Several weeks ago Michael began researching hot tubs. “Just because we rent doesn’t mean we can’t have the things we want,” he told me. Even if such purchases require us to reinforce and extend the deck.
So a few days ago when I walked out onto the front porch and saw an outdoor heating lamp, I just rolled my eyes and went back inside. Michael had mentioned this potential addition to our life a few days earlier. Little did I know it was bought for a particular occasion: a large party Michael was having. Completely unbeknownst to me. In honor of my upcoming fortieth birthday.
Nothing seemed out of the ordinary: My parents calling to say they wanted to come down to visit, Michael making plans for dinner and a show while they’re here, Michael hatching a plan for a male bonding adventure with my dad–helping reinforce the aforementioned deck–while Mom and I take off shopping.
So when Mom and I turned onto Shelburne Drive, I didn’t think anything amiss. I could’ve sworn a sign we passed said my name and the word “Compostela”, but that didn’t make sense. And all those balloons and cars? Well, the neighbors stopped by weeks ago inviting us to their fall party. And when I turned into the driveway and saw a fire pit that wasn’t there when we left? Well, by now I’m used to new purchases showing up around the house without my knowledge.
But then I saw Michael on the front stairs, and I read the large sign hanging from our deck–a sign that announced to anyone walking by exactly how old I will be in two weeks time. And just to be clear you knew who they were talking about, my picture was on it.
But behind that sign is what brought tears to my eyes: a crowd of people larger than I would have ever expected to see at our house–because Michael always says it’s too small to host a large party. Turns out he was wrong.
There were people there from every part of my Asheville life:
- David and Deanne, the wonderful couple in whose house I lived for seven months when I moved here.
- Their son Fletcher who had no problem sharing his parents with me.
- Mark and Linda, Lauren and John, Barbara, Chris S and Chris Y, with whom I’ve spent countless Tuesday mornings recalling Camino memories.
- Barry and Margaret, Michael’s best friends who, four years ago, convinced Michael to move to Asheville.
- Rick and Pamela, a couple Michael and I met while hanging out at the Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar a couple years ago (because talking to strangers is a perfectly normal way to meet people here).
- And then all my friends from the Asheville Hiking Group (and the friends they’ve since brought into their lives, and now into mine): Brooke, Julie, Sarah, Ashely, Ruth, Jewel, Anna, Jeff, Kim, Doug, Tracey. And Mike The Hiker. Who received that nickname when I lived with David and Deanne so they could distinguish him from “Dr. Mike”– and (eventually) Michael–when I sat around at their dinner table telling stories of my Asheville adventures.
On my 36th birthday, many of these same hiking groups friends sat around the table as Mike The Hiker told us about the woman he’d just met. Three years later, she became his wife. And thank God for that. Because I understand Michael decided, just a couple weeks ago, that he needed some reinforcements for party preparations. And he called Mike and Ashley. Mike, who had his ACL replaced a couple weeks ago, and Ashley, whose first experience with our hiking group friends was an 8 mile hike that turned into 14. They didn’t hesitate.
“In your brace?” I said when I saw Mike on my deck. “You came and helped when you just had surgery?!”
“Oh, this was so entertaining!” he told me. “Watching Michael and your father trying to put that fire pit together, and then when the sign fell off the deck, and then . . .” My mother wished she had hired a videographer to catch all mayhem that she knew would ensue because Michael chose to have my dad stay back and help instead of her.
“We needed you out of the house for five hours,” Michael told me. “And you can’t survive alone with your dad for that long.”
“Oh, you should have seen Michael this morning,” my mother said. “He didn’t want you too hungry or tired because then you’d be crabby. But he didn’t want you too full because we were having all this food. And he didn’t want us to go shopping too early because then we’d get back too early.”
Well, he pulled it off. I arrived neither hungry, nor full, nor crabby, and spent the rest of the evening marveling at the event Michael (and Mike, Ashley, my parents, and friends) had all managed to put together.
Postscript: The heating lamp still stands on our front deck. Reinforcing the back deck? A hoax. The hot tub? Not a hoax. It will arrive in two weeks.