A few weeks ago, I booked lunch and a kite surfing lesson in beautiful Bloubergstrand for my boyfriend’s birthday. Larry had asked to “go on an adventure” and while I am more than fully on board with that idea, I decided to pre-book some things as it was an important day. I mean there would be nothing worse than giving the man you love a crap birthday, right? So it made sense, to me at least, to plan a bit and let the rest play out organically. At this point I was feeling pretty good that I had covered the birthday basics.
A week or so before the big day I ordered an additional (silly) gift online which was only to arrive a week after his big day, but hey I was still feeling good.
Next, some friends of ours came to visit for the Easter weekend (such fun was had!!), and on the way to drop them off at the airport the distinct shuddering of the breaks on my beloved Trixie got my attention. Trixie is my little red mini. The best to me from me present ever! Just enough space for two furry companions in the back and two humans in the front. Easy to park, great sound, and lots of sass. A colleague once commented while laughing super hard, “J, your car’s name is Trixie? A proper stripper name. No wonder it’s a little red box! What are you trying to tell the world!”.
Anyway, I digress; back to the story at hand! Okay, so Trixie went for love and attention at the BMW here in Paarl on the Friday before the birthday. On the Saturday morning I jump into her (yes, Trixie is a girl) and head off to Stellenbosch to have my hair done and pick up a birthday cake and a few candles. Nothing better than watching a grown man blow out candles like a kindergarten kid, right?! There I was, bopping merrily along to Dire Straits, admiring the view, when a red light on the dashboard caught my attention. Unlike festive lights, red lights on a car’s dashboard rarely signal an upcoming joyous get-together with friends & family. They are more akin to the Grinch that stole Christmas, the Grinch that makes you watch while he sets the tree on fire. My attention was now riveted on the overheating warning sign. As I was about halfway to Stellenbosch there was no going back, I had to pull over. After a kilometer or two I found an unsuspecting guest house and parked at the side of their driveway under a well-positioned tree.
A few phone calls later, I had moved my hair appointment and organized a tow truck through a very polite CIB (my insurance) representative, BMW was expecting my car back at the workshop and Larry was going to meet me there via bicycle (we only have one car). The towing trip back to Paarl was uneventful aside from meeting an incredible lady (the wife of the tow truck driver) who told me a sad but beautiful story of the bright-eyed youngster in the back. Six months after their son was taken from them in a car accident, they had received a phone call from the local foster care agency asking them to take in two children needing a home. After consulting with her husband, they initially decided not to take them as they were still grieving for their son and were unsure they could give them the care they required. Long story short, they were called again a while later and informed that there was nowhere else for the kids to go. Please, please, could they take them? Eventually, they agreed, and now, four years later, the little ones have filled much of the hole left by their previous loss. Was nice to pop into their lives for an hour and be reminded of how incredible our universe is and how happiness and sadness ebb and flow within it.
What does any of this have to do with Larry’s birthday? Well, absolutely nothing until it dawned on me much later that day (sometimes I am not very bright!) that not only had I not managed to get a cake or candles, BUT I had no car to get him to Bloubergstrand the next day! I was devastated. Now what? There was no way I was canceling at the last minute. With Larry utterly oblivious to my turmoil, I wracked my brains, and in a flash of inspiration, I did what I would never usually do and texted some friends (and neighbours) to ask If I could borrow their car. They graciously agreed, and the day was saved. I felt like a cat that had grabbed the cream as we settled down to watch a movie, a smile once again on my face.
Halfway through said movie, the alert of a message being received lit up my mobile phone. The kite surfing company informed me that we needed to reschedule as there would be no wind the next day. No wind, seriously! Well, this is a proper screw-up, I thought. No cake, no candles, no point driving to Bloubergstrand for lunch, no kite surfing, and no gift…. During the remaining half of the movie I tried to solution my way out of the situation once more before begrudgingly accepting that the intended plans were just not going to work. Post the movie, I canceled the lunch appointment and forlornly confessed my plans and their demise to Larry. Larry, of course, was a real sweetheart. He assured me not to worry, and we agreed that although some plans were to be moved out, we would Uber to Franschhoek for lunch and at least celebrate his born day.
I need to mention at this point that I had a bit of a cold and a sore throat at the time…
Before leaving for Franschhoek, we were feeling celebratory and a little naughty, so we indulged in a few mushrooms of the unicorn kind (if you are thinking ‘Denny’, you have got the wrong brand… think really FUN-GI). We Uber-ed through to Franschhoek, and by the time we were making our way up the streets (on foot) to find a place to eat, we were feeling pretty good indeed! Jostling around and behaving like kids. Sadly the feeling was short-lived for me, my throat became inflamed, and the back of my tongue swelled until I started sounding like I had a sponge in my mouth. Maybe a reaction to our fun friends? I don’t know. But on top of this, we just couldn’t find a place that worked to celebrate a birthday. Too fancy, not fancy enough, no view, etc. I was enjoying the stroll but slowly becoming increasingly anxious that the only remaining piece of Larry’s birthday was again in jeopardy. I tried valiantly to stay positive but eventually expressed my concern. Larry again assured me not to worry and that he was having a great time (which he was). Close to tears, I explained that his response was precisely why I felt like I did. I wanted him to forever be able to say, “Don’t worry about it” and mean it. This meant he had to know someone was there to give him the best day. I never wanted him to know what it felt like to be forgotten and neglected on the days that matter.
While it was not the perfect day and, yes, the journey had been a total SABU*, it ended up being great. After some overpriced chocolate at Hugenot’s Fine Chocolates, we eventually settled on the French Connection Bistro (https://www.frenchconnection.co.za/ ) for lunch. It was an excellent venue surrounded by beauty and full of interesting people. The day ended quite appropriately with a badly sung rendition of ‘happy birthday’ to Larry by yours truly.
Thank you Larry for just being you. Regardless of how the day pans out next year, may it be filled with as much love, adventure, and sincerity.
Janine (J9) Nijs
*SABU = Self adjusting balls up