I rush back from my annual physical to be on time for our traditional Girls’ Night Out at our development. Over the past couple of years, it has become a tradition I cherish. It gives me a disconnect from home, from the constant physicality of raising a toddler. I tend to settle down, eat my food and watch as the conversation around me flows. This time around, I set an early dinner for the kids, watched them chomp down, left instructions for Saathi to heat his food and walked down our driveway into the cool fall night.
With a light breeze, it soon became uncomfortable and I quickened my pace to my neighbors home to hitch a ride with her. We piled in, five of us into her SUV and joined the caravan of cars gliding along the night towards their destinations.
“I need to pick something on the way” said another neighbor.
So, we passed the place we were to have dinner at and turned into the neighboring complex instead. We double parked and then decided to find a parking spot as everyone wanted to take a peek at the pottery on display at the store. Busy Bees read the sign. I urged them to go in while I scanned the news feed on my brand new phone. They hesitated and left. I sat in the darkness, luxuriating in stolen moments. Moments free of demands on my time, on my person. I felt myself relax when yet another neighbor tapped the glass by my side.
“Come on in. They have some cool stuff” she said.
I reluctantly followed her. There was no one at the billing counter. We walked to the back where I heard voices and laughter. As everyone came into view, someone broke out into “Happy Birthday!” while others yelled “Surprise!”
I stood stupefied, not quite sure how to react, remembering my baby shower. It was eerily similar. Then it hit me. My milestone birthday. One I had been badgering Saathi to acknowledge and celebrate for me. Here was the bunch of people I meet every few weeks, standing around, smiles writ large on their faces, toasting to my health and happiness. I joined in with gusto and the rest of the evening sped past as we ate, painted on ceramic pieces and devoured the birthday cake.
We staggered out of the store, long past closing hours, clutching bags with leftover food and made our way home. We sat for an hour longer next door catching up. I left close to midnight. Walking home, the cold did not seem to bother me. My face was flush with happiness.
Sometimes it happens, gifts of kindness that come your way, unexpected and therefore precious. As the year winds down and I look back, this will have to count as one of my favorite memories.