March 12, 1998
Instead of finishing out my senior year at the local high school, I had decided to enter into a program where I could finish my senior year of high school and freshman year of college at the same time down at the community college. During my second semester, I was taking Statistics 101, and my college professor had done the math and pointed out that the chances of someone in the class of 60 having a birthday on that day were actually pretty high. Myself, having a distinct lack of social grace and care about my reputation, decided to put the theory to the test and begin saying “Happy Birthday” to everyone I met. Friends, classmates, strangers and passerbys were all greeted with a “hey, happy birthday.” There were some that walked past avoiding eye contact, some that gave strange looks, and some that replied “ummm. It’s not my birthday.” My responses were varied and equally awkward. “Well, happy birthday when it comes” or happy un-brirthday then.”
Two weeks into my experiment of social isolation, I said happy birthday to a girl in one of my high school classes like usual. A surprised smile broke across her face as she said “thank you.” Her mood quickly changed into playful banter as she asked “How did you know? Who did you ask? Which friend told you?” I played coy and simply told her “I can’t tell you,” to which I received a swift and unexpected punch in the arm for. I hadn’t given much thought or attention to this girl previously, and I can only remember the the first few remarkable details about her. She was a strawberry blonde, she used a vintage Vietnam war rucksack as a backpack, and she was as smart as a whip – definitely the smartest person in our class, if not her whole high school. Several days passed with intermittent interactions about classwork, what college classes we were each taking, and why she had chosen that particular backpack. But I can remember the exact moment that our friendship started. Arriving back to school on a Monday, most of the girls were chattering about what they had done over the weekend. As I was sitting, minding my own business, this girl sitting two seats back and one seat to my left started asking me my about my weekend. As I started talking with her, two of the girls next to her interrupted the conversation by asking her a different question. Normally this would have been the end of the conversation for me, as most people were just talking to me to be social, and would then turn to their friends for real interaction. But in this particular incident, she completely ignored their questions, continued looking at me, and continued talking. It was at that moment I realized she wasn’t talking to me to be social, but because she wanted to actually talk… to me!
From then on, I checked in whenever I saw her and asked how she was doing or what she was up to. She would then respond back with a genuine interest in what I had to say as well. A few short weeks later, we went on an impromptu first date during a break in our class schedules. That date involved a cadaver, a group of high schoolers, and ice cream, but that’s a story for another time.
So happy birthday, honey! I am so glad to have known and been with you these past 19 years!
This post is part of a new series I will be starting on this site called Weekly Writings. While I greatly enjoy writing “a child in a foreign land,” sometimes you need to give your mind a break from a single topic. Weekly Writings will feature stories and thoughts about past events, parenting, and dreams for the future. I hope you enjoy! (Sorry if you already read this on Facebook, I am going to sync up stories starting next week).
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