Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Birthday Bash

I don’t remember this day at all. It was my 10th birthday, a decade of life, so you’d think even my young brain would have marked it as a milestone: a day to remember.

But it wasn’t until my mother (seen here in mid-sing of “Happy Birthday” on May 27, 1973) sent me this photo three days ago that the memories came, not flooding back but seeping through a thick filter of age. The dining room table set, hand-crafted and painted by the Amish and purchased by my parents in Lancaster, Pennsylvania when they were newlyweds. My mother’s coffee mugs hung on that hand-painted sign that insists “Happiness is Togetherness” (and yet, I spent so much of my childhood totally content in my solitude). And that old narrow kitchen of ours branching off the dining room of the parsonage, soon to be torn down and remodeled when my father’s church budgeted for a renovation. But so many other things about that photo, the unseen life beyond the pixels, elude me.

Who was I in 1973? Certainly, I was already well into my career as a reader. I can’t say for sure, but I believe my pre-teen To-Be-Read list would have included Nancy Drew, Big Red, and The Borrowers. I was still a couple of years away from the day my parents came home with a Chocolate Lab puppy, Shane, who became my best (at times, my only) friend all the way through high school. On this sunny May day in 1973, I was shy and anxious and fighting off lingering traces of a childhood stutter. Overall, though, I think I was happy. I had kind parents, the weather was nice, and I had a library card.

The picture is also a good way to illustrate the fact that this blog turned 10 earlier this month. The way I’m looking at that cake is how I tend to look at books: with surprise, with hope, and with hunger.

Update: My mother helpfully provided this addendum today in a Facebook comment: We had been in Jackson, WY for less than a year. I wonder what I wrote on that cake? And yes you were an avid reader even then. We arrived at our new home in Jackson the previous November and before we even got to our home you were begging us to find the library!

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