My friend Sylvie I have known since I first arrived in France, celebrated her fifty birthday last weekend. I met her in Marseille at a park called Bagatelle, when Chelsea was a few months old, Sylvie's son, Pierre, was the same age. When I met Sylvie she did not speak English, but that didn't stop our children from becoming friends. Over time my French improved and our friendship grew. It never ceases to amaze me that people can connect without speaking the same language. A feeling that "we could be friends" was enough and rendered true.
Two years later, when I had cancer, Sylvie would watch my children when I had chemo. Just the thought of her great kindness, a friend I could hardly speak in French to, makes my eyes fill with tears. A heart of gold is not hard to miss.
She cries easily too.
Last weekend was Sylvie's surprise party. A few nights before her party she mentioned to her husband, "You know... how I didn't want to celebrate my 50th birthday? Well, I am having second thoughts. It would be nice to have something... have you planned anything?"
He said he hadn't. Though in reality he had planned a surprise party down to the dot on the "I" over two months in advance. As Sylvie hadn't a clue she was a bit disaapointed. Pierre-Jean offered, "But I did plan for you to ride horses with your friend in St. Victoire. As it will be hot, after the ride, you two will swim with the horses in the lake before coming home." Sylvie was reassured that her birthday would not go unnoticed. She has a wild streak like Yann seeking adventure doing the daring is in her blood.
Around seven in the evening her friends and family gathered at the house. Waiting for Sylvie to ride up with her friend... they would be soaked to the bone. Sylvie who is a well dressed woman is also very down to earth.
When she arrived we ran outside singing, "Happy Birthday", she was utterly caught off guard, SURPRISED, she instantly burst into the happiest tears. Of course we cried too. One tear is rarely met without another.
Between tears and laughter, soaked clothes, and kisses on both cheeks to her guests, she kept saying, "I cannot believe it! I cannot believe it!"
As the honey moon blazed overhead we danced the night away. I was reminded how fortunate I was to be celebrating with a dear friend, and at last to be speaking her language, yet as we danced to music of the 80s (Flashbacks to I-Beam and French Husband as the French friends gathered sharing their own stories of that period... we were one and the same.) I realized that it didn't matter: Words are easy, actions are deeper and one of the most treasured gifts is to be surround by the love of friends and family.
Dance we did.