Whoa. Last Saturday was amazing. Thank you. Grazie. Arigato. Merci. Danke. Obrigado. Gracias. Yes, it’s been a week and no, I’m still not done processing the many wonderful moments I was able to experience that day. I was, and continue to be, overwhelmed by the love and support of my dear family and treasured friends. I am lucky and blessed to have you in my life.
To my lovely wife: You got me. You got me GOOD. I’m mad at you, though. See, before last Saturday, I had a trump card. If we ever had a disagreement, I could say something like, “But honey, remember the video I made for you?” I had the upper hand! But not anymore. Oh, no. You just had to love me way too much, didn’t you? Dang you for loving me so! I got no upper hand now! D’oh! (You are the greatest. I love you so much!)
The following is an account of last Saturday as I remember it:
I woke up that day like any other. I was expecting to visit my parents later because I heard my sister and her family would be in town to visit them also. This was the weekend after my birthday, so I figured it would be a nice treat to see some family. My wife was not feeling well and asked if we could go later that afternoon so she could rest. I was fine with that, and at around 2pm, we left our apartment and headed to my parents’ place.
We were soon in their neighborhood, and as we turned the corner onto their street, I noticed a bunch of cars parked around the block. “What the… I wonder what’s going on?” I said. I figured my folks must have had some friends over and maybe the neighbors were having a party at the same time. We were all surprised at the suddenly busy street (normally, there’s plenty of parking spaces available). We found a spot and pretty soon we got to the front door. My wife wanted me to ring the bell, but I had our daughter do it. My mom answered the door with a, “Hi mijo!” and I remember my wife asking me to go ahead, but I waved her and our kid in first. I didn’t want to be rude. Then I came through the door and was completely stunned.
Horns were blowing all around me. The entrance of their house was packed with people. They were shouting “SURPRISE!” and then the Happy Birthday song. At one moment I glanced up and it looked like people were hanging from the ceiling. I couldn’t believe it. For me? It was a sense overload. I felt like everything was cranked up to ten: noise level, visual information, and emotion.
It was sometime during the crowd’s singing that the specialness of the day really began to sink in. My eyes scanned the room. Their was family, supportive as ever. Their were childhood friends, smiling their genuine smiles at me. Their were former coworkers and advocates, their own eyes welling up with the energy of the room. It was a who’s-who of Chris supporters. It took nearly everything I had to not start bawling right on the spot, but I made it. It was surreal. I felt humbled, and deeply, truly grateful.
My friends, you know I don’t lie about feeling down and out sometimes. It’s true, life ain’t always easy. And that is exactly why the surprise felt so good. It was medicine. You were my healers. I was a dry sponge who walked under a waterfall. I was floating on happiness. I felt real love, as if it was crackling in the room. The energy was electric. I felt a high (no, not that kind), and it only increased throughout the day.
After warm hugs, hellos, and thank yous, I was asked to go check out the backyard. On my way, I noticed the decorations. The house was decked out with colorful streamers and balloons. The theme of the party was Superman (or, “Super Chris”). One of my sisters even made a poster of me as the Man of Steel:
Once I saw the backyard, I was awed again. More decorations, people, and… what was this? A taco guy making 4 kinds of tacos, with all the trimmings? Awesome! They had gone all out for me. But that wasn’t all.
Soon, I heard my name called and turned. My sister said there was another surprise for me. At that moment, a mariachi trio strolled outside and began singing Las Mañanitas (Mexican birthday song). I couldn’t believe it! I have always loved the sound of a trio. It’s one of those likes that my wife definitely knows about. I remember I wanted a trio to perform at our wedding, but we didn’t have the budget. Now there was a trio in front of me, performing for me. More wonderful medicine. Thank you, honey, for giving me the gift of my own private concert.
While the trio was singing I thought, “Where’s [my daughter]?” I wanted to put her on the spot and ask her to dance to the mariachi music. Really, I expected her to be shy and say no. But she wasn’t around. I figured she was playing with her cousins inside the house. Well… I was wrong!
After the mariachi had played a few songs, I saw her step into the backyard. She looked beautiful. She was wearing a white Jalisco dress with blue trim. She was accompanied by 3 of her dance class friends. They were going to perform! It was like my mind was being read. All the things I love were unfolding live before me. When the first dance started, I could not help myself. Just moments before, I had to struggle to not cry at the big surprise entrance, but this dance tipped me over the edge. My vision blurred and my eyes watered. This was a dream. I felt magic.
I was on cloud nine after the kids’ performance. I then had a chance to catch up a bit with the many guests. I cannot express just how thankful I was for everyone’s presence. I later told my wife that the day was full of magical moments, and that includes the conversations and brief exchanges I had with everyone. I felt supported like never before. It was strengthening.
I couldn’t get over how personalized the party was. It felt like they had a map to my happiness and followed it to a tee. When the mariachi were not playing, my brother (the DJ) was pumping Young The Giant and Kings of Leon through the stereo system. They had thought of everything. The photos and videos I’m showing here aren’t my own, either. They are also thanks to friends and family. No one missed a step! Amazing.
Trio? Check. Daughter dancing? Check. Good tunes? Check. Tasty food? Check. Amazingly wonderful people? Check. Even the birthday cake was chocolate. Yep, my favorite. I couldn’t have asked for more. But there was.
Before I blew out the candles, my sister explained how instead of gifts, she had asked guests to place a donation in a special box. The money, she said, was to be used towards the purchase of a new tablet. This was another “dream” gadget I had no intention of buying soon. I figured I’d be sporting a tablet in… oh, five years or so. Not so anymore. I’m actually writing this post on my new tablet. It’s everything I wanted. Unlimited reading and entertainment options. And best of all? My boring doctor appointments now have a new contender to mess with. Boredom? Meet the tablet, and kindly get the hell outta here! Woohoo!!! It’s beautiful. Thank you, thank you, thank you, lovely people!
After the cake was piñata time. There were 2 piñatas: one for the kids, and one just for me. I gotta say, it felt good to crack it open. Nice energy release.
We eventually went inside the house again and I sat on the couch while a slide show played. It was full of old photos of myself and family. A sweet blast to the past. Truly, this was my day. The love never ended. I even found out that people had been writing letters to me in a personalized notebook. It was a “dedication journal” and full of thoughts, prayers, and well wishes for me. I actually haven’t read it yet. My mom still had to write in it, so she kept it. I know it will be a treat to read through people’s messages. Yet another example of the day’s never ending stream of goodwill and gifts.
That night I was exhausted, but in the best way possible. Even my cheeks hurt from all the smiling.
I am blessed to be here and to be surrounded by such genuinely good people. You made my day. Heck, you made my life with that party. Thank you.
If life is a battlefield, then you, my friends, are my ammunition. Sometimes I feel like I’m out of ammo, left to fight with my bare hands. Not anymore. I am drowning in bullets. Bless you all.
Thank you so much. You knocked my socks off.