As Yehuda Amachai wrote, “the world is beautifully made for doing good.” When I consider all of the birthday celebrations that I have attended, including many of my own, one in particular stands out as truly outstanding. A second, very different, comes close, though for very similar reasons.
The very best one? It happened last month for Mary, as she celebrated her ninetieth birthday. Let me describe what made it so special. First, a little background is needed. I met Mary about five years ago, when I started tap dancing classes at a local senior center. Mary had been dancing for years, beautifully, and I was new to the art and not particularly talented. Mary stopped dancing with us shortly after, as age slowed her down.
Two months ago, Mary’s daughter contacted Debbie, our tap dancing teacher, to ask if we could surprise Mary on her birthday with a performance in front of her house, on her dead end street. Debbie asked if we would be interested and we certainly were! We had not done a performance since before Covid shut everything down. Before that, we performed occasionally at retirement homes and senior centers. During Covid, we’ve continued to practice on Zoom and this summer, at occasional outdoor sessions.
After Mary’s daughter called, we began to practice dancing to a tune that would be familiar to Mary, City Lights. We tapped to the lively music wearing silver top hats and performing a kick routine, just like the Rockettes. Well, maybe not exactly like them, but it made us feel like stars.
The week before Mary’s party, nearly thirty of us planned to attend, about twenty to dance, and another ten who no longer danced with us, but who remembered Mary and wanted to celebrate with us. Debbie called Mary’s daughter feeling a little embarrassed that there would be so many of us and offered to buy the cake. Her daughter assured Debbie that the cake she had ordered was sufficient for all of us and would hold ninety candles!
The day arrived and the weather was sunny, if a little too hot. We coordinated our arrival time to drive up together, then quietly gathered in her garage. About ten minutes later, Mary walked in from her house using a cane and wearing her tiara that proudly displayed ’90’, as we shouted “Surprise!” I think she actually was surprised and, if not, made a good show of it.
After many happy hellos, friends and neighbors gathered in chairs that had been set up in the driveway, ready for our show. We turned on the music and moved into the street, arranging ourselves into four dance lines, as rehearsed.
Just as we were about to begin our first number, an Amazon delivery van approached us, needing to get through to a house beyond Mary’s. We stopped the music and moved apart to allow the truck to move through. After performing our first number to applause, we moved apart again to allow the delivery van to exit.
We performed a few songs, then took a break for iced tea and delicious strawberry layered birthday cake, cut only after Mary had blown out all ninety candles with several breathes. We danced to a few more songs, ending with ‘King of the Road.’ We invited Mary to join us for this circle dance and she did! We enjoyed some more iced tea before leaving, each of us feeling wrapped in the love that had brought us together.
The other birthday party that I attended was for a two-year old about 25 years ago. My husband and I were vacationing in Turkey, then traveled to the nearby Greek island of Rhodes for a few days. As we arrived on Rhodes, there appeared to be a parade through the little village, so we joined it. A young man was marching with a small boy on his shoulders and I asked him what occasion was being celebrated. It was his son’s second birthday and he invited us to share the celebration and the cake. We said yes to both and thoroughly enjoyed the multilayer rum cake.
What these two parties shared, separated by 25 years and an ocean, was a foundation of love. For Mary, it began with Debbie’s dance classes, where all are welcome, regardless of talent. For Debbie does not teach only tap; she also teaches community and acceptance of others. It didn’t matter that Mary had not attended class for several years. The love was still there and we continued to share it.
For the two-year old in Greece, his dad was also spreading love and acceptance, even to people that he didn’t know, including us who had just stepped off the ferry. These were the best birthday parties I’ve ever attended, each served with plenty of cake and love to go around. 🎂 ❤️
Copyright © 2021