June 28 for 33 years was my half-birthday. Usually not a thing, but if you happen to be born somewhere in the vicinity of Christmas, it can become a thing because parents are generally good people and want their children to feel celebrated without confusing it with the birth of Jesus.
My first birthday that was celebrated on my half-birthday was somewhere around when I was seven. Until the story I’m about to tell you, it was also the last. Primarily because when my actual birthday rolled around and I asked my parents for presents, they reminded me that I had already received them six months earlier. Lame.
In general, and entirely irrellevant to this particular blog post, I love being born on December 28. Because of the way that this country is organized, taking the week off between December 25 and January 1 is an entirely usual, and sometimes even expected, thing to do. So I’ve rigged my life that I’m always on vacation for my birthday! It’s pretty fun.
Back to the point though…on my 33.5 birthday, I was diagnosed with cancer. So now June 28 is primarily my cancer diagnosis anniversary (not super fun). I stopped thinking of it as my half-birthday six years ago and just stopped worrying about it.
This year, I had almost completely forgotten about both cancer and birthday as June 28 approached. I’ve been very distracted with finishing my book and summer hasn’t really felt too much like summer so June 28 snuck up on me a bit. On June 27, I looked at Michael over dinner and said something along the lines of “oh, crap, tomorrow’s June 28. Meh. Can we just do something fun that doesn’t remind me of chemo?”
So, on the afternoon of Thursday, June 28, Michael put me into a sundress and off we went. I had no idea what we were doing. Dinner out? Drinks? Cupcakes and board games? We landed at a friend’s building — “oh, are we going to go see Raj’s new place?”
“Yes! We’ve been meaning to have dinner with them and check out their new home, so I figured this was a good night for it!”
“With one night notice? That’s awesome that they were free.” He nodded. “Thanks bear! What fun.”
We head up and walk in — “he said to just let ourselves in, they’re out on the patio grilling dinner.” — and walk out to the patio.
And, suddenly, “SURPRISE!!!”
All of my friends in Chicago popped out from behind a wall, including one who had flown in from LA. Michael had been planning a surprise party for me for four months. The food was all the food I couldn’t eat during chemo (oysters, sushi, unpasturized cheese — my pregnant friends were less than pleased), but it was a birthday party.
“Everyone wanted to help celebrate the fact that you’re turning 40 this year, but getting them together on your actual birthday would have been impossible,” he said to me with a kiss as I openly wept in surprise and delight.
“Also, thanks for making the surprise super easy to carry out.” Whelp, sometimes the Universe really does conspire to help.