My wife has made birthday celebrations a ritual event. She now speaks of what she is planning for the Octave of her Birthday. This year almost set a new high.
Some seventeen years ago a friend suggested that their group, who met on occasion for lunch or other events, gather to celebrate any birthdays that members were having that month. The celebrant would get their lunch paid for and if someone wanted to give a small present; that was okay. She started another tradition at the first meeting: passing the ball.
The ball was a cute, hollow silver sphere about the size of a baseball. It would be passed on a rotating basis and the recipient had to plan the location for the next event and inform every one of the date. Another tradition quickly occurred: the assigned member would sign her name on the box to accept this responsibility.
Best I know the chain has remained unbroken, although some have left the area. Others have joined, several friends of the person who started the group. Some have moved fairly long distances from the South Orange County start, but in California distance is no big deal and most gather on a regular basis.
In addition to this group, Mary has many friends who she used to see on almost a daily basis, but who have also moved away (are you beginning to believe we are the only ones who have stayed in one place? That would be a good guess as we have now been in the same house for thirty-five years.) Today she met with two groups of those, original neighbors on the block our house is on.
Yesterday and a week before that other friends asked to take her out. At my last count she was displaying 23 cards on our mantle, and that doesn’t count the ones from Southwest Airlines or places of retail. Telephone calls from her side of the family are too numerous to mention, especially since many of them call more than once in order to catch her when she is not out celebrating.
Family is not forgotten, and there we have the problem of choosing a gift for someone who still thinks she can get by with “Oh, don’t worry about a gift. Just having you close is enough for me.” She gave only three suggestions: replace her L.L. Bean lined winter slippers, a gift certificate for a manicure in the shop our granddaughter favors, and a timer she could use at the range, because the one on the microwave and the one on the oven are inconvenient when she is cooking. We have two sons and three grandchildren of an age where they know when something is gifted from them or the parent, so choices would be welcome
I was all over the timer, thinking that younger son would like to do the slippers, and older son would know where his daughter gets her nails done, but that isn’t the way things worked out. Slippers were out of son’s budget and he staged his presents over time: installed a new water system for his mother, provided her with a theater ticket for after the group lunch, and had a $25 gift certificate for one of her favorite lunch stops. The last may have been re-gifted as he gets things like that from his students. Older son took the timer, without asking, since it fit his children’s budget. I was left with the slippers. Of course, we were all hampered by the fact that Border’s gift cards, a perennial fall-back were off the table.
While wandering Costco I saw an item of inspiration: an industrial double-sided waffle maker. We recently visited Mary's sister in Wisconsin and said sister not only entertained us with her wonderful purchase of a similar waffle maker, she also served waffles to a large group for breakfast. I remembered how efficient the appliance was, and called my sister-in-law to verify my memory. She gushed and I purchased and wrapped the unexpected gift.
I’ll spare you the look of incredulity when Mary opened the present. “That’s just the box”, said one of my ungrateful children. “Maybe something else is inside.”
“I have a perfectly good waffle iron”, said Mary, when she finally opened the box. Other son said, “I could use your old one if you want to keep the gift.” Eventually, that is what happened. I felt especially fortunate to escape with nothing more than mild approbation, especially since if I had purchased the Timer she might not have been as pleased as she was with the one Sean bought: three settings, compact, and nothing else except a clock.
“Just what I wanted,” said Mary. Adding that she had told me as much when she first mentioned the suggestion. Knowing me, she added, with emphasis, “All I want is a timer. No other features.” I was hoping that I could find one that would also tell when a dish was “seasoned to taste”, since Mary takes that recipe direction as an excuse to add nothing.
Oh well, I probably couldn’t have found one with that feature anyway. Did I mention that when she asked for a copier, I found one that prints, faxes, scans, and stays current with its wireless web connection? She IS learning how to make copies. A couple of more tries and I’m sure she will have it down.
I’m not sure exactly when celebrating birthdays in our family switched from a celebration of birth to a celebration of life, but that is indeed what has happened. Not that there is anything rong with that. Go Mary!
Nest Blog I will recollect what I think is the ultimate pay-back wedding present.