us. It’s beautiful. The day is sunny and warm, and none of us need jackets. Gather around a counter downstairs near the entry for our tasting.
Do a series of whites, then a series of reds. We’re all handed a little sheet explaining each wine. I just read the info. Tony appears to be reading as well. Audrey notices a place for tasting notes under each option, and– in lieu of actual notes– just puts an arrow up or down for each glass. She is so adorable, for real. I think two of the wine selections get Double Up Arrows. Those are the ones she buys whole bottles of.
Take the first bottle, go upstairs with our glasses, open it up. I think to take the first of only three photos the entire time we’re together.
Finish it off while Tony talks politics loudly enough that another patron overhears and jumps in. Luckily, the other patron agrees with Tony’s views– otherwise. I don’t even know.
Go to the bathroom a thousand times because my bladder is the size of a pea.
Walk around the grounds. See and pet the horses. I’m warm and happy, but probably just brushing tipsy. Pay for the rest of our wine, and go to Bodega in Georgetown. This was the place where Audrey and Tony took Michelle before, and Michelle came away from the experience wasted. That should’ve been my first clue.
I eat the free bread and steal a couple potato bites while they have– oysters, I think?– and start drinking sangria. Bathroom. Repeatedly. It probably looks like I have a drug habit. While I’m coming out one of the times, a dude leers, I like your dress. and tries to brush against me. Ew.
Out on the street. Tony is walking beside me and we’re bumping into each other. His is probably on purpose. Mine is probably stumbling.
We end up at HHGregg to buy the aforementioned sound system for his iPod. Or iPhone. Either or. I apparently take this photo, which I find on my camera later:
This is the BEST Worst Picture, because it makes no sense and is super stalkerish and why? Why did it happen? Also, it’s the back of Tony’s head YET AGAIN, which is I think all the photos I will ever take and/or post of him on this blog.
In the car. I have to go to the bathroom. Again. Tony does too, at least. We stop at a doughnut place. Audrey waits while we handle business.
Maybe we went to the doughnut place first. I don’t– really know.
Then we’re back at Audrey’s and I call J to check in and say goodnight, and Tony brings the speakers to the basement and sets them up next to the bed I’m sleeping on, which is just a mattress on the floor, and they bring glasses down and another bottle of wine. Then it’s just a weird dreamy haze. We’re all sprawled on or against the mattress. Tony is beside me, Audrey is across. The conversation stops being conversation and starts being more Feelings and Fragmented Sentences. I’m just reacting to things rather than putting any thought into my wording or replies. Pretty sure I pet Tony’s hair. I have a memory of my hand on his head. It was really stiff with product and I was like YOU NEED TO STOP DOING THAT and Audrey was like I KNOW IT LOOKS BETTER WITHOUT ANYTHING. And then I remember Audrey making a face at something Tony said and I was looking at her like YOU ARE REALLY REALLY PRETTY GIRL– except I don’t think I said it, I just stared at her with big eyes, trying not to wobble– and then I turned to Tony and stared at his new shirt. It was a really good shirt. Reached across him and poured more wine.
Audrey and Tony were discussing baby names as I drank. The music highlighted their voices.
Then there was no more wine and I was trying to pour an empty bottle into a glass, and Tony said he’d get more, but I said NO THAT WAS ENOUGH, barf, and I felt like I was going to be sick. “Is the room spinning?” Tony asked. “Does that happen?” I wondered, and then, “NO,” because I just felt too full. Like that kind of sick. Then I said I’d be fine and leaned against the wall and they left and I fell asleep and woke up and– and then it was morning. I was 29 and alone. The party was over.
The train ride back was horrible. Michelle gave me some books to read, but they weren’t easily accessible, and I was too tired to focus anyway. There was almost no cell coverage, so no Internet, and I’d forgotten my headphones, so no music. I just SAT there, almost the entire time. Tried to rest. Didn’t work. I think I nodded off for maybe fifteen minutes.
But. BUT. That awful ride was followed by the most wonderful homecoming ever, which was my kids and husband on the platform waiting. They ran up and almost knocked me over with hugs. I HAVE A JOKE! Addie bubbled. WHY DO FISHES LIVE IN SALT WATER? BECAUSE PEPPER MAKES THEM SNEEZE! and Elias: MOM I GOT A REALLY RARE POKEMON I WANT YOU TO SEE IT WHEN WE GET HOME OKAY? and Jason, who took my suitcase– I let him– and put it in the back of the car for me. When I climbed in, he passed me the cold Diet Pepsi that was waiting in the cupholder. “I thought you might need it,” he smiled.
This man. This family. God. I just feel so– you know, it’s not even just grateful. Grateful is such a small word. I feel so truly blessed; that warmth of a thoughtful surprise, that security of love, that humbling knowledge of a gift that could never be deserved. The four of us had dinner and did a quick shopping trip, and then we were home– HOME, I squealed as we pulled up in the driveway– and everything inside was clean, and smelled like pumpkin candles and the bag of Lush bombs that I’d left on the front shelf. And– yeah. That was my birthday. That was everything. Spent last night on the couch with my babies, watching Cartoon Network, and this afternoon with my husband, having lunch at Moe’s. And I’ll spend tonight– and this year– just trying to be as good to the wonderful people in my life as they are to me.
To everyone who made this possible: thank you. I love you, always– and really, truly, whole-heartedly: thank you.