On turning sixty.
I’m not into birthday celebrations, preferring the intimacy of dinner with a few friends. The truth is: I don’t mingle well, and so large parties don’t suit me. This year my preference seemed rather unimportant. I was turning 60, friends and family were coming to Bali to be with me, and so a party was inevitable. As luck would have it my birthday fell on a Sunday, the night my restaurant, Bayu’s Kitchen, has live music. The planets were aligning for me to celebrate.
With my staff, I planned a vegetarian menu for guests, ordered more wine and beer and invited 30 friends. Invitations stated NO GIFTS. I have everything I need, so didn’t want presents to clutter my life, just the company of friends. As the 12th of April approached the guest list grew to more than 40.
The event pounced and family and friends arrived from 6pm. About half gave me cards, birthday greetings and warm wishes; just perfect. The other half ignored my request and presented me with gift-wrapped presents. Each one contained a surprise and proof that my friends do know me. I received gifts that I could savour and cherish.
Lynda, presented me with a hard covered book showcasing my life through photos. We’d never been particularly close, and I was humbled by her present. As I turned the pages, my tears flowed, not for memories encapsulated by each photos, but rather for Lynda’s thoughtfulness in producing the book. The sibling rivalry of old was extinguished as I stared at the front cover.
Other friend gave me books, some new and other pre-loved, knowing my passion for reading and fondling books that others have cherished. Carol gave me a much thumbed copy of Teacher Man by Frank McCourt. Her gift acknowledged both my 25 year career in education and my passion for memoir. Sherry presented me with a collection of essays by Charles D’Ambrosio. She knows how much I enjoy writing short stories. I removed the wrapping from half a dozen bottles of Shiraz, and a celebratory bottle of champagne. Friends knew my taste in wine and by the sheer number, my ability to imbibe too much at times. My sister, Janet and Mum collaborated and sent me a leather toiletry bag with my initials engraved on it. They know my propensity for giving away gifts that people admired and the personalising of their present ensured I would keep and use it.
Bayu, the love of my life, was the last guest to arrive, and he presented me with a foil wrapped framed something. “I hope you like it,” he said as my fingers peeled at the paper. Unwrapping completed, a black and white portrait of me cradling Rina stared at me. This gift captured everything; my love of Rina, of art and memories.
Choked with emotion I croaked my thank you as I hugged him and dried my eyes on his collar. “Come and have a look at all my present. My friends know me and my passions.”
Bayu picked up Linda’s book and thumbed the pages moving from the baby shots up to adulthood. I watched him as he took in every photo and even revisited some.
“What do you think?” I asked.
“You used to be handsome,” he replied, and we both laughed.
“Come, let’s join the party.”
We did, and I had a wonderful time. I can’t wait to turn seventy.