Saturday, February 18, 2006

On Turning 40....

Blog note: I celebrated my fortieth birthday almost six years ago. The occasion is worth recalling. So, from the Daddy D Archives:

Country came to town, and the Bossier boy saw Yankee Stadium, but a funny thing happened on the way to the Bronx. My wife, the steady-as-she-goes skipper of my life, surprised me.
Somewhere on the seven train late in the New York night as we whistled through the bowels of a city that never sleeps, she declared "I could do alright in this town."
To understand what a breathtaking moment this was, you need to know a little about how we got here. These were two people on a simple mission, really: to celebrate a guy's birthday in style, sports style. The idea was to see New York and hang around a few days waiting for the big payoff: The House that Ruth Built.
Things started benignly with a typical tourist stop - the top of the Empire State Building. That was followed by a midtown stroll and something only for a sports fan, dinner at ESPN SportsZone. The location of the restaurant, Broadway at 42nd Street, is key to what happened next. Night fell on Times Square.
My wife is a charming blend of sophistication and simplicity. She has a Southeastern Conference private school education and a Masters degree. I have always perceived her as being disarmingly intelligent, reassuringly self-confident and contentedly southern. What I never knew was that the sheer notion of surviving in the Big Apple intimidated her. It doesn't any more.
The New York night took her breath away. She was tantalized by Times Square, blown away by Broadway and almost hypnotized by a Renoir portrait at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Things began to change early in the second day of our visit. Through a combination of dumb luck and the best powers of persuasion I could muster, we scored two tickets to a Monday taping of the Letterman show. It can’t be a coincidence that Late Night is based at the Ed Sullivan Theater, a place where so many young women went a little crazy over the Beatles and Elvis. That’s just about how my wife reacted when we found out Dave’s guest would be Bruce Willis.
When we were escorted into the theater, should could not contain herself. “Darrell, this is so cool!”
Her southern simplicity was showing, and that was pretty cool, too.
We backed that right up with dinner on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center, and she was hooked.
“I don’t think I took a breath for an hour and a half,” she said, amazed, following the first act of Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic.
“I had no idea. Now I know why people come back again and again,” she offered after an emotional Miss Saigon matinee at the Broadway Theater.
From Soho to Little Italy to Central Park “where Briscoe and Logan find bodies under the bridge” to Rockefeller Center, she loved New York.
“Okay, where is the big screen we see Tom Brokaw on at the end of the news?” “Hey, isn’t this where Peter Jennings did his New Year’s Eve broadcast? Is that the Brooklyn Bridge?” Look! There’s Radio City Music Hall!”
She was like a loveable little girl, the pressures of career and motherhood set aside, far away for just a few days. Starry-eyed at Sardi’s, she was smitten and determined to return soon.
And to think, those were only the days leading up to the big moment.
By the time we were to see the World Series champs, we had mastered the subway system and made it from Broadway to the Bronx without incident.
At first, she seemed a little let down. It’s quite an emotional shift from Claude Michel Schonberg to Joe Torre. Once I steered her to Monument Park in center field, however, and the rich history of the Yankees and their 25 world championships began to sink in, she was okay. When she saw Derek Jeter make playing shortstop look like ballet, she settled in nicely. When she saw how happy I was simply to be in Yankee Stadium on my 40th birthday, she was southern contentment personified.
Steady as she goes, the whole idea was to make me happy. It was her idea for me to be at a ball game as I turned 40, and it was inspired. She proved the words attributed to St. Francis, “it is in giving that we receive…” for with her gift she got back so much.
She had more fun than she ever anticipated. I saw a side of her personality that had been gently tucked away for ten years or more. I learned some things about her I never knew. I enjoyed her company immensely. I realized she means more to me every day.
Sure, it was fun to be at a ball game on the day I turned 40, but the greatest gift was the one I didn’t see coming.
I fell in love with my wife all over again.
Happy birthday to me.

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