Hei Hei It’s Your Birthday!

I’m sure you knew this was coming. It was inevitable, right? Especially given there are no scheming possibilities in person this year. One part memory lane, two parts friendship, three parts adventure, all parts cheese. See below.

But first, a story I haven’t told you before.

Picture this: December in Manchester. The day before we leave. You go off to work, leaving us with keys to your flat. #RedFeather can’t pass up an opportunity this good. And so the scheming begins. On a mission to go into the city, gather supplies, return for preparation and make it back into the city in a few hours time, all while seeming as though we had been there exploring all along.

We find our way into the city. First stop? Disney store. Purchase a HeiHei. [Level 1 complete]. But! A dilemma! (Because we did things backwards!) How to keep HeiHei safe while gathering additional birthday magic? The only solution: in my arms or zipped up safely in my jacket (which I’m now realizing was the exact inspiration for jacket kitties). [Achievement unlocked. Bonus points added.] And so we continue. HeiHei safely harnessed in for the adventure. Next stop? Sainsbury’s. Located cupcakes, balloons, streamers and gift wrap. [Level 2 complete]. Hei Hei still secure. Final stop? Back to your flat for preparation. Hei Hei and I board Metrolink together, the brave little rooster now tucked into my arms (he was looking a little cramped in my jacket). So close! The pressure is on! Enter: the second dilemma. The outside door to your building will not open. No matter what. 10 minutes of struggle, hope almost lost. And then, the deus ex machina appears; a lovely gentleman exiting the building! Door is unlocked. [Badge earned]. We rush upstairs. Fight over where to hang decorations; a mad dash to locate tape and scissors in your flat. We blow up too many balloons, wrap presents (including HeiHei – the courageous chicken who has safely arrived home), add the final touch of changing the light box and make our exit (past your office – #LifeOnTheEdge) to return to the city and appear as though it was a normal morning. [Level 3 complete]

An hour later we find ourselves in a coffee shop recovering from the chaos of the last minute scheming. We meet up with you, hang around the city for a few more hours and then head back. All is going according to plan. Until we get to your building. And the entire plan is almost foiled with a slip of the tongue [Bonus level!] But thankfully you go along with the strange explanation, walk up the stairs, open the door to your flat and find the birthday magic to celebrate you. [Mission Accomplished. Game over.]

Rant: My biggest complaint is just that you live halfway around the world. And that extremely limits our adventuring opportunities. (I suppose with the right perspective perhaps it only expands our possibilities. Let’s ignore that line of thinking for now.) You are ridiculously magical at sending mail. Which is slightly intimidating. How can one human have that many sticker skillz? I still don’t understand. Truly, it’s a constant struggle to comprehend. Additionally, our decision making skills aren’t exactly speedy [although we do generally make the best, well thought out decisions, sometimes just a day too late]. And our hide and seek skills could use some improvement. While we have great strategy and top notch hiding locations, maybe next time we should inform everybody we are playing since it is hide and seek.

Rave: Your spreadsheet skills are second to none. Your hashtags blow me away. And you are the only person I know that matches my music preferences. BabyMetal to Gabe Dixon; Around the World and Back. You celebrate key changes as if they could save the world (we all know they can, I’m glad you brought this to our attention.) And the only person who would agree to spending an afternoon in arcade with me not once, but twice. Because you rock. I’m thrilled someone else understands the value of playing games to bring home new mascots. (Shout out to Bird, Scoop and Frank!). One day we will have our own skeeball tournament. And let’s not forget the love of Christmas. Which explains a lot, really. I’m not sure how the whole world doesn’t love onesies and Christmas music and cheesy movies as much as we do. Maybe one day they will realize we are the geniuses. [A random #Pineapple flavored morsel: it’s good to know we’re both in the fan club of The Band.]

Fight: Let’s be real, we’re too easily distracted for an argument. We can’t make it through a conversation without a few hour long rambles from Shania Twain to Michael Jackson and back to Gabe Dixon; throw in some memes and YouTube for balance. But we do make a great team fighting together. #PersistentPenguins (Except for that one time on Skyline Drive, lovingly referred to as The Battle of the Shenandoah. I apologize for not being on your side in that moment; I am forever grateful you saved us from that giant ant. Who knows how the day would have ended had you not removed it from the Adventure Bus!) I personally think we make a kick-ass duo fighting against growing up. Fighting for more confetti; more adventure; and for each other. (You rock at pep talks, by the way. It should be listed as one of your special skills. #DropTheSelfDoubt).

Swim: How we have managed to pack so many adventures into a year (and some change) of friendship is baffling. Surreal moments of airport pick ups, complete with Taco Bell and Sonic (don’t let anyone tell you it’s not possible to have your cake and eat it too), Grand Ole Opry shows all the way to camp road. What began with Moana and a traditional Sunday roast led to my favorite adventures; epic road tripping, whale watching, kayaking with snacks and beyond. To be honest, I wasn’t convinced we were going to survive past the North Carolina rest stop (mostly due to exhaustion, a little concern from being delirious). But I’m so glad that we did. We have slept in almost empty houses and freezing cold tents; braved the winter to experience the magic of Christmas markets and lights at the zoo. Baby bears, sunrises in Nashville and Head of the Meadow beach, great movies, good movies, questionable movies – the list could go on. Thanks for agreeing to the wild ride of friendship. (I apologize as I’m not sure where the exit is if you need it).

Happy birthday to the only person I would carry HeiHei through an entire city for; the brightest sunshine soldier I know. The human who prepared me for the funky chicken, made me a better photographer and taught me ukulele. I hope the year ahead brings endless opportunities to spread your wings, find adventure and throw confetti.

Over and Out,

Everybody needs a penguin. Checkmate.


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