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Published: Sunday, 8/10/2014

Birthdays never stop being special

Powell. Powell.
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The birthday cards, calls, gifts, and blueberry shortcake were acknowledged gratefully in notes, hugs, emails, and verbal thank yous. But what the recent attention melted down to is a reminder that everyone’s birthday anniversary is important to them.

It’s their day and each recognition is meaningful. So let’s do it. There are a very few outspoken people who announce that their birthday is coming. But the average person develops modesty before the date and when it is mentioned well may say, “forget my birthday. It’s really nothing, just another day.”

But they don’t mean it. It is special to them, and if they are like me, when the new calendars come each year I immediately turn to the month and check my birth date to see on which day of the week it will be.

The anticipation for my day each year began in childhood with a party, cake, balloons, and my closest playmate, my cousin Joyce, sharing the spotlight with me. We are five weeks apart in age and were the best of pals growing up and are still close.

More years have passed since those happy times in the backyard playing games and blowing out candles than I admit to. But one highlight of those early birthdays is still repeated each year.

This year was no exception.

My first happy birthday call was from Joyce. Her call and our conversation are treasured far more than any material gifts.

When the call came I was certain that either her son or a staff person in the nursing home where she lives had reminded her of “Mary’s birthday” and made the call for her.

Neither was the case. Despite her dementia, she remembered the date, found the number, and dialed it.

Thank goodness I was at home to answer the call because we enjoyed a long conversation with many recollections of those long-ago parties. Joyce remembered the cakes our grandmother made and I reminded her that was long before cake mixes were on the market.

This year there were no candles to blow out on a traditional cake. Instead, it was blueberry shortcake, made, brought, and served by a friend in my home after our group had dinner in a restaurant.

Blueberry sauce was spooned over the shortcake biscuits that covered the bottoms of large bowls and fresh blueberries were spooned over the top. I did not encourage the friend to take the rest home. Selfishly, I had two more shortcake servings and used the remaining sauce over French toast.

After I received several more birthday phone calls from around the country, I made a note to personally do better remembering friends and relatives on their birthdays.

I admit to being lax and have vowed to shape up and send a card, make a telephone call, or both to the special people in my life.

In our busy lives it’s easy to overlook the date, or just plain forget, which explains the stack of “sorry I forgot your birthday” greetings I have kept on hand.

The 2014 birthday cards are lined up on a table in the living room that I pass several times a day. I know who sent which card because I pick them up to read knowing that each card required time and thoughtfulness. I am in no hurry to dismantle the display. I enjoy it as a friendship connection.

Some of the cards are humorous with puns on aging. I especially like the one that begins with “You’re getting to the age where you start to think of the Hereafter.” Inside, the message is “Now what did I come in here after?” How true that is.

Nowadays the selection of cards covers a wide range of interests that accounts for the cats on a number of my cards. Whatever the design and the message, each card means the sender took the time to select it, address it, find a stamp, and mail it. That denotes sincere friendship.

The message from a Seattle friend I rarely see was that a card was in the mail. When it arrived, it not only was a cat design, but the enclosed check was most generous.

When I called to thank her and ask if she was crazy or had just hit the lottery, her explanation was “Let’s face it, how many more birthdays do we have with our friends?”

With that explanation, I hung up and decided to cash the check and buy drinks for friends. A lot of celebration drinks for a lot of friends.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor. Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com

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