I’m a bit nostalgic today.
It’s my birthday.
With the exception of a bird song in the distance and the occasional breeze stirring the leaves, it’s quiet and I am alone.
I ponder birthdays’ past.
The only photos I have of any one of my birthdays is my fourth birthday; and the only reason those exist is because Mom took them to send to Dad who was in Vietnam. Since my parties were usually during the week, Dad, the camera buff, was never around to document my parties.
Memories crowd my mind.
I spent my tenth birthday at my Uncle Sam’s farm. I vividly remember looking out the window when I heard a car drive up and watching the lady hurry to the back door with an unwrapped box; on the box was a picture of a Barbie doll house. I never told my Mom I saw the lady delivering it nor did I tell her I peeked in Granny’s closet to confirm what I saw….well, until now.
My 12th birthday celebration brings a smile. I think that was the first year that kids from school, and not just the neighborhood kids, showed up for my party. It was also the year I was first introduced to green-apple scented body powder and Donny Osmond.
We were living in Hawaii when I turned 16 and had my first party where I was allowed to invite boys! (Real boys — not just the neighborhood kid-brother-needed-to-be-invited-because-his-sister-was!) While I don’t remember exactly what went on, I do remember there were shenanigans…and a lot of laughter, the kind of laughter that made you laugh until you cried. And then, of course, the fun eventually migrated to the nearby beach and ended with a sunburn.
My 18th birthday was perhaps my hardest. We had left Hawaii only a few weeks before and were staying with my grandfather in Norfolk, Virginia. While I was happy to see my relatives after more than three years, I was missing my island friends...and dreading the transition to adulthood and the workaday world.
Every year growing up, Mom always made my birthday cake. Most of the time it was yellow cake with white frosting. And because it was my birthday, I always got to eat the packaged sugar-letters she got at the grocery store, and if there was leftovers, I finished off any decorator icing left in the tube. (Which, by the way, the pink tastes the best!).
I got engaged on my 21st birthday and celebrated my 22nd while on my honeymoon at Walt Disney World. (Hindsight regret: that I didn’t attend the Snowden family reunion instead!)
As I got older, and in my single years, I have celebrated more than a dozen birthdays while on vacation in Virginia, where I visited family and friends.
One of my favorite memories is my 40th birthday. I flew back to Northern Virginia and spent time with a group of friends; we had a wonderful fun and “fancy” dinner out. A few days later, I rented a car and made my first solo long distance road trip to Pittsburgh to visit a high-school friend. The entire week was packed with reminiscing and making new memories.
Ranking right up at the top of memorable birthdays was my big 5-0. It was a week of celebration! A planned dinner with a couple of friends was actually a surprise dinner with several friends from my Sunday school class. At work, my coworkers filled my office with balloons and confetti; took me to lunch and then had surprised me with a cake. I then flew to Virginia, where my actual birthday was spent in rural northeastern NC, with my aunt and a distant cousin, whom I had met through genealogy. We drove the backroads and visited places I remembered from my childhood summers spent with my grandmother and Uncle Sam. We ate the best country cooking at a restaurant over the general store; the green beans tasted just like my grandmother’s. When we were back at my cousin’s house, another distant cousin came by with family photos and told me stories of days gone by. He left, only to return a short time later, with a framed engagement portrait of my beloved Uncle Sam and his first wife, taken in 1915. He handed it to me and said it had been in his mother’s attic for decades. The portrait now hangs in my guest room, over the iron bed which belonged to Uncle Sam.
As I’ve journeyed through my memories today, my eyes brim with tears. Every one of my birthdays has been blessed with friends, family, dinner or lunch outings, laughter, cards, phone calls, flowers, social media posts and always…cake.
While I chose to have a quiet birthday today, and have been physically alone, my memories have been great company. I needed to stop my busyness, rest and remember.
I am humbled and in awe of the countless threads of friendship that have been expertly woven by God’s divine hand into this amazing tapestry of my life.
It is beautiful and I am grateful.
And my cup overflows with joy.
But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.
~ 1 Corinthians 13:13