60th in the Sky – or – The Birthday That Almost Wasn’t

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“Maybe we could go out to dinner somewhere?” husband Chris offered.

It was the week before my November birthday. My 60th birthday. I had just asked Chris what birthday plans were in the hopper. His response hung in the air, sagging like wilted crepe paper after a spring shower.

 “I don’t want to just go out to dinner somewhere,” I sighed. His eyebrows arched like twin caterpillars on alert. “I can do that any day,” I continued. “Turning sixty is a major milestone.”

Not everyone makes it to the wonderful world of sexagenarianism. My mom didn’t. She died at age 54.

“So,” I continued to Chris, brow puckered. “Hitting The Big 6-0 is literally a once in a lifetime event. I was hoping we could so something… special. Maybe a little outrageous?”

You see, we had plans. Big ones. Reservations. The whole 60 yards.

Then Chris’s company of seventeen years announced it’s closing its doors in December. It felt like we were kissing cousins to Della and Jim of O. Henry fame, also on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

Frugality being the better part of valor in such circumstances, we canceled our reservations. Disappointment dripped off me like rain from a Seattle sky. 

“Lord,” I prayed half-heartedly a few days later. “You promise to supply all our needs. I know a special 60th birthday celebration isn’t exactly a ‘need.’ But could You pull something off in that department? Maybe something a little… outrageous?”

“Oh yeah,” I added. “Can you please make sure Chris gets Monday and Tuesday off so he can have the day prior to my birthday and my birth-day off?” His schedule changes every week and is unpredictable. Requests for time off don’t always come through.

“While You’re at it, Lord,” I mumbled, prickly as a porcupine. “how ‘bout a trip to Bainbridge Island and the Space Needle for my birthday?” We’ve lived in Washington for almost 20 years and I’ve never been to either one. “Now that would be a birthday for the history books!”

Ready to ‘experience the wow’ at the Seattle Space Needle! 60th birthday!
“60th in the sky” baby!

Shaking my head, I laughed. Just like Sarah did when God promised her a son in her old age. It felt like I was asking for the moon.

Then an extraordinary God did something extraordinary. A lot outrageous. Something only He could orchestrate.

Real sudden-like, folks volunteered to pay for the whole birthday shindig. All 60 yards.

60th Birthday Bash on Bainbridge!

And that’s how we got overnight reservations on Bainbridge Island and tickets for the Space Needle.

Yeah, baby!

I kid you not.

It was a whirlwind tour. But the weather held out just long enough to sneak in two dry days of hiking, exploring, and taking in the Seattle skyline from 605 feet up at the top of the world-famous Space Needle.

Upper observation deck, Seattle Space Needle.
“Looks like we MADE IT!!”

It costs an arm and a leg to visit. But where else can you do a “60th in the sky” birthday and take in bird’s eye views of Puget Sound, Lake Union, the Seattle skyline, and the Cascade and Olympic Mountains?

Besides. The Space Needle is home to the only revolving glass floor in the world. Not recommended for acrophobes. But it’s really, really cool.

World’s only revolving glass floor!

During our two day “60th in the Sky” birthday bash, we visited six parks, five counties, hiked seven trails, more beaches than I recall, and traveled about 300 miles. We even got to take not one but two ferry rides across Puget Sound.

“All aboard!” Ferry from Bainbridge to Seattle.
Yep. Bundle up for the ferry crossing to Seattle!

Bainbridge Island highlights included:

Fort Ward. Gazzam Lake Nature Preserve. Battle Point Park – outrageous fall foliage! An observatory. The Grand Forest, Winslow on the water, and lovely Lynwood Center and Point White.

Fort Ward, Bainbridge Island.
Fall foliage at Fort Ward.
Fort Ward, Bainbridge Island.
No idea what this is. But it’s on the trail to Gazzam Lake. Cool, huh?

Post-Space Needle, Chris and I planned to spend the rest of my birthday taking in as much of Seattle as possible. There’s lots to see and do in The Emerald City, especially near the water.

Bainbridge to Seattle ferry!

A country girl at heart, however, I’m not big into city life. I’d rather be out on the trails or in the woods, enjoying fresh air, nature, and some “forest therapy.” In the vibrant, verdant Pacific Northwest, opportunities abound.

So an idea popped into my head. 

I really wanted to visit the world-renowned Bloedel Nature Reserve on Bainbridge. It ranks among the top 100 “greatest gardens” of the world. But our itinerary was Bainbridge on Monday, Seattle on Tuesday.

The Reserve is closed on Mondays. Bummer.

“Instead of spending the rest of the day in Seattle, how ‘bout catching the ferry back to Bainbridge?” I suggested to Chris. “Let’s not waste half the day sitting in traffic or shelling out a small fortune for parking. What say we scoot on back to the Bloedel and see what’s what?”

“It’s your birthday,” he smiled. Whatever you want, babe.”

Battle Point Park, Bainbridge Island.

So we scampered back from the Space Needle moments ahead of a Sasquatch-sized Seattle traffic snarl due to the Sounders victory parade. Caught the next ferry back to picturesque Bainbridge Island. Turned blue crossing the water – really gotta work on that polar bear thing – and spent the rest of my 60th birthday exploring the Bloedel Reserve. It’s “one of North America’s 10 best botanical gardens.” And they’re not kidding!

Sneak peek: Bloedel Reserve.

I’m saving the Reserve for a separate post. So stay tuned.

As sable evening crept over Bainbridge Island and poured over the Reserve, we headed to the state capitol of Olympia for a lovely dinner at a favorite waterfront restaurant.

60th at Anthony’s with my Mister!
Birthday dinner with my Mister!

I couldn’t’ have asked for a better birthday.

Oh, and God threw in a job offer for Chris, too. Out of the blue. Just because He can.

I kid you not again.

You see, I serve a God who delights in giving good gifts to His children. Who lavishes His love and mercy and care on me even when I don’t deserve it. Maybe especially when I don’t deserve it. (Frankly, that’s pretty much all the time.)

I haven’t yet reached Sarah status. But I look back over 60 years and marvel. Yes, there have been some crushing disappointments. Adversity. Struggle. Job losses. Health issues. Involuntary moves. Misunderstandings and estrangements.

But pouring over my life like a mighty rushing river is God’s grace. Extravagant, outrageous grace. The kind that makes you want to jump up and down. Turn cartwheels. Sing from the Space Needle at the top of your lungs.  (Okay, okay. Let’s not get crazy here. But you know what I mean.)

Sometimes I forget. Then I start grousing. Whining and complaining. Even when I’m acting like a jerk, however, the Lord of love and life still smiles on me.

I oughtta turn 60 more often.


6 Responses

  1. Rosemary Davis

    Happy Birthday!

    So happy that you enjoyed such an amazing birthday! You experienced so many wonderful things. What a magnificent start to a new decade.
    Keep the faith and keep enjoying!


  2. Shelley Webb

    Happy 60th decade! I hope it’s as wonderful as your birthday excursion!

    • HikerBabe

      Thanks Shelley. We might go back one of these when it’s sunny. Sort of a rarity in Seattle this time of year. 🙂

  3. Robin LaMonte

    Happy 60th birthday!

    So happy you did something wonderful for your birthday!
    I love Seattle but have never been to the top of the space needle!


    • HikerBabe

      Thanks Robin! It was a “whirlwind tour,” but really fun!