It’s a rectangle table in the middle of the bustling Irish pub. Centered between the Oscar Wilde quote on the wall and the live music, we crane inward and read lips to carry the conversation over the volume and activity. The air is punctuated with claps and shouts as the clientele jumps in on the stage performance, and waiters maze in-and-out, balancing the trays of stew and shepherd’s pie, haloed in clouds of steam and enticing smells.
Every ten minutes, the cold air through the door deposits a new set of guests to the scene. With eyes adjusting to the warm, red atmosphere, they gaze around, momentarily stunned, as they get their bearings and settle upon the hostess waiting to tell them that they, too, have a place in this gathering.
We take pictures with phones and disposable cameras. The band plays “Friends in Low Places”. Some of us sing along, joyfully partaking in the loud melodies and claps. Others continue the conversation, huddled over beers and whiskey. No matter what our activity, we remain part of this family of strangers, somehow banded beyond generations and backgrounds by the roof sheltering us. We, delightfully young, belong just as much as the family in the next booth, the old men at the bar, and the middle-aged couples at the corner table.
Cheers to birthdays that are comfortable and subdued, to flannel and friends, to smiles and to eyes that tear more with laughter than sadness.