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Maria Sestito

Maria Sestito

When I walked into my class Thursday morning, everyone in the room started singing. There was a big balloon waiting for me in my spot at the table along with some birthday cards handcrafted by my classmate’s children. (They used their best stickers!) And, when the song was coming to an end, my classmate (and friend) came to the front of the room with a candle in hand, ready for my wish making. Then, of course, there were the homemade cookies that another friend had stayed up late making for me. (They were delicious, by the way.)

It only lasted a few minutes, but it was the best — and first — surprise party I’ve ever had.

The celebration continued later that night. Despite being tired, having deadlines and, I assume, being strapped for cash as most of us are in grad school, they spoiled me, buying my drinks, dinner and staying out with me when they should have been sleeping or working. The conversation was great and the company was even better.

I remembered earlier that day, before the singing began, that this was the first birthday in a long time that I’ve been single, without a partner planning my festivities or, at least, to get some sort of gift from. A few months earlier, I was sad about this prospect, but I wasn’t anymore. I knew that I had people to celebrate with and that I wanted to celebrate with them.

After leaving the Register, I was afraid that I wouldn’t find another place like it — one full of supportive people, one full of family. Napa was the first time I ever felt like I was really part of a community.

I’m starting to have that feeling again at school and I know that, at least for now, this is where I belong.

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Maria Sestito is a former Register reporter and current student at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. Jersey Girl runs every other Sunday. Follow Maria on Twitter @RiaSestito or email her at ria.sestito@gmail.com

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Maria Sestito is the former Napa Valley Register public safety reporter. She now writes for the Register as a freelancer.