Hannah-LYZE This: How I Surprised My Best Friend on Her Golden Birthday

As a writer, I span the spectrum of human emotions with my stories: sad pieces, funny pieces, reflective pieces, and others. But one of my favorites to write about is love. And boy oh boy, do I love my BFF. In fact, I’ve been lucky enough to love Jessica Rose Taylor for more than a decade. But, that time has flown by; it feels like just yesterday that I had my first day at Ardmore Elementary and found my forever companion with her (we’re next to each other in this photo, btw).


To say that she is anything less than my soulmate would be a drastic understatement. And in those 12-13 years, we’ve celebrated close to every birthday together because that’s what you do when you love someone. But as we’ve grown up, time has seriously separated us. I try to visit as often as possible, but I still miss her terribly.


January 20th is one of my favorite days of the year because I get to spend a whole day thinking about how important she is to me, and making her feel so loved (even though I attempt to do that the other 364 as well). And THIS year was her GOLDEN birthday, AKA the year when her age aligns with the date of her birthday.


GOLDEN birthday + the fact that she’s a Minnesota GOLDEN Gopher + GOLDEN friend status = GOLDEN opportunity to surprise her for the weekend!


One of my favorite sayings about making memories is, “We didn’t realize we were making memories, we just knew we were having fun.” And that’s exactly how I feel about Jess. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing or what we’re not doing (I’d have fun just scrolling through our ‘grams together), it’s always the time together that is special.


In elementary school, we founded a legendary rock band at the tether ball court. In middle school, we were the dynamic duo of delivering hall passes and school lunches. We slayed every middle school dance. In high school, I remained the fiercest cheerleader of MY favorite cheerleader: her. We also KILLED the promposal game senior year, because who else would I want to go with? We’ve always been there for academic achievements, sporting events, and life milestones in lock-step with each other. Revealing that we were both going to school in Minnesota was magnificent! Even though it was a major adjustment to be farther than five minutes from each other, there’s not a distance I care to think of that could keep us apart for long. There are so many other memories in the middle, and so many more that we’re going to make. That’s possibly my favorite thing about our friendship: the possibility for it to get even greater!


Little did she know when her roommates, Farrah and Maya, came home with her for Thanksgiving break, I was in kahoots with them on how to pull off the surprise. It couldn’t be put into action until about the first week of January, however, because we had all winter break to PARTAY together! Winona started their spring semester on January 14th and the U of MN started January 22nd, so I said my goodbyes to her a week early, and waited to enact my surprise mission the following weekend.


The fact that she’s such a busy bee worked out in my favor. Another thing that worked out in my favor is that freshman year, her three roommates also became MY friends. MUAHAHA. So, I had the go-ahead from the girls (love you all) to book my ticket and an assurance that either Farrah, Maya, or Zan was available to pick me up from the bus station. It’s also great that her birthday is always around MLK, Jr. Day because that meant ~LONG WEEKEND~! Taking the bus on Saturday allowed me to not miss any classes because we all know the student grind never stops; having Monday off from classes at both U of MN and WSU allowed me to stay for her whole birthdaySundayand then return Tuesday where I did sacrifice one class absence (the winter weather came in clutch which resulted in my other two class cancellations).


The ONE thing I stressed to Maya was that she had to AT ALL COSTS prevent Jess from making the trip to Winona for her birthday weekend. Jess says regularly that she is overdue for a visit to Winona because of her aforementioned crazy busy schedule, but if she chose THAT weekend, it would mean we were in opposite cities and would ruin the surprise entirely. That luckily didn’t happen, so everything ran pretty smoothly.


I got to the apartment Saturday around 5:45 and met Jess’s other roommate, Sowmya! And as it so happened, Jess had to cheer the Minnesota v Penn State men’s basketball game that night. This allowed ample time for me to figure out how to execute the actual surprise… or so I thought. Right before she got home from the game, one of the roomies informed me I hadn’t been the only one with the idea to surprise Jess: her aunt and uncle were actually also in town. The more, the merrier! And about five minutes after I’d received that news (around 9:45), the three of them waltzed through the door, leaving me with very little time to get her genuine reaction on video. But, I can assure you she was happy to see me.


So, I guess now that I got all the precursory prepwork explanation out of the way, I can tell you how I spent the weekend with my bestie for the restie.


SUNDAY: We rang in the dawning of Jess’s birthday by staying up until 12:00, and then we promptly passed out. The apartment woke up about 9 am and the space was full of well wishes for our Jess. But, like any sleepy college kid knows best, sometimes falling back asleep from the initial alarm is inevitable… so we woke up for a second time about 12:15 pm. Jess’s aunt and  uncle were kind enough to invite the other roommates and I to a birthday brunch to celebrate, so I tagged along to Lake & Irving in downtown Minneapolis. It was so yummy! We worked off the meal with a brisk walk around the area (we weren’t walking quickly, but it felt like -2 at this point, so it was brisk in that respect). Jess and I got back to the apartment and partook in more relaxation before deciding to head off to a vintage market in the industrial area with her roommates Farrah, Zan, and Maya. We also exchanged gifts and that’s when I got to give Jess a beautifully simplistic necklace combo from Bryan Anthonys called “Soul Sisters.” The inscription reads, “Once in a while someone comes into your life and changes everything. They will cheer you up when you are down, laugh with you until your stomach hurts and make you feel at home when you are far away. No matter the distance, she will follow your arrow—wherever it may go.” Each half of the necklace has either the back or front of the arrow. We killed time before our 8:15 dinner at a quaint little restaurant called Aster Cafefive Mirages please! Then, we headed to a yummy dinner at the cafe portion of Alma. We got back home, not before stopping at Insomnia Cookies for some ooey-gooey goodness. The rest of the night was very lowkey, although we were up pretty late making the birthday cake for Jess and Farrah (who celebrated her birthday January 17th).


MONDAY: The day began with some well-deserved sleeping in, and it didn’t really get going until Maya, Zan, Jess, and I ventured off to the record store called Electric Fetus. We spent a good portion of that day lazily rummaging through the stacks for some smooth jams to put on the player when we got home. Around 4, we felt like cake was the best decision. We sang and ate and had a good time sharing in the company. Seeing as Monday was the last day of the long weekend before we all returned to reality, we ordered from Pizza Luce and watched Ocean’s 8. We turned in relatively early because everyone had class, and I had a bus back to Winona to catch in the morning!


TUESDAY: Jess and I had a good little commute to the Caribou where I waited for my bus to arrive, and then she went off to class. I got back to Winona about 2:15.


This is coming a week after I surprised Jess, but I hope she’s still shining brightly, both from the beginning of her golden year and because she’s just a golden friend. I had so much fun orchestrating this fun excursion to share the time with my love, and I hope you all enjoyed being brought along for the ride. Thank you to the roommates for their continued hospitality, and Jess, thanks for being you. Love you forever.