So, I owe my husband a big, fat thank you for a truly amazing birthday dinner. The thing is, I apparently owe Mauricio Umansky a big, fat thank you too. Since I’m not big on sending fan mail (not since I pursued Leif Garrett for a full year, in eight grade), I will hope that Mauricio (AKA: Mr. Kyle Richards of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills) somehow stumbles upon this blog post and knows how much I appreciate him. As for my husband: WAY. TO. GO DARLIN’! You hit out of the park!
In general, I am pretty good about owning my own shit; fessing up, calling a spade a spade… admitting when I am wrong. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, I’m very willing to stand up and shout out loud: I WAS WRONG! This year I was wrong: My birthday did not pass un-noticed.
The history was in my favor, to call a spade a spade. My birthday has gone, let’s say
ignored under- acknowledged for a very long time, in our house. Each year, as the date approaches, the kid in me looks forward to some kind of surprise. A cake, made by well intentioned kids who don’t bake; flowers; cards (I still love getting real, “hard copy” proof of my day); and, I’ll go out on a greedy limb here and say it: presents. Sure, I told my kids (when they were little) that anything they made for me meant the world… and it did. However, I did assume that as they got older and had money for say, concert tickets, parties, stuff they like, that they’d also get mom a birthday present. I figured their dad would train them to do it, and financially support the habit, until they flew the nest and could do it on their own. I won’t lie: I am not that mom or wife saying: oh you shouldn’t have… you should! I work hard and I truly believe that my birthday and Mother’s Day should be celebrated.
However, that’s not how it’s gone. Actually, my birthday (and Mother’s day, actually) has become a bit of a sore spot in our home, because… Well, because each year it seems to be forgotten all together, or thrown together in a panic, very last minute. In past years, I have gotten phone calls from certain family members, ON MY BIRTHDAY, reminding me to call other family members, who have birthdays just a couple of days after mine… not saying happy birthday to me. Seriously. I have, each year on this day, gotten up and allowed hours to go by before saying things like: “So, anything anyone wants to say?” Or, when hubby, last year, announced on his way out to work: “I won’t be too late, what’s for dinner?” I stared for a moment, and then said: “Well, I haven’t made up my mind. When I get to the restaurant for my birthday, I’ll decide.” Ooops. “Oh shit! I knew that! I was going to say happy birthday…” Panic. Back peddle. Really, it has become a bit of a nightmare, for all the players involved.
This year, I came home to find that a wonderful, incredibly generous person had baked me my own birthday cake (I have honestly not had one, in YEARS), only to open the pretty box and see that
Middle Man someone had actually taken a slice out of it already! Hello!! Birthday candles? Birthday girl cuts her own cake? (Careful Middle Man, some girl out there will take you out one day, for offenses of this nature.)
However, things have been remarkably remarkable this year. What is this? My husband pulls a big, fat, white rabbit out of his classy
stretch limo hat; someone bakes me a cake, and I get lots of wonderful cyber greetings, as well as a few hard copy cards and gifts (from super great friends), for good measure! 2012 is off to quite a start. Dare I cross my fingers and hope that more good things are in store (hello publisher: pleases love my book)?
And so, over the past few years, my good friends have taken to making up for this sad story, and they jump in each year and do nice things for me on my birthday, so I’m not totally sour-pussed and cranky. They take me to lunch and call me to sing; they are there to help me celebrate. It’s amazing, as I get older (oh hey, today! I’m officially older!) I appreciate my friends more and more. They have been truly stellar of late. When hubby was gone for two weeks before Christmas and my mom was in hospice, they brought dinners, they sent treats, they checked in on me. When mom was in her final days and hubby had to have surgery, they did it again: dinners, calls, took Little Man for his final orthodontist appointment. Friends are the family we get to choose, and I have chosen very wisely and feel much blessed.
Anyway, as my birthday approached this year, I figured it would be an extra bust. Husband was still not feeling great from his surgery and has spent an
inordinate significant amount of time on the sofa, in a pain killer haze, watching a combination of three general themes: big, strong men competing in big, strong men events (Cross Fit World Championships); Spy thrillers; and car shows. He watches all three at once, switching back and forth as each goes to commercial. It is enough to drive even a TV addict like Little Man out of the room. In fact, hubby has owned that sofa and TV for a week and a half now. I was sure that my birthday would pass especially unnoticed, and he might even throw in some guilt inducing comment like: “Well, I’ve been in so much pain, I couldn’t do anything.” Saying it again: I was wrong!
So, back to TV saga: the other day, when I saw that he had dosed off and his grip on the remote was loose, I snagged it and put on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Ok, stop there. Stop your judging right now. I have been through a lot and I admit, it gives me a sick kind of joy to watch these gnarly bitches behave much worse than I will ever behave (even on my worst days, when I can be pretty gnarly myself: owning my shit) and I have fun seeing what kinds of tacky thing they’ll wear and do. Oh the over the top bourgeois joy of it. Hubby came to quickly, and demanded the remote back, but knowing that he could not actually get up to take it, I told him he’d have to just watch with me or try to make it to the bed. So, my husband watched his first full episode of RHoBH… and while his incessant questions (“Does she always dress like that?” “I thought she hated her?”) drove me a little crazy, a miracle happened (unbeknownst to me at the time): Like the thousands of women who have fallen for Mauricio, Kyle’s yummy, super attentive, incredibly adoring and perfect husband (seriously, a divine man in the husband department), my hubby apparently noticed Mauricio too. Of note: Mauricio is tall and dark haired, so is hubby; Mauricio is Jewish, so is hubby; Mauricio dresses well, so does hubby… there the similarities end. I thought. I only found out about Hubby’s new Mauricio reflections later, in the limo… but oh the miracle!
Yes, you read that right: the limo. Yesterday, the day before my birthday, my husband suddenly told me: “At 2:00 you need to be dressed, nice, but not formal, and don’t eat too much today.” I had no idea! Total surprise! And, I LOVE SURPRISES! I haven’t had a true surprise for my birthday since my friend Valery pulled one off in like, 6th or 7th grade. I always get wind of something, or figure it out, or nothing happens. So, I was giddy instantly. Just the idea had me flying high all day. At 2 PM, I was dressed in what I hoped would be an appropriate outfit (it was) and wondering what would happen next. Hubby was busy in the kitchen putting together the makings of my favorite cocktail (ruby red vodka, fresh grapefruit juice and tonic) and some crackers and cheese. Usually I throw on make up in the car, but he came in and said: “You might want to put your make up on now, for today.” Hmmm. Intrigue. I went downstairs and put myself together. (That doesn’t take long: I’m a pretty low maintenance maintenance girl… I don’t comb my hair– ever– I wear mascara and lipstick, both of which I generally apply without a mirror… But, I was giddy, so I used a mirror and tried to make it look extra nice.
And when I came back up the stairs, there it was: A BIG, seriously long, white limo pulled into our driveway and waiting for me! I was totally amazed, but I must say China was beside himself! He ran to get his camera and was snapping away, before I could even put my jacket on. Adorable. Hubby looked so proud of himself and was standing next to Dennis, our driver, waiting for little ole’ me to step into my carriage! Giddy. I was totally giddy. And as we drove to our next destination, he told me how he’d come to this divine birthday plan. It was Mauricio. “You know, I was really watching that guy Mauricio. They way he listens to his wife, and watches her… even when you know he totally disagrees or thinks she and her friends are being insane, he really listens and then makes her feel special. So, when you’re just lying on a sofa all day, you have some extra time to really think, and I thought this is what Mauricio would do, and I wanted to do something really special for you.” Awww. Go ahead, you know you want to say it. I did. “Well honey, you can get the whole series On Demand; I think you should go back and catch up on this season!” (That Mauricio has done some pretty fab things.)
By this time, I had an inkling of where we were headed and said, “I hope we’re making at least one more stop, to pick up friends?” He confirmed that we were en route to the home of good friends, and when we pulled up outside their house (even Dennis couldn’t get up their driveway), my friend and I squealed with glee, while her daughter waved us off and we all got in the big, crazy car. My friends husband made the first round of birthday cocktails and we all took in the gorgeous, crystal clear day, as we drove south through Skagit County and toward Woodinville, WA. We toasted the remarkable week we’ve all had (their daughter’s bat mitzvah, my mother’s passing), and drank to really great times: like these. And we toasted Hubby, who put this all together. The Olympics showed up sharp and clear. The swans were in the fields. Our driver Dennis (oh how fun, to say: “our driver”) was a great guy, and life was shiny and magical. My birthday was shiny and magical.
The final destination is one that never fails to win points: The Herbfarm in Woodinville, WA. As I’ve posted before (read Big City, Little Food. Chicago), I am a foodie. A junky of sorts, when it comes to great food and cool dining experiences. I rarely pass on a chance to try something new. I’m not one of those adventurers who longs to try live bugs or even cooked ones, snakes or other things I avoid anyway, but I most anything else. I love the whole experience of diverse restaurants, fine experiences, the magic of seeing common things like Douglas Fir needles transformed into frozen ambrosia, to cleanse your palate. And, I’ll state here again (for that record I keep), I am lucky to live a life that allows these experiences, these food adventures. There were lots and lots of years when we couldn’t do them and I am very grateful for each flight of whimsy I get now.
We celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary at the Herbfarm and have been there for one other of my birthdays. This place does it impeccably! When you arrive they greet everyone and give the history of the farm/inn and then always offer a guided tour of the amazing gardens and a visit to the pot belly pigs, in training for finding truffles, that always amuse visitors: Basil and Borage. We had taken our own private tour, so we all opted for sitting by the fire until seating began. At Herbfarm, they know who you are and remember if you have been before. For special occasions, they put cute little silver framed greetings at your plate setting and every person who deals with you over the course of an evening remember all these details as well: “How is your birthday going Ms. L?” “You two have a big anniversary coming up, don’t you?” We do… 25th in February. The extra bonus about this particular month is that it Truffle month, and love truffles. Not the chocolate ones, but the fungi that pigs like Basil and Borage find and dig up. Those earthy, wonderful ones that make most things taste better, in my oppinion.
There were nine courses… little tastings of each thing… and nine flights of wine to go with that. Ok, so these aren’t full glasses of wine, but despite frequent comments about cocktails and drinks, those who know me well, know that I actually don’t drink that often and don’t drink a lot. I’m a very cheap drunk… and oh so amusing, I think. I’ll chat with anyone, I will dance with you, I love to play… and I will call your mother, to tell her how wonderful you are. And that, is exactly what our bread server had me do. I called his mom, Sue, in Chicago (Actually, Libertyville, IL, to be precise). And while I might have been
extremely more than a little flushed and drunk happy by then, I will have all sorts of fun, and remember doing it. Don’t try and tell me things I didn’t really do, because I remember it all folks. Unless of course, it is beneficial to say I forget. Then I forget. But this was an exquisite night of great food, great friends and a husband who went far and beyond the usual to make it a very special night. Lots of sweet laughs, lots of love shared, given and received. To be with three other people who I feel very loved by and who I love, who I feel have my back at all times and who I can truly be myself with, at a time when I am still stumbling a bit, and regaining ground, after the loss of my mom a week ago… That was the sweetest gift of all. I fess up here: I was mushy, happy drunk.
So I think I may be coercing my husband into watching a little more trash in the months to come. I admit it Real Housewives is garbage. It really is. I can only say in my defense, that it’s not my norm, but rather, just a chink in my armor. It’s like my love of KFC (original recipe, dark meat only), a twist in my otherwise (kind of) healthy approach to things. They are toxic people, behaving ridiculously; and I know it. That’s part of what I enjoy… the pure silliness of it. However, the fact that my husband watched one episode, saw what a doting husband can really look like… without being a total wuss (Mauricio is a man’s man… and very much a lady’s man too…). Well, that redeems the show from so much of its toxicity. Why pay for therapy or buy more books, if you can have your honey watch a couple episodes, and pull off the kind of birthday magic my husband did? I might just have a bracelet made for Hubby: WWMD. People will think it’s a work thing. Bravo Hubby! Bravo Mauricio! (Hmm, Bravo is the station that airs RHoBH) As long as hubby doesn’t think I’m gonna start looking like any of those skinny, plastic chicks, then we’re good… in fact great. He can ride on those shiny points he earned yesterday for a while… until Mother’s Day.
Final note: Today, my real birthday, hubby called two times to discuss things and didn’t say a word. You know the words. Finally I said: “Uh, happy birthday?” Ooops.
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