I've had some spectacular birthday parties over the years. The first memorable one came when my future first husband invited both the entire fraternity and sorority we were such a part of at George Washington University to go to my apartment to celebrate it - but did not tell me or my roommate. He arrived when the party was in full swing, and it was one of the times I hold most dear in my memory.
That 21st birthday came in a time of simplicity amid the excitement of a great university in a great city. It was a time to make great friends I still visit today, just a day's ride in most cases.
Over decades of birthdays, I've received fantastic gifts, had small family gatherings, large family gatherings and friends helping to celebrate in various ways. Most of these involved an 'event' rather than a simple moment.
But this recent birthday, celebrated at home with Terry in the middle of being sick, was surprisingly pleasing. Low-key on the simplest level. Joyful on the highest.
Terry gave me romantic jewelry a la Downton Abbey and warm fuzzy sock slippers timed perfectly. He had them beautifully wrapped with his Hallmark skills honed to the epitome. Then I opened paper cards from my kids that touched me so much I cried. Electronic cards brightened up my day with loving messages from kids, grandkids and friends. Text messages arrived, phone calls. A few personally crafted gifts - it doesn't get better. And I didn't have to be deserving, just blessed.
My sister and brother-in-law delivered a beautiful card on the weekend following my birthday when they planned to take me out to dinner. But Ann had mailed Hairy Beast to arrive on my day.
Hairy Beast is the birthday card we have sent back and forth
for almost 30 years - a funny monster that reads, "Dear Sister,
I care enough to send you the Hairy Beast." We began sending it back
on the other's birthday with just a line summarizing our life of the year just
passed. We had to add a sheet several years ago as it has seen better days physically, as have we. But it is our mutual treasure, and I believe whichever
of us has it last will take it out of a drawer very carefully on the
other's birthday and let us visit quietly.
Receiving Hairy Beast was second only to her beautiful message written in an equally wonderful small card. That small card will go into my One Room file. I know what I hold most dear since I have a list of what will go into my one room should it ever come about.
One room would hold truly special cards that touched my very soul as well as a 5' wonderful paper mache rabbit purchased a quarter century ago. There are more treasures...
I have all these wonderful memories with something tangible to remind me of the happiest moments in my life. Neither gifts of jewelry or even the '88 Chrysler with the spoked wheel on the trunk that my buddy Hal Levensen dubbed "the classiest car in Tidewater" equals these simple but splendid treasures.
My greatest gift on this birthday was realizing one-by-one my true gifts. Simple is always splendid.
Jean Loxley-Barnard has been a writer all her life and studied both sociology and psychology at George Washington University where she earned a B.A. Her company, The Shopper, Inc., encompasses all the Loxley-Barnard family publications - The Shopper Magazines and Doctor to Doctor Magazine. She has been in the advertising, consulting and publishing business for 38 years.
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