Yesterday, I drove to Portland to meet my friend Kate and my daughter Shannon for one of our thrice annual outings to celebrate our birthdays. Although none of us can remember exactly how long we’ve been doing this—3 years? 4 years? Longer?—we’ve been doing it long enough so that we’ve established a routine. As we are all frugal souls, we don’t like to pay parking garage fees, and we have become expert at finding street parking. (If we eat on upper Congress Street, my favorite spot is on State Street, next to the big churches, where there are often empty spaces.) The birthday girl chooses the lunch spot, and afterwards, we go to Whole Foods, where the parking is free, and we can each get a cup of gelato for $2.50.
This time, Kate, the birthday girl, chose Hot Suppa for her birthday lunch. Shannon has been there several times and recommended it. She did not steer us wrong. Hot Suppa, with its brick walls and colorful artwork for sale, is small but cozy and not terribly loud. The perfect place for 3 women who want to celebrate a birthday. The food is hearty and good. As it turned out, we all ordered the same thing, roasted veggies with pesto on a roll served with a side of hand-cut French fries. Oh my, those fries were tasty—perfectly cooked and very hot. The sandwich, with its medley of vegetables, was also tasty. The portions were enormous, and Shannon and I could have easily split a meal. Last but not least, the service was snappy and efficient.
Although getting together is the main point of these gatherings, we also like to exchange gifts. Shannon gave Kate a blue necklace, which she is wearing in the photo of the three of us. Shannon also gave Kate a scarf. Often, for birthday presents, I give cards made with photos I have taken of flowers, my obsession. I figure that even if I forget which photos I have given to various people from year to year and there are some repeats, it doesn’t really matter. The cards are ephemeral and are made to be given away. However, this year I decided to go literary, and I gave Kate 2 books by the Maine writer Monica Wood—Ernie’s Ark and When We Were the Kennedys, both of which are set in Maine. Monica Wood is a real Maine treasure, as I like to say. Not only is Monica a very fine writer, but she also tells a darned good story, whether in fiction, as with Ernie’s Ark, or in nonfiction, as in When We Were the Kennedys.
Somehow, on these gatherings, the weather is always fine, which makes driving to Portland a pleasure. Over lunch and gelato, we talk about books and movies and family and work. How we’ve all come to look forward to our birthday gatherings. These small celebrations add pizzazz and spice to already good lives.