The Best Birthday Ever

October 2015
Polaris Black

Patrick couldn’t have been more excited; he would soon be celebrating his birthday with his flamboyant and eccentric aunt. Norah, her housekeeper, picked him up from school and took him directly to the surprise destination. His aunt was waiting for him in front of the Museum of Natural History, and she hugged him hard as she said, “Happy birthday, my little love.” Then they sat down on the concrete steps overlooking Central Park and shared a sandwich kit from Zabar’s, the food emporium specializing in gourmet treats.

After their early dinner, they went down a ramp to a private museum entrance, reserved for members of the Patrons' Circle. A security guard enthusiastically greeted them and ushered them to the newest exhibit preview, “Chocolate”. Patrick was immediately enthralled and began writing down the words he didn’t understand, so that they could discuss them later.

He saw cocoa pods, Mayan pottery, antique candy wrappers, and a pellet of chocolate that was 1,500 years old. He learned that chocolate originated in Mesoamerica almost 4,000 years ago, that it could be lethal to dogs, that it contained a love-chemical called phenylethylamine, and that 40,000 varieties existed by 1930. He overheard people talking about a famous I Love Lucy chocolate-making scene and arguing about the difference between hot chocolate and hot cocoa.

Upon exiting the exhibit, they found a huge reception waiting for them in the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda. All the Tony restaurants and chocolatiers had set up tasting stations, where the guests could sample their chocolate confections. Patrick couldn’t have been happier if the event had been staged just for him.

When he couldn’t eat another bite, when almost everyone had left, his aunt had yet another surprise for him. They were going to have a museum sleepover! So, as the doors closed and the lights dimmed, Patrick and his aunt turned on their flashlights and went in search of adventure.

They visited the Hall of Human Origins, went on a scavenger hunt in the dark fossil rooms, and took selfies with T-Rex. They walked amid live, free-flying tropical butterflies that were housed in a vivarium to simulate their natural environment. Then they wandered around a bit by themselves, before watching an amazing 3-D movie about mysterious ocean life.

By the time they found their cots and sleeping bags near the walruses diorama under the huge blue whale suspended from the ceiling, Patrick was truly exhausted. He fell into a dreamless sleep as soon as his head touched the pillow. His aunt was satisfied that she had indeed opened a new door for him today, and what a time they had!