A recent column for The Wokingham Paper:
I recently celebrated my 27th birthday. Having been in lockdown for many weeks now, I knew roughly how the day would go. Or so I thought.
The clock struck midnight and as we weren’t asleep yet, my partner dutifully wished me a Happy Birthday and asked if I wanted anything from the kitchen, which for the past two hours had been off limits. (Certain Birthday surprise preparations were taking place).
“Oh no, we need to go to sleep..” I replied, with no intention of going to sleep but thinking of the one dessert I’ve been devouring daily for the last week.
He came upstairs with a glass of milk and a Bonne Maman creme caramel pudding with a candle plonked in. We went over to the window (so as not to set off the smoke alarm), the candle was lit and a quiet, speedy rendition of happy birthday sung. I blew out my candle and felt nearly as giddy as he looked.
There was much excitement in the air as I wondered what on earth he’d been doing downstairs.
I’d heard the expected wrapping of presents and blowing up of balloons, but remained in the dark as to what the surprise might be.
Maia, to my partner’s frustration, had mentioned something days before about the printing off of photos, so I assumed maybe they were making me some kind of album or collage.
“Don’t go downstairs before me in the morning. I have to check everything first”.
My curiosity grew.
I slept well and woke to the sound of a crying six year old.
“I feel hot Mummy..”. Typical. One day of the year allotted to me and she steals it with a fever. A mild one that mysteriously seemed to vanish as the iPad and some Rice Krispies appeared.
I administer Calpol anyway and spend some time hydrating the little monkey.
“Shall we go downstairs and open some of my presents?”.
She did not like this suggestion. It was clear this was a celebration she wanted no part of. We have concluded, from observing her behaviour on previous birthdays, that sometimes she cannot handle the attention being on another family member, particularly her own mother. She doesn’t quite understand these feelings so resorts to being whiny and acting up.
I let her sulk and excitedly walked down the stairs, to be met by my beaming boyfriend, and a wall of familiar faces I was not expecting. All my nearest and dearest. My closest friends, each holding up a sign with a word to form part of a Birthday message: “Happy Birthday Angie! Sorry that we can’t see you properly today, boo lockdown. But we hope that you have the best day. We love you.”
A lump quickly forms in my throat. “How did he?..When did he?…”.
The man had secretly contacted each of my favourite people (well all the ones he could get hold of) and asked if they’d take part in his surprise message. I was blown away. I had no idea. My best friends from school were up there. My cousins. My parents. It was the most wonderful, special thing anyone had ever done for me. I stared at their happy smiling faces, all 32 of them, feeling so very fortunate, so very loved.
Maia perked up soon after breakfast and we opened each of my presents together, which was both lovely and necessary. The rest of the day consisted of photo-taking, flower and biscuit deliveries, lots of cake and a hilarious lengthy family zoom call. I couldn’t have asked for more. It was perfect.