Monday, May 9, 2011

The Gift

Cricket McRae

gift box

Some of my friends are serious about birthdays. Serious. Not content with a mere, single-day hoorah, they celebrate for at least a week: birthday lunch with one friend, birthday dinners with other friends, an intimate celebration with their man (yes, these are all women – well, there’s one guy, but he still has a man), another get together with parents and siblings and usually a nice chocolate sheet cake in the break room at work.

Not me. In fact, I once forgot my own birthday until UPS delivered a package from someone obviously more on the ball than I was. I’m afraid this also means I’m not always good about other people’s birthdays. But I make an effort because I know it’s important, and everyone deserves to have a fuss made over them.

Last weekend I turned forty-seven. My guy is much like me about birthdays. He gave me a funny card, a practical gift, a single tulip, and took me out for brunch. No fuss, no muss, no bother, just eggs Benedict. He’d already brought home a flourless chocolate cake for Arbor Day, and it was way too soon to repeat the decadence.

(Side note: We celebrate Arbor Day largely because Hallmark doesn’t try to make us. The cake said, “You’ve got me treed.” What a romantic, eh?)

And that was that. Until …

The mailman brought a box to the door in the afternoon. I have a friend who still sends me birthday presents. They are thoughtful, often funny, and distinctly personal. This woman knows me well. After all, we’ve been pals for thirty-three years.

Her gifts were, as usual, spot on and much appreciated. But this year the card took the cake. So to speak.

She wrote me a story.

Two pages, about one teenaged girl teaching another one how to drive a stick shift on the dump road outside of town. About almost getting hit by a truck. About how they made up a song about it.

About a friendship overflowing with laughter that ended up spanning more than three decades.

The little story is so well-written. Poignant sans sentiment and intensely personal to yours truly. It made me cry. Hell, I’m tearing up as I write this now. That this thoughtful gift, utterly free and utterly priceless, came from her when I know she’s swamped with work, family, and a dozen other obligations just floors me.

But there’s more. I’m working up to the deadline for my next book, and that always makes me a little crazy. Okay, a lot crazy. I planned for the stress better this time, as well as the inevitable distractions, visits from friends and family, etc., but let’s face it – I’m still crazy. In this frame of mind, writing loses its luster. After this many go-rounds, I know it’ll come back, but the word that comes to mind when I sit down in front of the keyboard yet again to fuss and rewrite and add scenes and make decisions is slog.

That precious, two-page story turned out to be a gift in another, unexpected way: It reminded me of the power of words, of how much I love them, and that stories are truly important. It shifted my attitude at a time when it sorely needed a shift.

There just isn’t a Thank You big enough.


Lois Winston said...

Ah, Cricket, I teared up, too, reading this. Happy birthday!

Booklady said...

What a wonderful gift and thanks so much for sharing. It has brightened by Monday.

Beth Groundwater said...

Happy birthday, Cricket, you youngster you! And what a precious gift your friend is to you in your life.

mirajamesbl said...

Happy birthday!

I'm like you about bdays, both giving and receiving. Cheers to good friends.

Keith Raffel said...

47? Now I know there was another major entrant on the American scene in 1964 in addition to the Beatles. Happy Birthday.

Cricket McRae said...

Ah, that's sweet, Lois -- thanks!

Booklady, now you've gone and brightened my Monday.

Youngster: Ha! But I appreciate the sentiment, Beth. ; )

Mira, it's nice to know I'm not the only one.

Keith, they aren't the only ones who love you, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kathleen Ernst said...

What a wonderful friend, and a wonderful gift. A lovely reminder of the power of stories.

Dean K Miller said...

Funny how life hands you what you need most, right when you need it, huh? Happy Birthday...If I knew you were that close I would have said something at NCW last week...but you were busy tapping away.

Treasure those friends, and the words they send.

Darrell James said...

Nice post, Cricket! Diana and I don't make much of a fuss between us with our own birthdays. Honestly, I don't think I can recall ever having a birthday party. (Even as a kid, now that I think about it.)

We do celebrate the birthdays of others. Have a great day!

Cricket McRae said...

Thanks, Kathleen! I feel very lucky.

Hey, Dean -- Things DO show up right when you need them! And next time you see me blindly typing away, tap me on the shoulder (or whap me upside the head if I'm really oblivious) and say hi. ;>

Darrell, I don't remember having birthday parties, either. Maybe that's why we tend to downplay the Big Day as adults.

Alan Orloff said...

Happy Birthday, Cricket! (Cake for an Arbor Day celebration? Now we're talking!)

Jessie Chandler said...

Happy Birthday, Cricket! I think that was the absolute perfect present for you from your friend. Sometimes we forget how impactful simple works can be, especially to those closest to us. And I'm one of "those"----those people who celebrate their birthday for a whole week, or more if I can wheedle it. I love to give and I'm not at all shy about getting LOL! GREAT post.