In the Facebook age, there’s a phenomenon that occurs on one’s birthday that has created the awkward moment of wanting to accept each person’s well wishes, which one would do individually IRL, and feeling a little silly going to everyone’s page one at a time and saying the same thank you over and over.
In my case, my birthday was so delightful, and the sentiment from friends was so overwhelming, I need to express it with more than just a one-click effort.
The morning started with a skype call from my guy, on a business trip to Vegas, before the sun even came up. Next was son Sam calling before he headed out on an all-day raft trip. Then, my best study buddy and her wife call and serenade me with the Birthday song from 3000 miles away. I’m not even out of bed and already the day is perfect.
Next is morning coffee, birthday coffee that arrived the day before from one of my brothers, and sunrise on the porch. I know it’s freezing, but the view from the front porch of the sun coming up through the now bare tree branches across the pasture is compelling every time. I get my fuzzy robe, a quilt, my coffee, and the dogs and I go out and watch the planet turn and bring the sun into view. Waiting, waiting, and then finally, where just moments before you could just make out shapes and outlines, rays of sunshine so bright you can see them through your closed eyelids. Another morning, another day to get to be here in this place and time.
Then it’s back into the office for a day of studying. 2L is coming to a close, finals are in December, so it’s wrapping up Constitutional Law, Criminal Procedure, Civil Procedure, and Real Property. Another moment of gratitude for the chance to go to school, to have this academic challenge, to get to know all my classmates and professors, to explore this ever-fascinating field of law. I keep my Facebook window open and watch the Happy Birthdays come in, each one a birthday present of friendship, each one a reminder of how so very fortunate I have been to know and love this fabulous person and this fabulous person and it goes on and on and on. The phone call from first, brother, and then, mother and dad come through, along with the chit-chat of who they saw at church, and what they said, and what they had for lunch…the poignant, ubiquitous trivialities that today touch me as a indispensable connection to my hometown community and the family I still have there.
After study, it’s time for my present to me – a couple of hours out on the bike in the last of the fall’s pretty riding days. The sky is as blue as I’ve ever seen it, the sun feels warm and delicious, even the shuffle setting I have on the iPod seems to be cooperating to create this perfect moment in time. I’m singing along in my euphoria, not even caring that I have forgotten how one’s singing sounds when one has earbuds in, presuming one can carry a tune in the first place, when I realize I’m at a stoplight, and the passengers in the car next to me are enjoying the weather too, with windows rolled down. As the light turns green and they roll past me, they give me a little applause and a laugh out the window, and because I don’t know what else to say, I shout “It’s my birthday!”, and I get a “Happy Birthday!” in return. Child #4, twin B, is heard from, and we chat for moment, until I hear her chastise me like I’ve chastised her repeatedly: Don’t talk on the cell phone while you’re riding your bike!
As the sun is setting, the beautiful inverse of the morning’s performance, with the brilliant rays getting lower and lower til they are no more, and the temperature drops instantaneously, I pull in to the restaurant where I’m meeting friends for a little celebratory brew and socializing. We’re loud, obnoxious, and opinionated, a mix of men and women, young and old, secular and religious, and I’m enjoying the food and the beer and the company more than I can describe. The Squeeze even makes it in from the Las Vegas trip, gifts in hand, in time for dinner and merriment. We’ve instituted a phone rule for our get-togethers: ringers on, 3 minutes to send whatever texts you need to prepare, then in a pile on the table they go, and the first one who responds buys the beer. So I miss the call (you think I’m going to lose THAT deal?) from child #3, twin A, Glenda, but get the Birthday voicemail she leaves.
After much food, drink, laughter, and general carrying-on, the evening is over, I strap the bike to the car, and on the drive home I hear from the last child, who’s actually the first child, and his birthday message. He tells me when his flight is getting in for Thanksgiving, and we talk about how excited we all are to be getting everyone together.
Finally it’s time to collapse into bed and catch up the way you do in a love affair when even hours apart is too long. Cold night, flannel sheets, electric blankets set to Infinity, heat turned off, dogs across our feet. Life is not just good. It’s spectacular.
I know it was just an ordinary birthday. I heard from old friends and new friends and Tennessee friends and out-of-state friends and old church friends and law school friends and young friends and not-so-young friends and every one meant something to me. Some were just Facebook posts, but the relationships that those posts, and the phone calls, and the gathering, represent what makes up my world. As they came in through the day, I spent a moment reflecting on friendships and how grateful I am to have this particular set of people in my life. Hokey and cliche? I’m good with that.
“For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only though love.” Carl Sagan
What a beautiful way to lead in to this season of Thanksgiving.
Thanks for reading.