Bob's 50th Birthday Surprise

Bob’s Best Birthday Ever

So what’s to celebrate… really? Another year older and now I’m fifty. A milestone I suppose, but hardly a reason to go crazy silly and whoop it up! It would be easy to find reasons not to celebrate: my kids are all but adults and have little need for me other than my wallet, my lovely wife’s career has taken off and now she has become the primary wage earner, my own career has lost its luster and become little more than a job. Then there’s the reading glasses, the AARP card, the recommended colonoscopy - I’m clearly no longer a young man!

And so that special day came and went. Because of a trip to New Orleans the traditional immediate family celebration would be postponed till Easter weekend when we would gather at a small bluegrass festival not far from our house. Sure, should be fun, it’ll be nice to camp with the kids again. This also sounded like a lot of work but it was Diane’s vision and I was all for it, whatever.

I guess there were a few signs that something was up but they were easy to discount. The odd birthday card from an aunt I don’t usually hear from, an email message that I wasn’t suppose to get. But really I had no idea of the weekend that was in store for me! When we drove into the festival and located our camp site, who was already there but my Mom and Dad from Florida and My brother Chris from New Hampshire! What the..! Surprise! What are you doing here? Who else is coming? (of course they lied and said no one, just them)

And on it went throughout the day as all of my siblings and their families arrived from New York, Maine and Florida. Even my old high school pal Jane and her family came all the way from New York and niece Robin from Colorado. Each arrival was met with the same incredulity. This was going to be a party to remember and all for me! All the while Diane and daughter Terra (the chief schemers and event planners) sat back smiling while soaking up all of my chagrin. The next day even more friends arrived, some of whom I haven’t seen in way too long. At lunchtime the tables were heaped with the vinegar based, shredded pork BBQ unique to this part of North Carolina, complete with all the fixin’s including cole slaw, hush puppies and my favorite iced tea that’s so sweet it that we have come to call it “hummingbird water”. Good BBQ is a much debated topic in these parts, and this stuff was good! Thanks to Terra’s native North Carolinian boyfriend Stephen for procuring this feast (after much research and discussion I’m told).

We all sat and visited, ate, drank and listened to some pretty good live bluegrass music in the middle of a green hay field under a breezy Carolina blue sky. The kids played wiffle ball, colored Easter eggs and made fun of my fellow southerners. It seems that they thought men wearing overalls without shirts and flying rebel flags unusual. I had to tell them little Yankees that here at a bluegrass festival in rural Saxapahaw, NC, they were the odd ones!

At one point during the day I had to stop and look around at all these people around me - at all these lives connected to mine. And if turning fifty brought all of us together then it had to be a perfect reason to celebrate! There’s nothing like a gathering of generations of family and friends to make you realize how lucky you really are and how much you have to look forward to!

The weekend wrapped up with most of my family joining us for Easter dinner back in Raleigh. After Easter mass the girls whirled around the kitchen in a noisy wine fueled blur that finally produced a most tasty ham feast for twenty-three hungry souls. It took every available chair we had to sit down for dinner, and we had people sleeping everywhere (including campers in the street and driveway) but it was a wonderful Easter celebration and the perfect end to an unforgettable weekend.

Thanks to everyone for the thoughtful cards and gifts, and thanks to all those who spent way too much time driving to come celebrate my birthday. This fifty year adventure would not be the same without you! And a special thanks to two amazing women, Diane and Terra Lea, for making this weekend happen. It was the best birthday ever!

Here's a photo of most of us!