My sister Joon celebrated her birthday last week, and we all went out to a local restaurant where we ate good food, enjoyed good company, and witnessed a horrific incident that will join similar events in our family history, including (but not limited to) That Time I Fell Off the Stage, That Time My Mom Had "an Accident," and That Time My Dad Had to Wear a Sombrero.
That last one is one of our favorite stories. See, my dad was turning 50, and the whole family--eight of us--met at his favorite Mexican restaurant to celebrate.
Here's the thing about us Flowers: with the exception of one or two people (who've married in), we don't like drawing attention to ourselves. It's why we haven't gone to Joe's Crab Shack for ten years, because we all ordered hamburgers, and the waiter told the rest of the customers to moo at us. When I turned 27, I went to Logan's Roadhouse with a friend, and she made the waiter dance for me; I wish I were joking.
Well, at this restaurant, someone told the waiter that it was my dad's birthday--in spite of his very specific instructions not to. And so, at the end of the meal, the entire staff crowded around our table and serenaded him as they stuffed a huge sombrero on his head and banged some tambourines.
Everyone NOT related to us thought it was hilarious, while my dad almost had a heart attack and my sister Joon and I pretended we were invisible.
So everybody knows that alerting ANY restaurant staff to ANYONE'S birthday is strictly forbidden. But, apparently, this year an anonymous person decided the statute of limitations had run out, and Joon's birthday would be a great time for the Rebirth of the Birthday Humiliation-o-rama.(tm)
I'd like to state for the record that I had nothing to do with this. I had no knowledge of forthcoming events; I was just there to eat my vegetarian fajitas and see my niece. Well. And to say Happy Birthday to Joon, too, I GUESS.
So I was completely shocked when the entire staff gathered around Joon and began singing a birthday song in Spanish (it was a different Mexican restaurant). When they plopped the giant sombrero on her head, I laughed in that way you laugh when you're really, really glad that's not you, but inside I was writhing in empathy.
The song began to draw to a close. Joon's face matched the colorful decor of the restaurant. I was gathering my things so I could make a quick getaway. And then ...
ONE OF THE WAITERS REACHED UP AND SMASHED A LOAD OF WHIPPED CREAM IN JOON'S FACE.
Actually, I don't exactly remember that happening; I think I blacked out for a minute. But when I came to, Joon's eyes were turning red under a layer of whipped cream.
The singing ended and Joon wiped off her face. The rest of us didn't dare say a word. Even the waiters looked a little uncomfortable. Joon raised her finger in the air and yelled, "No tip for you!" and that broke the tension a little. But we knew it was just the opening volley and that the heavy artillery was coming.
We didn't really know what to do, so we kind of beat feet to get out of there. "It wasn't me," I whispered to Joon as we sped toward the door. (It's best to start the denials ASAP, I think.)
We all went over to my parents' house for cake presents and awkward silences. Joon wasn't about to let go of her Mad, and I didn't blame her one bit. Of course, there were a dozen retellings of the whole thing ("I didn't know anything about it," I offered), and with each new story Joon's eyes got smaller, until she was squinting at us from tiny slits. It was pretty much the unhappiest Happy Birthday ever.
After a while, Joon began to calm down, and the rest of us uncoiled from our tiny, tense balls. The cake helped.
By the time we left, Joon had ... well, not begun to laugh, exactly, but at least she didn't look like she wanted to kill anybody anymore. I mean, I felt like I could walk outside without worrying that she was going to run me down like a dog in the street.
She probably won't appreciate my telling this story, but then, she should get used to it: she's going to be hearing it every October for the rest of her life; she'll be 99 years old and somebody will say, "Where's the sombrero?" I'm not saying that somebody will definitely be me, but there's a pretty good possibility.
But I'll tell you this. Starting with my 28th birthday, I've always insisted that we celebrate at home. I haven't had my birthday party in public for five years, and now I never EVER will again.