I really didn't know what the day had in store. Before Shabbat (the Sabbath) came in, she gave me my birthday present, an incredible JVC digital camcorder, which I can't wait to use (and which I spent the Sabbath day reading about in the instruction manual).
We were invited to a very special evening at the local synagogue, where the youth movement my daughters attend on Shabbat, Bnei Akiva, were holding a Friday night dinner. All went well until I popped out and came back to be greeted by the host asking if anyone was celebrating their birthday on the next day and when inevitably, my name came up, 150 people sang me Happy Birthday. I refused to tell them how old I was (despite everyone there knowing).
The spectacle was repeated on a smaller scale in the little kids service that I helped to run this morning. I still didn't let on to my age, singing ("you already know") to the familiar refrain.
All well and good. Dana had a special surprise when I came home. I found the kitchen table covered in minuscule "40" shaped confetti and I was told that this was the only surprise of the day, since she'd booked us into a restaurant for the dinner. It was to be just the two of us.
No surprise party then.
The babysitter came at about 7.00 and we got dressed up - I even wore my old university tie. We made our way to the restaurant and parked outside a friend's house. I couldn't quite understand why the neighbours who lived directly opposite us were going into the house too.
Anyway, we went in and our friends greeted us in the hallway. I was told that we had stopped over as they had a small gift to give me. As you can appreciate, I won't ever say to 'no' to a present, so it wasn't too hard to convince me to go in there in the first place.
They opened the door to the kitchen and there, in the adjoining dining room was a sea of faces, somewhat reminiscent of the Sgt Pepper album cover. Their vocal "surprise" boomed out and I was truly gobsmacked. There, in the room lay the patchwork of my 40 years of life on this earth, my parents, friends, cousins, past and present - you name it. At least 40 people (hence the title of this entry).
It turns out that Dana had been planning this evening since April and even Dassi knew about it. I honestly didn't twig what was going on. Everyone had brought some food and the spread was breathtaking. It was such a wonderful and memorable evening. I moved around, trying to chat with everyone and ended up by the piano playing songs (Beatles' of course) with my old friend M, who was one of the Best Men at our wedding.
It makes you feel very humbled when so many people take the time to come to your party and share in your celebration. I don't know how I could ever repay them or express how moved I was to see them there, but I think they must have realised by my reaction.
If that wasn't enough, the presents I got were truly splendorous and ranged from generous HMV tokens to a series of original cells from the Yellow Submarine film - the like of which I've seen but never had the privilege to own.
Saying that, if I hadn't received a single gift, it wouldn't have mattered. The image I have of all these faces lined up next to each other in a single room is one that I never want to forget. It was a truly magical moment.
If you were there and you're reading this, thank you so much for being part of my celebrations and making me feel that much better about hitting the big 4 0
If you weren't, I hope this description has managed to convey how unforgettable this evening has been to me. To have your friends and family there like that smiling and enjoying a special moment in your life is like the BarclayCard advertisement states, priceless.
Dana deserves all the praise for giving me the nicest birthday present I've ever received - this evening. Thank you so so so much. xxx