Last Saturday (July 12), my long-anticipated fortieth birthday party took place at my sister, Bibbi, and brother-in-law, Rick's home. I had a small family get-together on my actual birthday last Wednesday, July 9, but this was the big celebration. The theme of this year's party was Spanish flamenco. I thought it would add a festive air to this milestone celebration. The tables were decorated with black bolero hats, Spanish flags, and castanets. A bar was set up to serve sangria, and other drinks. There was a table with Spanish food, such as gazpacho. In the background, flamenco music played from a cd as guests arrived and mingled. The weather was perfect, with a nice breeze keeping it pleasant. It was so nice to see so many friends and family members in attendance. Celebrating my birthday with family and friends is the best gift that I could have. There must have been close to eighty people there; all talking, laughing, and having a great time. The children were all running around the yard and enjoying themselves as well. There was a positive vibe in the air.
Among the many guests were two of my teachers. One was my teacher from third and sixth grades at Rancho Santa Fe School, Mrs. Jaffari, and my biology teacher from Torrey Pines High School, Mrs. Yayanos (after all these years, I still find it hard to call my teachers by their first names). I was surprised to see family friends Bob and Charlene,who drove down from Sacramento. They owned the condo next to us in San Carlos, Mexico where we used to go every February from 1980 to 1987. They were always such fun-loving people. Three of my best friends were there: Alex, who I have known since third grade, came down from Los Angeles; Marisa, who I met eighteen years ago, while we were students at The University of San Diego, drove down from Long Beach; and Peter, who I have known since seventh grade, came down from Palo Alto. Also, a few of my friends from my adult Muscular Dystrophy support group were there: Phyllis and her daughter Kimberly; and Dean. Also the patient services coordinator of The Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), Danielle was there.
After everybody had a chance to mingle and were in a festive mood, they gathered around the dance floor for the flamenco show. The troupe of performers consisted of a guitarist, a female singer, and two dancers: a man and a woman. They put on an authentic flamenco show with traditional songs and dance that was full of passion, energy, and emotion.The performers were not just going through the motions; they gave it their all and truly enjoyed what they were doing. It showed on their faces. The rapid, and powerful strumming of the acoustic guitar was accented by the strong, passion-filled voice of the singer. The dancers showed the same amount of passion in their dancing. Their performance was full of the emotional sweeping of the arms, the rhythmic stomping of feet, clicking castanets, and fine hand and foot movements. Towards the end of the show the dancers brought audience members on the dance floor to dance with them. The first picked was my friend Marisa, then my sister, my father, then my friend Lance's girlfriend, Marisol. They all had a good time on the floor and everyone enjoyed watching as well. To end the show, the performers all sang Happy Birthday to me in Spanish (Feliz Cumpleanos).
After the show, my niece, Dallas got on stage and sang a song for me. That was very touching. I was also presented with a replica of a brick that will be placed at the entrance at Disneyland with my name and birthdate on it. I'd better make sure nobody walks, spits, or drops chewing gum on it. Some of the children started an impromptu hula hoop contest. A pinata in the form of a bull (not really a Spanish tradition, but a fun thing for the kids) was hung from the tree branch for the children to attack. They made quick work of it with their bats by decapitating it and spilling the candy. After a Spanish feast, people were invited to talk about me. My sister told the story of the time I was in Amsterdam with her and my brother, Bill and I was exposed to second hand smoke (not from cigarettes). My memory is kind of hazy about that night. My dad reminded me that I was almost half his age. Listening to these speeches and visiting with the guests made me realize what a supportive group of friends and family I have. I finally got my courage up, and gave my speech. After my speech, everyone gathered around me and sang Happy Birthday and after that released monarch butterflies around me. It was a beautiful sight with all the bright orange butterflies fluttering in the air. A couple of them landed on me. That was a beautiful end to a wonderful party. It was my best birthday party by far.