I was expecting a laptop battery from Amazon, and so when I spotted the nondescript package near my door, I assumed it had arrived.
But it was wrapped in brown paper–not the usual Amazon fare–and the postmark indicated Fruitville Road in Sarasota, my old hometown.
My mother can’t remember birthdays anymore (definitely the subject of another post another time), and my siblings and I weren’t in the habit of mailing each other packages (now that our kids are grown and we aren’t constantly leaving behind valuables when we visit).
And when I turned the package over and saw “Happy birthday!” written in large, green curlicue letters, I knew it had to be from Pam, my sunshine friend.
Just holding the package brought tears to my eyes–and I tucked it away until my real birthday, the following day.
I had spent that day balancing housecleaning chores with schoolwork, preparing for my husband’s sister and her husband (and Quigley, their Golden Retriever), who were stopping by to spend the night on their way home from a business trip. It was to be an occasion–Aunt Linda and Uncle Pete were in town!–and so all my children who could were planning on joining us for pizza and fun. (The cat was safely locked in a bedroom; once she discovered a dog in the house, she seemed content with captivity.) I, on the other hand, had to go to work for a parent orientation night at school.
I didn’t realize I was missing my own birthday party–until my sister-in-law arrived with a large gift bag in hand and my daughter and son-in-law arrived with flowers and a huge cake. I opened the gift bag to find a lovely, spacious, taupe ostrich leather bag complete with dark quill marks that in my mind made it a match for either browns or blacks. Perfect! My daughter insisted on arranging the flowers in a vase for me while I ordered pizza and gave instructions to follow in my absence. And I left just as the pizza arrived.
While I enjoyed meeting the parents of my students, I admit that as soon as my last “class” was over, I shut off the lights and left the building, bent on returning home. My family was waiting for me–sang a rendition of “Happy Birthday” in complete darkness and watched as I blew out (thankfully, just two) candles on the cake. And shot the customary photos, my children treating me as I have always treated them.
It was delightful, unexpected, a treasure. I felt loved. The party went on long into the night, but I went to bed, having to awaken early for school the next morning. That was when–after I had packed lunches and straightened the kitchen–I treated myself to Pam’s package. In it was a handmade purse with a delightful card made just for me:
happy birthday SARA
Surprise! I thought it would be super fun to send you a gift this year!! And since I’ve been making purses–lots of purses!–I figured a purse was the gift to send!! I tried to choose fabric that I thought you’d like. I truly stitched it with love… and I hope you enjoy it! … I hope your birthday is fabulous cuz YOU certainly are!! I love you…
My dear friend had nailed it. The purse was beautiful, fun, practical–with its flowers and bright colors and frills and pockets. (In the past years, she has made me “pajamas” for my camera and my Kindle–also delightful!)
Again, I felt loved. I had been surrounded by my family’s love and received a precious gift from a precious lifelong friend. As I went through the day, I heard numerous “Happy birthday” greetings at school, found my cell phone blown up by texts and Facebook messages, and, to top it off, welcomed the birth of my newest great nephew on my own birthday! (Welcome, Jackson! Thanks for making your birth date easy to remember!)
I like to think that birthday celebrations don’t matter to me. I try to sneak through the day of school without letting on that it is my birthday; I can never figure out what gift I want when my husband asks. But it is so nice to be remembered and flooded with reminders that I am loved–by friends, by family, by students past and present.
I call you all the arms of God, giving me physical hugs and rhetorical reminders of how very much He loves me.