June 2003. Some of the below names have been changed to protect the innocent.

At nine-thirty every Monday morning, all of the suits in our law firm crowded in the rosewood-paneled conference room affectionately referred to by the associates as “The One Where They Fire People.” It was our time to discuss upcoming projects and boast about the banks and tech companies we represented.

As usual, the associates were the first in the room, each of us anxious to avoid the chair that couldn’t maintain its height setting for more than five minutes. Claude and Richard joined me around the table with notepads and carefully-labeled manila folders.

“Isn’t today your birthday?” Claude asked.

I took a long sip of my coffee. “Yes,” I replied.

Richard laughed. “Oh boy! Last year they had Robin Leach call you and wish you happy birthday, right?”

I nodded. “Yes, they did.”

The “they” Richard referred to were two of my best girlfriends: Ashley and Fancy. They were both beautiful and crazy fun girls who consistently encouraged me to “loosen up,” and whose laughter could turn my most ordinary of days into something exceptional.

“And don’t forget the year before that,” Claude piled on, “when they convinced the security guards to let them bomb her office with confetti and balloons.”

I shook my head. “I still have confetti permanently lodged in my keyboard.”

As attorneys filed in the conference room, I wished the subject would change.

Richard’s grin widened. “That’s right! And they hung that huge sign across your wall that read: BON VOYAGE.”

“The store was out of ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY’ banners,” I explained. “So they opted for the closest celebratory message. It was just unfortunate timing  . . . with the RIF being earlier that week.”

Thankfully, I got to change the subject when Bob Catrin, a particularly unpleasant but powerful partner, sat across from me. On his best days, Bob’s pained expression suggested he was battling a perpetual case of hemorrhoids. Associates joked that no one had ever seen him smile. This day was no different. Thankfully, Richard’s and Claude’s desire to avoid talking to Bob about firm administrative details, like bills and timesheets, gave me the ability to take “birthday talk” out of rotation.

At least, until half-way through our meeting.

Someone knocked at the conference room door before a blast of perfume hit me. Jessica, our receptionist, stepped in.

“Is there a problem?” our managing partner asked.

Jessica glanced back nervously before she spoke up. “We have a visitor and he says he needs to speak with our birthday girl.”

My eyes darted to Richard and Claude for emotional support, but all I saw was two friends that were literally squirming with anticipation.

Our managing partner looked over the rims of her glasses at me and then to Jessica. She nodded. With that, Jessica, stepped back, motioning to someone in the lobby.

Chatter started around the table but before I could protest, I was left dumbfounded. I wrapped my hands in a death-grip around my coffee mug.

A small pudgy gentleman with a short curly hair appeared. His eye-catching polka dot vest was supplemented by bright yellow pants.

Jessica pointed at me. “That’s her.”

Terrified, I silently plead that Krusty to forget whatever he was there to do. But I knew – the pleading was in vain.  Goodbye dignity. It was nice knowing you.

Clapping and rubbing his hands together in excitement, the yellow-panted man danced towards me and started to sing:

Happy, Happy Birthday!

Today’s your special day!

Happy, Happy Birthday!

We just wanted to say hey!

Happy, Happy Birthday!

Our friendship is iconic!

Happy, Happy Birthday!

You get a free COLONIC!

Happy, Happy Birthday!

From Ash and Fance to you!

Happy, Happy Birthday!

May all your dreams come true!

The rest is a blur. But I do remember that after the laughter subsided and my color returned, I looked up and saw Bob smile. That smile gave me the courage to make Ashley and Fancy proud.

I loudly pushed away my coffee cup and said, “Guess I won’t be needing this today.”

_______________

This post is dedicated to all my beautiful and crazy fun butterscotch friends who consistently encourage me to “loosen up,” and whose laughter can turn my most ordinary of days into something exceptional.

Fancy Amy Ash2

Val PartyMel Heather AmAHHA