When we left Omaha for New Jersey, we left several friendships behind. It was difficult. One in particular was our pal, Paul. A single fellow, a few years younger than us with a keen sense of humor and positive attitude toward pretty much everything--even our friendship, considering we were a little older and had what most people would perceive as a burden of four small children. But he befriended us and more importantly, for us, included us in several social events among his peers.
After we'd settled in New Jersey I developed a serious case of home-sickness, particularly missing getting together with friends which was our major social past-time in Omaha. Since my birthday was arriving, I was especially suffering. Mum and Dad made the trip from Canada for a long weekend visit and we enjoyed each other's company. I cooked, we ate, drank a lot of wine and visited. Dad recounted a slew of Norton Company anecdotes which held all our attention around the dinner table. The general atmosphere of the household at the time was a constant state of frenzied activity with the kids, Scout the dog, the cat, phone calls, meal preparations and clean up. It had been Mum and Dad's first visit to our family in several years, and they seemed a little overwhelmed with the exhaustive nature of a large family.
For my birthday night, we'd decided to rent a nice family movie, and enjoy a quiet relaxing evening, so Stephen suggested he would dash out for more wine. The neighborhood liquor store was just a few blocks away. We agreed on what he was to bring home, and we'd start the movie as soon as he was back. So we waited.
I became increasingly annoyed at his delay. What was taking so long? I surmised, that since I hadn't received a birthday present from him, he must have made a second stop to pick up something last minute, which heightened my annoyance. I called his cell phone.
No answer. Dad asked if this was Stephen's proverbial "Can't take it anymore and went out for a pack of cigarettes" and was never seen again. Real funny, Dad. Boy was I annoyed.
Another cell phone call. Stephen answered, but I could barely hear him as the background crowd noise was interfering. "WHERE ARE YOU? Are you at Target? WHAT IS TAKING SO LONG.?" I could hear that he was rushing, "Sorry, I just got caught up in a magazine, I'm on my way!" (Stephen has a notorious history of dashing out for a quick errand--say to pick up a quart of milk at the shopette--but stops at the magazine rack, and completely loses track of time while he gets caught up in a lengthy article.) Boy he was in BIG trouble--to do that tonight of all nights.
I re-joined Mum and Dad and we started the movie without him. Eventually Stephen returned to my cold stare and Mum and Dad's disapproval. Especially my mother who was growing tired: the movie was not very captivating, and the constant distractions were clearly irritating her. He had brought wine, though, and was beginning to pour us each a glass when the phone rang. I answered while Stephen came back and forth into the room with wine glasses. The kids took the opportunity to each get up and find a snack, which created a flurry of five people dashing about back and forth into the room. My mother heaved a heavy sigh. Dad quietly observed while his lips grew thinner and thinner with growing displeasure.
It was PAUL on the phone!! What a treat! He remembered my birthday and actually CALLED me to say as much! Oh, I do have friends....friends who miss me...I was elated! The movie, the wine, my folks, everything else would have to wait, I was on the phone, and it was MY birthday. Joy!
"Oh, hi, Jane, this is your friend, Paul, calling! I just wanted to wish you a Happy Birthday and...."
DING DONG! The door bell rings, which causes Scout to leap up barking and romp about, while Stephen calls out "I'm getting the wine, answer the door!" This kids all gather around and I holler at them to get it, "I'm on the phone with PAUL!", and glance over at Mum and Dad. My mother has thrown up her hands and is shaking her head---absolute chaos. The dog won't stop barking, the kids are crowding, as the door is opened.
In walks Paul continuing to talk on the cell phone that he'd borrowed from Stephen who'd picked him up at the airport 20 minutes earlier.
It was the best birthday ever.