Tuesday, January 26, 2016

It's My Party

Ever since I was a kid growing up in Minnesota, I have memories of snow blizzards ruining my birthday parties. I was born on January 21st--which is pretty much the apex of bone-chilling winter weather.

Last weekend following my birthday on Thursday, a major blizzard came barreling through the Northeast threatening to spoil yet another birthday celebration. I had a ticket to see the Broadway play, An American in Paris on Saturday night in New York City. As it became clearer by the hour that Manhattan was going into a paralyzing lock-down mode, I chose to ignore the warnings to stay home and jumped on to one of the last Metro North trains heading to New York City before all train service stopped at 4 pm.

Halfway through my train ride, a friend texted me that all Broadway plays just cancelled that night--so good luck with that. Undaunted, I called an old friend of mine who happened to be staying at his daughter's apartment in Manhattan while she was out of town. Without hesitation, he invited me to spend the night since I would not be able to leave the city until the next day.

As the train rumbled through Harlem I realized how paralyzing the blizzard had become. The roads were devoid of all traffic. People walked down the middle of these ghostly streets just to experience the novelty of this momentous weather event.

New Yorkers frolicking in the middle of 69th Street
I was hungry when I got to Grand Central station and expected to see the food emporium bustling with activity. Instead, there was one hot dog cart with a long line of people waiting to get something, anything to eat. In fact, the train station was eerily quiet.

I took the subway to my friend's place and as soon as I emerged into the streets I was engulfed in a swirling vortex of  white snow. I felt completely disoriented and had to ask a passerby to point me in the  right direction towards 69th and Third Avenue.

I had assumed at least some restaurants would be open so we could go out to eat, but absolutely everything was closed down. When I finally arrived at my friend's doorstep, cold and disheveled,  he opened the door and remarked: "Only you would do something crazy like this."

"Hey, I'm a Minnesota girl," I retorted. As it turned out, he had done the requisite mad dash to the grocery store hours before and announced he would be making us dinner. Once I got warmed up and settled, I stared out the window as people frolicked up and down 69th Street taking selfies on their phones.

We spent the evening watching old, classic movies with snacks and drinks sprawled across the coffee table. It was so cozy as we periodically checked the storm outside ebbing and flowing through the night.

We woke up the next morning to clear-blue skies and mounds of snow everywhere. Then we trudged through knee-deep drifts to a place that served us a delicious brunch. Apparently the city's mandate to stay inside gave many New Yorkers a serious case of cabin fever because they were out and about in droves.

I figured if I went to the theater box office I could negotiate to see the show matinee that Sunday. They obliged discounting my show ticket by 50 percent and giving me a better seat for the inconvenience. As so many great Broadway musicals do, An American in Paris swept me away with its timeless Gershwin tunes and flawless dance scenes. I walked out into Times Square, my senses overwhelmed by the multitude of flashing screens that surrounded me. I took a moment to take it all in and thank my favorite city for the memorable birthday gift it gave me over the past 24 hours.
Despite the blizzard, it was one of the best birthday celebrations I can remember in a long time. It broke my heart to board the train back to Connecticut and leave a city that I have always loved so much,

When I got back home and reflected on this magical weekend,  I realized that my perspective on celebrating birthdays changed. After battling cancer, I believe my birthday is an affirmation that I won a battle to live. For that reason alone, it is cause for celebration. So do something memorable on your birthday each and every year. You deserve that for having the will to survive. On your special day, make it a mission to party and play.

So long Manhattan. I'll miss you.