I love birthdays. Everyone’s, not just my own. My grandma used to tell me that someone’s birthday is the day when you should take a moment to appreciate what they bring to your life and what would be missing from it if they’d never been born. She pointed out that even a distant acquaintance (say, maybe the girl at Starbucks who serves you coffee every morning with a smile) probably changes your life in some small way. I think she’s right.
My whole life, I’ve loved birthdays. I’m the one who sends you a snail mail card even though we haven’t seen each other in years. When I forget someone’s birthday, I feel really terrible about it. They might not have even noticed, but I feel awful. It’s like saying that their presence in my life meant nothing. Ugh. How HORRIBLE.
But, to be honest, I had been quietly dreading this day. Work was destined to be crazy, and I had a late meeting that would eat up my evening, and I couldn’t escape the sense that only two weeks ago, I still had reservations for James and I to go away to the mountains this weekend to celebrate our birthdays. Yes, I was not looking forward to this day at all.
But, as often happens, life surprised me.
Last night, my girls took me out to dinner. My mother had sent Sabrina some money and some suggestions and so off we went. I can’t tell you how perfect it was. It was a cold and snowy Wednesday night, and the restaurant was nearly empty. We had a lovely waitress who sang me an Elvis-inspired version of “Happy Birthday” and had my girls giggling with delight. We stuffed ourselves on delicious pasta and desserts while they chattered at me about their days at school, their friends, and the latest books they were reading. It was an evening made in Mom Heaven.
This morning, a ring at the doorbell, and it was the flower delivery man! I assumed they were from my cousin, who likes to send me flowers on my birthday, but they weren’t. They were from James. I was momentarily floored. What did this mean? Why did he do this? But then the cold wash of sanity came over me. They are beautiful flowers. Nothing more, nothing less. I have already wasted too much time trying to figure out his motivations and feelings. If he wants to share them, he obviously knows where I live. For now, I will just enjoy the beauty of my flowers. Nothing more, nothing less.
I got plenty of hugs and kisses from my sweet girls, and I opened a beautiful present from my mother — an Irish claddagh necklace that is just Celtic enough that I love it and just funky enough that I’ll wear it. Then it was off to breakfast with Annie, and a heavy dose of girlfriend bonding over yummy eggs benedict, and a thoughtful gift of some delicious “pamper me” items to indulge in this weekend.
I got into work and was slammed, as expected. Work right now is so stressful that my boss and I have literally cried to each other in the last week. But today, the slew of texts and phone calls coming in, each sweet voice on the other end of the line sending warmth and love my way, made all the craziness and deadlines more than bearable. Some were familiar, cherished voices, but others were completely unexpected, like my former mother-in-law, who called to tell me she was thinking of me and how special I am. There really aren’t words for my astonishment…. Or how about the hand-delivered card from a local business-owner in the town where I work? I still have no idea how she discovered it was my birthday or why she went to the trouble of a card, but I was genuinely touched.
My colleagues and I took a break over noon and all shared cake in honor of the January birthdays in our office, so I was able to justify chocolate cake for lunch. I mean, I didn’t want to be rude, right?? 😉 I’ve decided I should eat chocolate cake for lunch every day. It’s pretty hard to be cranky with chocolate cake for lunch…
My afternoon was punctuated by an IM that caught me completely off-guard. As I was furiously completing a memo up against a tight deadline, I heard the blip signifying that a Yahoo chat window had been opened and a message received. My curiosity got the better of me and I clicked over, only to discover a name that took me more than moment to place. It belongs to a man I went on exactly two dates with more than two years ago. And this is what he wrote:
Hey there. I heard “Hey Soul Sister” in my car just now and thought of you. I always think of you when I hear that song.
I just want you to know that meeting you changed my life, in really good ways, and even though it didn’t work out between us, I think of you sometimes and always hope that you’re happy.
And then he logged off.
He had no idea it was my birthday; you don’t exactly cover that on two dates. And yet, he picked today of all days to reach out and connect with me. His gesture flooded me with warmth. Is there anything better than a moment of being unforgettable?
My day marched on. I was so crazy busy all day, I didn’t even have a chance to check my Facebook wall to view my birthday wishes, but when I did, I practically fell off my chair… more than 70 people took a moment out of their day to wish me well, to — as my grandma would have put it — acknowledge my place in their life. I read each message with such enormous gratitude. What a blessing social media is, when it can offer us that kind of small but meaningful connection.
After work it was off to my meeting that I’d expected to eat up my evening and leave me exhausted. But alas! the meeting ended up being short and relaxed and humorous. Another pleasant surprise! And I was able to race home in time to put the girls to bed myself (instead of the nanny doing it) and to discover that my nanny had left me a card and a small present. Seriously? She watches my battling daughters every day, tutors them on math homework that leaves me stammering, shuttles them to every known activity in town, and she’s buying me a present??? I swear she has a halo.
After the girls were ready for bed and we were tidying up the kitchen, I found the mail on the counter. A package from my friend Marcus in L.A.! Marcus and I were best friends in law school, which is kind of like saying that we survived basic training together in the military. At various times, he’s been my best friend, my therapist, my chaperone, my bartender, my brother, my designated driver, my lawyer, and my conscience.
I opened the package and a delicate silver ring fell to the counter. I picked it up, but even before I really saw it, I knew what it was. And it took my breath away….
Twelve years ago, Marcus had bought me this ring, as a friendship ring. It is silver (I don’t wear gold) and has interwoven Celtic symbols circling the ring. The inscription is “And she was fayr as is the rose in May.” My then-husband, Bryce, took one look at it and ordered that I return it. I was heartbroken, but I did. Marcus accepted it back with grace, assuring me that he understood and wasn’t surprised that Bryce didn’t feel comfortable with our friendship. A lot of people weren’t comfortable with our friendship.
All these years Marcus saved it for me.
Now would probably be a good time to clarify that Marcus is not in love with me; he’s happily married with three small children. In fact, I’ve never seen him as content. No, this is about the fact that Marcus has always understood me. He gets me. He gets my fears and my dreams and my crazy romanticism that he doesn’t share. And he — like so many of my guy friends — is fiercely loyal and protective of me and the good stuff he sees in me. I am so grateful for him.
Last weekend, Marcus sent me a text that said, “Don’t ever believe that you’re not special. Some guys see it right away, some guys take a little longer, and some guys never will. Whether they do or not isn’t your problem. It’s theirs.”
This birthday, I absolutely felt special. And very ashamed of myself for the pity party I’ve been hosting these past two weeks. I am humbled and blessed by how many people that I love, respect, admire, or cherish made a point, however small or large, to remind me that I’m special.
Happy Birthday to Me.