My husband and I hosted a brunch on Sunday in Washington. It was a group of ten around the table. They all knew one or both of us, but most of them did not know more than one or two of the others.
I couldn't resist the activity I often introduce at similar parties, especially when people may be strangers to the group: it's to pose a question, usually before everyone sits down and then, at a lull in the conversation around the table, to suggest we hear what everyone had to say in answer to the question. On Sunday, my question was prompted by the fact that one of our group had a birthday a few days before. So I asked our guests to think about a birthday that was truly memorable for them, either one of their own or someone else's.
It turned out to be a magical question. Every one of us, of course, has one or more birthday memories that are forever seeded into our life story. The first person to speak at our table this Sunday, talked of a birthday given for his father, a well loved leader in his community, who was greeted on the morning of this birthday with the high school band playing for him in his driveway. Another told of a surprise party people held for her. It started when she was interviewing a young man she thought was an applicant for a job in her department, and who would report to her. She thought it strange when he asked if it was OK if he brought his "boom box" into the room where they met but was impressed by the questions he asked--all astute and showing that he had done serious homework on her division's work. Suddenly he turned on his played and started dancing to the music...the door flung open and over 100 people shouted surprise...it was the beginning of a party, for her! And the "applicant" was an actor/singer/dancer hired for the occasion to throw her off the fact that people were in the next room preparing a gala for her.
There were other stories, all compelling. But one stood out for me. It was the story told by one of our guests, a woman who is serving in the military in Washington. She told us that on her 40th birthday, she was serving as an Army officer in Iraq and it was a blood-stained day with mortars being fired all around her, people dying, people wounded, a tough day indeed. Yet in the midst of the chaos, with shots ringing around her, one of her fellow officers ran by her and shouted, "Happy BIrthday, Eileen!" as they took cover. She couldn't believe that the midst of life-threatening gunfire, her colleague had remembered it was her birthday and let her know that it was important. "The best gift I could have gotten," she said.
We all agreed.
So what is your birthday story?