Friday, February 24, 2012

February 22, 2012

I realize that I'm actually writing this post on February 24th, HOWEVER, I meant to write it on the 22nd but I was really busy. :)

February 21, 2012: The day before my birthday.

Like any (I think) normal person, I enjoy getting to celebrate my birthday. I don't necessarily enjoy getting older every year (most years I do, but not every one) but I like to get the cards in the mail and the Facebook wall posts and the celebratory meals and attention. I'll admit. I like it a lot.

I have noticed however, that the older a person gets the less people think celebrating is important. Maybe once you're hitting 40 you do want to forget about your birthday altogether, but certainly 21 year olds disagree, and I highly doubt even 25 (or 26) year olds think that. If you couple this ebbing celebration level with the emergence of technology you get what I consider to be a travesty: birthdays now pass with no paper cards in the mail and no phone calls to sing an out of tune rendition of Happy Birthday. They fly by with Facebook posts and belated text messages.

Does 1/2 a thought still count? What happened to taking a moment, and a dollar, and sending someone a birthday card the good old fashioned way? What happened to recognizing that the people in your life who are over the age of 15 might still like to have a birthday party that they didn't have to plan for themselves? And while we're at it, a birthday 'gift' doesn't have to cost a fortune. But it can be well thought out. Is that too much to ask?

As Wednesday was approaching this week I was struggling with all of these...concerns. I already knew I wasn't getting a traditional party because I hadn't planned one for myself. And while I did have lunch plans with my mom I was facing down cooking my own birthday dinner. As Wednesday was approaching...

February 22, 2012: My 26th Birthday

By Tuesday morning I was in a complete depressed funk about how bad my birthday was going to be. Seriously. Nobody was going to remember it except my parents and there wasn't going to be a party or cake or presents or anything a birthday should have.

Boy was I wrong.

Tuesday as I was driving home from work my mother-in-law called to invite us over for dinner on Wednesday. And she was making lasagna, my favorite. Sweet, I don't have to cook my own birthday dinner.

Tuesday evening when I got home there were 3 cards in the mail. The first from my grandmother. She sent a sweet note and one of her favorite recipes for Pecan Rolls. I love to bake and eat sweets. It was such a sweet thought for her to send me one of her favorite recipes, and it just proves my point that a gift need not cost a fortune. The second card was from my aunt and cousins. As I opened it out fell $10. $10 isn't a lot, but it is almost exactly the cost of a box of cake mix and a jar of frosting. So there we have it, my birthday cake...some assembly required. :) The last card was from my Bestie. She had mentioned that it was coming, so it wasn't a complete surprise but what was inside was. She sent me a gift card. I know some people, Bestie included, prefer not to give/receive gift cards because they don't seem personal but I disagree. This was the most thoughtful gift card. It's store specific, and Bestie even knew how much the item I want costs. She sent exactly the right gift card amount. I don't see how that could ever possibly be misconstrued as 'not thoughtful'.

Wednesday morning: the day of truth. I got up relatively early. Then I gave myself a present: no chores on my birthday. In hind sight this wasn't the best decision as I had already neglected the chores Monday and worked on Tuesday so the house was looking a little gross. But still, it was my birthday and I was determined to have a day off. So, morning off: check! Then lunch with my mom. We went to this little tearoom in a tiny little town about 30 minutes from my house. We ate our soup, salad and sandwiches in front of a fire and topped them off with delicious desserts. It was 2 hours of relaxing atmosphere, good conversation, great company and good food. A perfect lunch. And the whole time my phone was buzzing non-stop with phone calls and text messages wishing me a healthy happy birthday. I honestly had no idea so many people would remember and care.

After lunch, and some fancy transportation finagling we took the dogs to the dog park. The weather was beautiful. And the best part, my college roommate made the trip to the park to see me. Just to give me a hug and wish me a happy birthday. And to pass along a bottle of her favorite spiked apple cider. :)

After an hour or so at the park and a bit more car rearranging we headed to my in-laws. I immediately observed a pile of stuff in the middle of the living room floor under some blankets. This is the traditional method for wrapping large gifts :) I assumed the box under the blanket was a new vacuum. It was something I had asked for a while back.

We chatted for a bit and I waited until the lasagna was in the oven baking to remove the blankets. And really, my mother-in-law couldn't wait anymore, so she grabbed one side and pulled them back. What was under the blankets? Well it wasn't a vacuum. It was four medium sized boxes from Crate & Barrel. It was new dishes. And these aren't just any dishes. These are beautiful, white, pristine, not-chipped, matching dishes that I have been petting at Crate & Barrel for a while now, saving up my spending money to buy for myself. I was like a little kid on Christmas. I opened each box and took out one piece. I made a place setting on the floor. I hugged the dishes and just basked in their fabulous-ness.

The next gift was from my husband. Now, here I already had a pretty good idea what I was getting. I don't, in general, care for surprises. I like to have a plan. So a week earlier Ken had spilled the beans that he had already gotten me a present. I spent the next hour or so badgering him with questions until I deduced that it was a cookbook. :) On Wednesday evening he gave it to me. But it's not a cookbook. It's a 1,000 page baking and pastry textbook from the baking/pastry classes at the Culinary Institute of America. It's step by step instructions, pictures, and recipes for cookies, cakes, pies, tarts, wedding cakes, spun sugar, chocolate and EVERYTHING else you can imagine associated with baking. In short, it's amazing.

As we sat down to dinner I was pretty much in heaven. Everything on my to-buy-for-myself list had been covered by the gifts I had received. Everything and then some.

After dinner, my brother-in-law obliged me to two sets at Euchre. As we were playing I was thumbing through my new baking to-do list and I mentioned that as soon as I could get the ice cream making attachment for my stand mixer I could make all kinds of ice creams with the recipes in this book. My mother-in-law simply suggested I take her ice cream maker - she never uses it anyway. Then she went down to the basement and came back with a like-new mixer and two boxes of rock salt to go with it! She said, you can 'borrow' it. :)

As we drove home I contemplated the differences in my expectations on Tuesday morning and what I actually got on Wednesday, and I scolded myself for having been so negative. I think I had worked up in my mind that my birthday should be something like "My Super Sweet 26" and then had decided if it couldn't be that it would be terrible. But I was so wrong. There was no 100 person party. There was no fancy birthday cake with my name piped in red (although I did bake myself a little something). But there were people I loved. And there were thoughtful gifts that I really wanted and none that I had to fake a smile and look for the receipt. There were calls and cards and messages from all across the country wishing me a happy day. It was so much more than I could have really ever hoped for. And today, Friday, I still feel so blessed and lucky.

What a great day!

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