Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A lifelong gift

Birthday books are nice, but even better is the feeling that the day is a special one.

Mr. Darcy, at my feet, wonders what the fuss is about. He's special every single day.

Dark chocolate for me, hazelnut for John -- a treat has always been an essential part of my birthday.

It was a birthday wish born of a fairy tale -- a story about a king who challenged his subjects to come up with a food that was "hot as summer, cold as winter." The solution -- ice dessert smothered in hot chocolate sauce -- left me only one answer when mom asked what dessert I wanted for my birthday.

It was 1950s rural Alberta, and mom had never made such a thing before. But her unquestioning willingness to try a confection dreamed up in a fairy tale was an indication of how my parents treated their children's birthdays.

For that one day of the year -- and that day only -- we were special. In the months, weeks and days leading up to it, we all experienced that secret rising excitement that the big day was coming; our own red-letter day where we were marked out from the rest.

From today's prosperous perspective, it was all very modest. We had our choice of birthday cake -- or ice cream and hot chocolate sauce, in my case. My parents would always give us a gift, even in their direst financial straits. And our siblings were each expected to give us a gift out of our 25-cents-a-week allowance (you could get a lot more for 25 cents in those days).

It was a lesson in giving and receiving. About accepting that each of us in turn would have one special day. But most important, it told us that our parents thought our entrance into the world was a big enough event to make a fuss over. It made us feel like we mattered.

Today was my 66th birthday. There were gifts, phone calls and messages from friends and relatives. But the best thing was that I still had that "special" feeling my parents planted so long ago. It seems to be a lifelong gift: Even if I end up an old, old lady without anyone who remembers my birthday, I think I will still feel a quiet celebration coming on when Sept. 7 rolls around.

John at the Beach House restaurant in West Vancouver, where he took me to lunch.

The big discovery: It was fun to mark my birthday by exploring a new place I don't remember seeing before. These are the stairs leading from the seawall to the Navvy Jack community garden across the railway tracks.

Roses are still out in full force along the brick walkways leading to the garden.

Some fine Swiss chard and flowers in the garden plots. They're private, and non-members can't get into the garden proper.

More of the beautifully done brick-like walkway leading to the garden plots.

There are a couple of  outdoor spaces set up like  meeting areas around the garden; this one is remarkable for its floor.


  1. What very special parents you had! And being treated like a queen yesterday...wonderful!