Ate Lorna’s Surprise Birthday Dinner

As I’m waiting for the curry oil to seep into my scalp, I feel grateful to the universe for giving me and Jeff a lady who’s almost like a mother to us. Her door is the one I knock when I run out of onions or milk. She knocks on ours when she wants to share with us the hot dishes that she has cooked for dinner.

We talk about each other’s lives, as well. Our curry oil treatment has become almost like a routine where we catch up on each other’s week or whatever latest news she has seen on TV. Mostly I ask her about her health, and she’s happy to fill me in on the updates of her latest GP visit or lab results. She says she’s getting old. I reckon she’s also a bit lonely. Jeff and I try to look after her. After all, even though she’s only been with us for a year, she has become so much more a family than Jeff’s own family ever will.

Last May, her friend, John, surprised her with dinner to celebrate her 70th birthday. I don’t know why we were invited, but we were. It was pretty hard to keep it a secret on that night. She came in to show me what she was wearing, telling me how John was picking her up so they can have dinner together like they regularly do. I was on the couch already with my makeup on, ready to take off my oodie so I could get Raven and I dressed and drive to Dandenong Workers Club after them.

I met her close circle that night — mostly her Filipino friends whom she had known for ages. All these older ladies with their funny stories and gossips about people I didn’t even know but thoroughly enjoyed hearing, nonetheless. With Raven the youngest in the group, the elderly lady sitting next to her was doting on her. She was one of those sweet grandma types and was really lovely.

“Enjoy every moment with her while she’s still young,” she said to me, her voice soft and mellow with a hint of an Italian accent. “They grow up too fast.”

It was a good night. The club had a great band playing, too. I bribed Raven with the promise of stickers in exchange with grooving on the small dance floor with me. I’m not much of a dancer and I’m shy as fuck but the lights were dim and I was motivated to share that experience with her. Something she had never done before.

“It’s too loud!” she complained, covering her ears with both hands as if she was the mature adult and I was the rebellious teenager determined to have some fun.

“Oh, come on!” I egged her on, grabbing her hands and swaying her around as if I was the most gregarious mother you ever met.

She didn’t last long, unfortunately. But that’s okay. We had fun.

*Raven at 5 years old

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