With the life I have chosen, sometimes holidays and birthdays can be lonely. Even though I now have a husband and daughter with me, I still miss the larger occasions of friends and family that I had when I was growing up with most of my friends and family within a short distance. Through the years, I have celebrated my birthday in many other places, often without my nearest and dearest, but although I usually anticipate them with loneliness, somehow someone somewhere has come through to make sure I wasn't alone.
I recall a birthday in my early twenties, when I was working in Munich. I was on my own there, so I wasn't expecting anything at all for my birthday, other than perhaps treating myself to a little nicer dinner than usual that night, on my own with a good book. However, I had learned of the custom in Germany, where work colleagues brought a cake to share with their colleagues on their birthday. I managed in my broken German to order a cake in advance and take it into the office. I believe it was in this way that a colleague in our German office found out that I had a birthday. He and his wife arranged a birthday dinner for me and a beautiful bouquet of flowers, so that I would not be alone on my birthday. Even though this was now more than twenty years ago, I remember them fondly with each birthday.
My thirtieth birthday was in Sweden, and at the time , the relationship that I was in was ending. I was rather glum at the time, but arranged a small party with some work colleagues who were tremendous support to me during the time. However, I was surprised in the middle of it with the department manager dropping by with a gift arranged from the entire department that I worked with at the time. The thoughtfulness of my TLI colleagues and friends made it another special memory.
Many other times through the years have been cheered by the thoughtfulness and kindness of sometimes dear friends and family, but other times by colleagues or acquaintances. One team that I worked and traveled with over several years always recognized each other's birthday, which made being on the road easier.
Before this birthday, I again was a little melancholy over the Easter holiday weekend, missing my family and dearest friends. I also didn't have the energy to arrange a party or anything elaborate, being in the middle of a major renovation project.
However, starting on Monday evening, greetings already started rolling in on Facebook, Linked In, email, and SMS. With each new greeting, a smile crossed my face as I remembered each person and the time we had together.
The over forty years of my life played back before me, with each new greeting. Memories of shared laughter (and tears), of successes (or pranks), of projects and accomplishments, of all-nighters (whether work behind schedule, a toga party in the Purdue Family Inn on my 21st, or one of many road trips), or simply moments of fleeting joy were with me all through the day.
Whether it was the simplicity of one of many pleasant evenings in a cozy kitchen in Sweden, in a sorority house near Chicago, the sunshine of California, or one of many wonderful countries or cities around the world; family that came by blood relations or marriages (my own or others), classmates or former work colleagues, the memories came as clear as pictures and reminded me how truly fortunate that I am.
So, thank you, to all of you, who took a few seconds or minutes from your day yesterday to bring joy to mine. Thank you for thinking of me, and reminding me of my memories of you - I had a truly very happy birthday!