Sunday, June 28, 2009

On Surprises

I have this incredible group of friends. There are five of us in the core group: Jules, Christina, Jen, Chele, and me. We sometimes refer to ourselves as "THOSE girls," which is a joke with a complicated backstory that I won't try to explain. But as "THOSE girls," we travel together (often to skating events, but not always), we celebrate birthdays, and we laugh...a lot.

The tradition of surprises began between Jules and Christina, before either of them knew Jen or Chele or me. I think my first surprise was in summer 2005. Jen, Christina, Jules, and I had planned to spend a weekend together in Michigan, where Jules lives, but at the last minute, Chele decided to join us. We surprised Jules with her in the middle of the Gap in Ann Arbor. And so annual birthday weekend began.

Surprising people is so addicting. Over the past few years, Jules and I have surprised Jen and Christina a few times in Toronto, and once, Jen and Christina surprised both of us while I was also living in Michigan. It had been a while since our last surprise, though, and I don't know why I didn't expect something when we weren't busily trying to make plans for a birthday weekend in June.

Jules and I have the same birthday, and since 2003, the first year that we knew each other, we've always managed to celebrate it together within two weeks of June 9. So this year, since she couldn't come for our actual birthday weekend, we settled on June 19-22. I requested time off of work, and since I also just moved into a new condo, I planned a casual wine & cheese party to housewarm the new place, have Jules meet some of my friends here, and celebrate our birthdays.

On that Friday, she was set to arrive at about 9. I was at a concert in Millenium Park with Jamie and Adam, but when it started to rain, we headed back to my place to hang out for a while. And when Jules was about an hour late, I texted her and told her that we were grabbing a bite to eat in the bar at the end of the street, and for her to call when she got here. So Adam, Jamie, and I grabbed some dinner, and we waited. And waited. Two hours late, and I still didn't suspect anything, although I was worried that she'd gotten in an accident or something, so I called to make sure she was okay. She said she was almost there, so we paid our bills and started walking back to my condo.

Jules was turning the corner right in front of the bar and I saw that she was heading for a parking space, so I ran after her car, just because I was excited to see her...not because I'd noticed that there were three other people in the car. And when I got to the car, I've been informed that the look on my face was "priceless." The girls spilled out of the car and into a group hug, and I've never felt quite as speechless as I did in that moment. After about 30 seconds, it started to sink in, and I sat down on the sidewalk and cried.

I've been going through a rough time in the past few months. My job situation isn't what it needs to be, and I've been frustrated and angry and hopeless, at times. I don't let it consume me, and there are just as many laughs as there are days of frustration, but in June, I was really starting to need a pick-me-up.

And of course, the girls came through. They'd planned for a month before they showed up, and I had never guessed they were up to anything. I don't think anything cheers me up like a good surprise, and no memories lasts longer than the ones I make with good friends.

THOSE girls on the Kinzie Street Bridge

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