Bill’s birthday was last Friday. Unlike me, he doesn’t require a lot of fan fare, doesn’t need a big fuss made. I asked him if he wanted to go away for the weekend, forgetting we had tickets to the Yale vs Quinnipiac hockey game on Saturday night. He said ‘No,’ said he was fine with dinner; we went to an Italian restaurant in town that I had a gift card for (thanks B!). I hadn’t been there since the owner and name had changed, Bill had never been.
When I made the reservation earlier in the week I asked the man on the other end of the phone to note it was a birthday celebration.
We arrived for our 7:00 reservation, followed the maitre d along a short hallway, down two steps, into one of two main dining rooms. We were seated at a table for four nestled in one of the corners. A couple occupied the corner table to Bill’s right, two women the table to my left. Eight women circled the large table in the center of the room; I got the feeling it was a work party, maybe a belated holiday dinner. They were talkative but low-key, not nearly as loud as seven of my friends and I would be at dinner. The mirrors on the wall gave the impression the room was larger than it was. Bill, caught off guard by his reflection, thought he was looking at someone who looked like him.
We were set to order from the menu until the waiter told us the specials. We changed our minds, ordered the rice cakes with asparagus and fresh mozzarella, tomato and artichoke heart salad as our appetizers. I watched as bowls brimming with pasta, plates of fish, chicken and meat speared with rosemary sprigs were delivered to the tables around us. We were served garden salads next, followed by seafood Fra Diavolo over linguine for Bill and seared fish (can’t remember the name of it, it was a special) with lobster risotto for me. The food was delicious, as we ate we stuck our forks in each other’s dinners, sampling it all; once full, we asked to wrap our leftovers. Bill and I talk every day and usually get together during the week but we hadn’t seen each other since the weekend before.We talked about work, our plans for the weekend, which included snow shoeing and the hockey game, laughed and enjoyed each other’s company; I wished him 53 more years of health and happiness, with me, of course.
Bill knew I had cupcakes at the house for him but I encouraged him to order something from the dessert menu. He chose crème brûlée and coffee, I ordered a decaf cappuccino. Bill’s dessert came complete with lit candle and a singing waiter; we both sang “Happy Birthday,” he made his wish and blew out the candle. Bill assumed, when I went to the ladies room before coffee was served, I arranged his surprise; I had meant to when we got there but forgot. Apparently someone read the note on the reservation and took care of everything. We saved the cupcakes for the weekend.