One of the joys of having a large Irish-Catholic family is that I have lots of cousins. This is great because cousins are “people who have to be my friend,” simply because our moms are sisters.
(In case any of my cousins are reading this: OK, maybe you don’t have to be my friend, but it’s likelier, given that we’ve been attending the same weddings for 30 years. And that’s neat for me, since many of you are cool.)
I was reminded of this over the weekend, because there was a surprise party for my uncle Don in Inwood. That’s the northern-most tip of Manhattan, and where my mom’s side of the family grew up. In fact, it’s so far uptown that maybe you didn’t realize Manhattan goes up that high: 218th Street. (WTF?!)
It looks like this:
Apparently, Don was told that he was going to a trendy new restaurant in the 130s called Savory. My aunt made up that name on the fly.
That makes me laugh, because of course there could be a trendy new restaurant called “Savory.” The only thing that would have been more perfect for this fake eatery would have been to throw a random number after it, like “Savory 23.” That “throwing a two-digit number after the name of a restaurant” seems to be a New York trend that hasn’t caught on nationally.
Then the cab drove them all the way up the island, to this boathouse:
And then we surprised him. People from other states, coasts, times-in-his-life.
I get so relieved when that moment of yelling “Surprise” is over.
Once, I ruined a surprise party. I was seven years old, playing at my friend’s house, and her mom was planning a surprise party for her dad later that day.
"Are you excited for your party?" I blurted.
He looked confused. He didn’t know, exactly, what I was talking about, but he knew then something was up.
My friend’s mom looked like she wanted to kill me. (Understandably.)
To this day, I’m haunted by the memory of her face.
I have no idea why I did that.
What I do know is that these days, I never mention birthday parties to people, ever. Unless you personally invited me to your party, I’m going to assume it’s a surprise and act weird around you until the big day. And maybe forget to call you.
I didn’t call Don because I knew I’d see him the next day. Also, I was afraid I’d say “So excited to see you tomorrow” and ruin my aunt’s hard work.
Before the party, I walked around Inwood and tried to imagine what life was like for my mom and her seven brothers and sisters growing up.
Well, to be clear, I walked around the block, because I was too hot to move much.
And then, it was back to the boathouse.
This is the view from the window.
I can’t believe it’s New York City!
Hope you had a nice weekend.