If you take Geri Frederick at her word, then you won’t find a better friend than Annette Oliva.

“To know Annette is to love her,” Frederick said.

And she should know. Although Oliva and her husband Keith only moved to the Shadow’s Bend neighborhood in December, Fredericks and Oliva have been friends since childhood. So it was easy for Fredericks to pull together a birthday celebration for her friend, even in the middle of a pandemic.

Like other neighborhoods, residents found a way to celebrate without violating the social distancing standards that dictate everyday life. Instead of a traditional birthday cake with candles, a stream of automobiles lined up just before 6 p.m. and began a slow but boisterous procession past the Oliva’s home.

“It was my job to make sure she was outside at 6,” Keith Oliva said.

Annette Oliva was surprised when the sounds of “Happy Birthday” started booming from speakers on a golf cart in front of her house. It wasn’t until a few seconds later that she realized what was happening.

A tiara and carnival boa quickly materialized for the birthday girl as she tried, not very successfully, not to burst into tears as neighbor after neighbor drove past, dropping off gifts both frivolous — like pastries and wine — and practical — like the roll of ribbon-tied toilet paper.

Not all of the surprises were material. Oliva laughed in delight as she saw her son Trace had made it in from Lake Charles to be a part of the festivities. Her other two children, Matthew and Brittany, were also in attendance, with grandchildren in tow.

The neighborhood doesn’t only gather for birthdays. Every afternoon at 5, a group meets on Sugar Bend Drive to say a rosary and to exchange news about those who may be in need in the community.

Dwayne Fatherree is the community editor for The Daily Iberian. He can be reached at dwayne.fatherree@daily-iberian.com.

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