Thirty, Aw Yeah

My thirtieth was the best birthday I’ve ever had.

I am still gushing about how great everything was. My awesome friends and all the octopus paraphernalia they gave me and the food they made and the way the house looked and the people who sang and the people who didn’t sing but cheered and clapped and the flowers everyone brought me and the running around and the sitting around talking and the eating delicious snacks and all of it, all of it, made it such a fun weekend. I hardly know what to do with myself today, now that everyone has gone home and the house is mostly back together and the gigantic cake is mostly eaten. I am very happily tired.

Okay, so, let’s start from the beginning. Settle in because we’re going to start with Thursday.

I was already in a pretty good mood and really looking forward to the weekend and was excited that Abi and her boyfriend Rogers were coming in early. John picked them up at the airport and met me, Treasa, Ian, and Katie at the Hi Life in Ballard, whose wood-fire-pizzas have compelled me to go there and drop tall dollars three times in the last month. We were all coming from different places and I thought there was no way we would be able to get everything together. Miraculously, everyone showed up within ten minutes of each other and we devoured three pizzas a plate of bread with some sort of green dip and still had room for ice cream across the street. I stopped in at Cupcake Royale to let them know that I wasn’t going to actually spend $70 for 40 cupcakes (not including cupcake tree rental) but that I thought they were a lovely company anyway and that as soon as I win the lottery I would be using them for all my parties. They were very understanding. We hopped in the cars and headed to see some improv and separated for the night, me to my house, Ian and Katie to theirs so they could get ready to go on their belated honeymoon, and Abi and Rogers to John and Treasa’s. Did I tell you that I pretty much called John and Treasa and was like, “Yeah, a bunch of our friends are coming up for my birthday and they’re just going to stay at your house, all right?” And they were like, “Sure, no problem. We’ll host everyone and pick everyone up from the airport and let them eat our food and essentially make your birthday an event and THEN we will have the gall to be excellently fun and awesome to be around the whole weekend and THEN we’ll give you presents.” I am so in love with John and Treasa.

Friday I went to work and did pretty much nothing but talk about my friends and the cake and octopuses (as usual) and then it was time to come home and get ready to hang out and wait for Rob and Anna to get in. We all had Thai food at John and Treasa’s and I got tapped for airport duty because Abi and Rogers didn’t have a car and John was playing some sort of video game and Treasa hadn’t finished her soup yet. I sped down the 5 and MIRACULOUSLY found Rob and Anna right away, right at the curb like they said they’d be. Usually we spend about an hour at the Seattle airport unable to find each other, while I fret and call their house in Sunnyvale and wonder why we didn’t agree on where to meet. They got in the car with hugs all around, and I immediately started talking about octopuses. I can’t stop. I was all “Hey, nice to see you OCTOPUS how was your flight TENTACLE did you just carry-on EXTREMELY HIGH INTELLIGENCE IT’S BEEN TESTED IN MAZES yeah it’s been gorgeous all week and now it decides to rain ONE OF THE FAVORITE FOODS OF THE GREAT PACIFIC OCTOPUS IS THE CRAB everyone’s at John and Treasa’s and we’re going to watch a movie about the world hairdressing competition THE SUCKERS ON EACH ARM MOVE INDEPENDENTLY.”

Chiara: I kind of talk a lot about octopuses, don’t I.

Anna: Yes.

Chiara: It’s as bad as the two-toed sloth thing in college.

Anna: Yes.

Chiara: I have to chill. I have a problem. I know I have to just calm down. About octopuses.

Anna: Yes.

Chiara: I’m obsessed with grapefruit, too, if that makes you feel any better.

We made it to John and Treasa’s and they started telling me about this awesome present they had for me but I waited to open it until after I had talked Anna’s ear off for two or three hours about how thirty is really different from twenty-nine and how I was a little sad last year at my birthday but how this year I was very excited and happy and how great everything was. As usual, Anna was very forbearing about listening to me babble on and on…perhaps because she gave me a stuffed octopus and that managed to focus my cephalopodmania while we were hanging out because I could just stroke it lovingly as the hours ticked by.

Now, that is a pretty great stuffed octopus, and I was thinking how lucky I was to have a friend like Anna who gives such great presents, and how much I loved everyone, when she busted out…I can hardly even write about it without getting sniffly…the greatest present I have ever received from anyone ever in my life.

Y’all? She published the first two years of this journal. She made books of my writing. She made me a book with my name on the front and with blurbs in the back. She gave them to me and I opened them and pretty much immediately burst into tears and she did too and we had to declare our love for each other and then I had to sit down and page through them and marvel that I did that, that I wrote everything in those books, that were bound professionally and had pictures in them and everything. I just sat there stupidly, flipping through and going “Oh, I was on the bus!” “Oh, look, I was unemployed!” “I had to call Poison Control!” “I went to Burning Man!” I can’t describe it adequately…I mean, I don’t ever look at my archives unless I need to link to something specifically and it was just so strange to hold my life’s story, literally, in my hands. It’s different just clicking through online. I looked and looked at them, and I thought about what it might be like to have a fiction book with my name on it, and I thought about all the time and effort and forethought Anna and Rob put into creating those books, and how absolutely lucky I am to have them in my life. This will be a theme in this entry, you will see.

So I went home at three and then ping! woke up at seven the way I always do every day of my life, much to my dismay. I opened presents while still in bed, talked to my mom and Ashley, and found the following poem from Mo in my inbox:


Tinsel pulled from the center of her eyes. Delicate chiffon. She
climbs up the beanstalk and it trails behind her.

The golden harp is gone already; the giant is dead. Bright tinsel
strips he’d tied around his neck.

So she climbs higher, loses her shoes, climbing.

There is a sleeping prince and she peers
into his face but doesn’t like the look of him; declines to kiss him.

Climbs up.

An old woman spinning straw into gold. She smiles and waves
but doesn’t stop.

Climbs higher.

And there is the youngest son, asking the ants to help him separate
from wheat, and he calls to her.

It isn’t the fairy tale she’s looking for.

She keeps climbing.

Can you believe she wrote me a poem? No one ever has for me before. I have the best friends. I can’t say it enough. She wrote me a poem when it was her own birthday weekend, too, if you want more evidence of her awesomeness. Sigh.

I was taking this all in and covering my bed in wrapping paper when it finally became time to heave up and head back to Ballard to meet with everyone at John and Treasa’s. It was time to do some serious logistics planning, you see, because it was Party Day and there were errands to be run. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to do everything on my list. My list went something like this:

1) Go to Trader Joe’s and buy way too much food.

2) Go to Costco and get way too much cake.

3) Clean room.

4) Make way too much twinkie sushi.

5) Get karaoke set up.

6) Freak out for a while.

We were all eating pho at the Than Brothers in Ballard (right on Market, you know the one, across the street from the theater) talking about taking a team approach to handling all the errands. We decided to split into three groups: Team Costco (in charge of the cake and the extra snacky food I was so sure we’d need); Team Hot Smoked Meat (in charge of going to Trader Joe’s for yet more snacks) and Team Haircut (in charge of going and getting haircuts for extra cuteness). I was on Team Hot Smoked Meat. That’s all fine and good, especially when we started handicapping each other and synchronizing our watches and making bets about who was going to win by making it back to my house first. Team Costco even went so far as to designate team positions, like Rogers was Communications I think, John was Navigation and he also may have been in charge of just looking good, Anna probably was just Captain, and Rob was Quartermaster. What made this so brilliant was that Treasa had given me a bunch of cute Japanese pins of about four different types, like dragonfly, ladybug, bird, and bee. Each team assigned itself a pin, you see, and the pins had to be prominently displayed, and it was so stupidly hysterical, and I don’t know what the Than Brothers thought about the group of eight sitting in the back, with our huge noodle bowls and cream puffs (because that’s what they have at Than Brothers: pho and cream puffs. The end.), guffawing about which pins we wanted to be. We vaulted out into the rain and hit our respective team positions and I like to think we all won in our own special ways. Team haircut won by looking really cute and also by walking a mile or so in the rain to get back to my house and by announcing, when they walked in the door, that they needed to take off their pants. Team Hot Smoked Meat won by physically making it to the house first and having a discussion in the freezer section of Trader Joe’s that went like this:

Chiara: Okay, let’s get some chips and this habanero salsa Treasa likes.

Kat: No! It doesn’t go with our theme!

Chiara: We have a theme?

Kat: Obviously we have a theme.

Chiara: Chips and salsa doesn’t go with the theme?

Kat: No. No theme. Put them back.

Team Costco won because not only did they get the cake, they also got SO MUCH FOOD. I had invested Anna with signatory power at Costco, saying something like, “Anna, I have full faith in you and in this matter you are my agent.” I was nervous about food, you see. What I forgot was that one half of Team Costco was comprised of one third of the ABL and that when they go to Costco to get party food, they go insane. They brought back something like six huge boxes of frozen hors-d’oeuvres and a shrimp cocktail (huh?) and an extra pie…you know, just in case the GIANT CAKE wasn’t enough…and a huge thing of Jelly Bellys so we could all get sick and the food just kept coming and coming and it was clear that we were going to have to have an airtight plan if we wanted to get all of this taken care of. This was my cue to freak out.

Except…I didn’t! You know why? Because…and again, I can hardly write this without breaking into tears again…because my friends handled everything. I started making twinkie sushi and decorating the cake while Anna and Kat started making all the food and then Jen and Amy showed up with the karaoke machine and then my housemates started stringing up the lights and it all looked like this:

Jen sets up the karaoke machine in my living room. It’s one of her two home karaoke set-ups, if you can believe it. This is the one she uses to spread goodwill to the world by lending out.

Making twinkie sushi.

Et voila! Blurry and disgusting, yet oddly compelling. Thanks, Not Martha! She and I were at the same sushi party where I got the idea to make them, isn’t that crazy?

Introducing Baby Charlie to karaoke.

Rob tests the system to make sure it works.

We have the brilliant idea to put up lights.

And the mood gets just a little funkier, right away.

Shedding some light on ONE FOURTH of the total food we made. I had to make up plates for people to take home.

Sundry showed up and immediately got into trouble.

Rob looks hot in his new shirt while a sultry Swedish vixen stuns us all with her knowledge of every single song in the playbook.

Erik implores us to hold him now, whoooooah, hold his heart.

Amy and her awesome friends look on. The woman in the blue sweater plans to dominate us all with her rendition of “I Love Rock-n-Roll,” of which, sadly, no picture evidence has survived. That girl was so cool.

And Jason stokes the flames of my already huge ego by wearing a shirt of his own design that says…and and I am not even kidding…”CKB: Chiara’s Karaoke Bitch.”

I didn’t even have time to freak out…everyone took care of everything for me and I didn’t have to do anything but wear my new dress my mom got me and take people’s coats and hug and kiss everyone and sing and eat goat cheese. People talked and sang and ate along with me, and I felt completely comfortable at my own party, which is something of a first for me. It’s a new idea for me that I can invite people over to my little house and that they’ll show up and have a good time and enjoy being with me on my birthday. I mean, it was pretty freaking great that five people came from out of state specifically to be with me, and that they met some of my Seattle friends and seemed to get along with them was just so good to see. I get worried about mixing worlds but there was just no problem at all, I don’t think. I was a little anxious about what to do with all the extra food but I solved that by refusing to let anyone leave without taking huge slabs of cake and cheese and prosciutto with melon and Pirate’s Booty and peanut butter pretzels and all the other stuff we had.

Oh, and? Not to brag, but y’all, as if this all wasn’t enough, I cleaned up in terms of material birthday gain. Books and scarves and bracelets and cards and another octopus necklace and an octopus shirt and flowers and yummy-smelling bath goop and purses, three purses, just when I’d decided I sort of like purses and that I should have more purses. People were so generous to me. I mean, it’s not that I expect my friends to be mean or anyone, but when someone brings you over her home karaoke system AND she brings you a purse she bought for you on her recent trip to Vietnam, you feel humbled by their love and goodness to you.

Anyway, everyone went home and I cleared the bed of generosity and fell heavily asleep, and then it was time to have everyone over for a delicious brunch of leftovers. I put Anna and Rob on the train to Portland with a huge bag of food and then for good measure I went over to Ian and Katie’s house to “feed their cats” with Kat and Treasa and managed to hide some more food in their refrigerator, surprise! Then it was time to come home and take a nap while Kat…get this…cleaned my house for me. I’d had sort of a dream she was doing so but I was still surprised when I woke up and there she was in the kitchen, loading the dishwasher and making me dinner. At this point in the weekend there was nothing to do but gasp out my broken thanks to her, and she just acted as if everyone does that, all saut驮g me up some veggies to go with my pasta and setting the table while I was still rubbing the sleep from my eyes and trying to beat my post-nap hair down. Treasa and John came over to get my car so that Abi and Rogers could use it today and John was all, “I’m not going to see you tomorrow! That’s really weird!” (I told him they could come over for bagel bites and egg rolls whenever they want because I will surely have plenty for a long time to come.)

Kat left that evening, and I took Abi and Rogers to the airport this afternoon. I had leftover veggies for dinner tonight and fortunately there was no bellydance class tonight because even though I need to practice my solo I am very tired, and also this entry has taken like six hours to write, so there’s that. I’m about to make my breakfast for tomorrow and then I’m getting in the bathtub with a book before going to bed early. Back to normal.

And here’s what normal is for me, I realize: I love so many people and I am so loved. I am so loved. I haven’t always believed that, you know, but now if I ever doubt it again all I have to do is remember turning thirty, and recall that someone wrote me a poem. Someone let me hold my life’s story in my hand. Someone brought me flowers, someone went to the store for ice and a Duraflame, someone let me use her house as a hotel. Someone I met once two years ago in Texas sent me a card telling me she thought I was strong and beautiful, someone acted as a taxi service, someone brought her baby to see me, someone steamed vegetable and cut bread and put it in a pretty bowl, someone told me not to worry and that everything was under control, someone sat and gossiped with me on the purple futon, someone told me that my birth made her what she is today, someone emailed me at two in the morning her time because it was my birthday where she was, someone sang to my answering machine, someone called me a sexy bitch on MATH, someone told me she liked my friends from out of town, someone told me she loved to sing and she never got the chance to, someone put lights up on the walls, someone told me I looked pretty in my dress, someone told me I had a nice house that was fun to be in. That’s my life. I can’t believe that’s my life.

People keep asking me how it feels to be thirty, and that’s just how it feels right now. In the center of people I love and who love me, absolutely powerful.

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