By: Heather Somaini

My 33rd birthday was about 3 weeks after we met and Tere had something planned.  She wouldn’t tell me – it was driving me a little crazy.  We had just met; how well could she know me to even get it close to “right”?

I was cycling about 50 miles every Saturday morning and my birthday event was going to start when I got back from my ride.  I left only knowing that I needed to be back in time to shower, get dressed and be ready by 2:00p.  Right on time, a limo driver was at my door.  Wow.  We started driving west.  I peppered him with questions – he gave me nothing.  He dropped me off at the Santa Monica Pier with a note from Tere.  I wandered down the pier until I found her.  We spent the next few hours riding rides and playing arcade games.  We even had our picture taken in a picture booth.  We walked to Shutters where she left me in the lobby and told me to come up to the room in 15 minutes.  After a big ride and fun on the pier, I sat near the fireplace in a big comfy chair and completely lost track of time.  I really had no idea how long I was there and I couldn’t remember the room number!  I finally figured it out and made my way upstairs.  Tere  was waiting with chocolate covered strawberries and Cristal champagne on ice.  It seemed very grown-up, too grown-up – Cristal? – who drinks that, other than pop stars and rappers in music videos?  I watched the waves and drank champagne.  I felt a little bit out of my body –  it was an odd sensation.

We went next door for dinner at Casa del Mar and sat near the fireplace.  Tere gave me my first present from Tiffany’s – a very cool key ring with a globe and plane on it  – she wanted to travel the world.  A gift from Tiffany’s feels extravagant, regardless of its size.  We spent Sunday morning watching the ocean waves, ordering room service and hanging out.  It was a great birthday.

Although I had started thinking about Tere’s birthday – the Big 40th – only a month later, I realized that I needed to step up my game.  I had to hit it out of the park BIG and I only had one month.  I came up with only ONE idea – 40 birthday presents.  Yep, one for every year.  Tere was having a birthday party at her house and I would arrange all of her presents with numbers, so that she had to open them in a particular order – my order – and the 40th present would be me!  I only had a month to get it all together without her knowing what I had planned.  It’s amazing how much time and energy goes into getting your first birthday with a new love just right.  I started a list – don’t all good things start with a list?

1 Flowers – French Tulips Pick them up

2 CD (Get Labeling Kit @ Make CD Labels

3 Pink Candles (Red Envelope)

4 Rosebud Cake Pick up Cake

5 Card + Heart Wine Loops

6 Voodoo Love Doll (Red Envelope)

7 Pencils

8 L’Occitane Hand Lotion

9 Love Wish Stones (Red Envelope)

10 Japanese Garden Picture + Card

12 Golf Puzzle (Red Envelope)

13 Do Not Disturb Kit (Red Envelope)

14 Food Books

15 Silk Knot Cuff Links (Red Envelope)

15A Card

16 MBZ Key Chain (@ 9250 Beverly Blvd./west of Doheny)

17 Glass Apple

18 Paper Weight (Arts & Letters)

19 Paper Weight (Arts & Letters)

20 Silver Heart Paper Weight (Red Envelope)

20A Card

21 Picture Project #1

22 Picture Project #2

23 Bonsai Tree

24 Neuhaus Chocolates

24A Card

25 Socks

27 Crackers (Red Envelope)

28 Blocks (Red Envelope)

28A Card

31 Cell Phone Earpiece

32 Magnet

33A Card

34 Fore Golf Wine Loops

35 Wine Collars

36 Poem (Get Paper)

38 Journal

39 Monogrammed Locket Cuff Links (Red Envelope)

40 Me

Yes, I’m detail oriented and very organized – you can call me whatever name you want now. I’ll own it.

I individually wrapped the presents and attached with ribbon hand-crafted numbers on velum paper to every single gift. The mix CD was titled “Tere 4.0”, the cake was specially made for her from the same bakery in Beverly Hills that would eventually bake our wedding cake, and the blocks are in our kids’ playroom today. Tere is a self-professed “number plumber” so the pencils seemed appropriate. She didn’t have an earpiece for her cell phone (there wasn’t any Bluetooth then) which drove me nuts (hence #31), she loves golf (#12 & 34) and cufflinks (#15 & 39). I can’t remember exactly what the socks represented.

Tere’s party went off without a hitch. It was the first time I met most of her friends and it felt a bit like an inquisition. They were very interested in getting to know this new person in Tere’s life! By the end of the night, I was a little tired and pretty weary. I was also completely anxious about pulling off my massive birthday present! John Murphy (remember him?) helped me bring everything in without Tere realizing a thing. The stage was set and I was confident I could pull it off.

The last guest left and I led Tere up the stares with rose petals leading the way. The fireplace was roaring as she entered her gift-strewn room. I explained that she had to find each gift and open them in numerical order. It was a pretty awesome night. She loved each one of my presents – even some of the odd ones – and I swear she liked present #40 the best!

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