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I have lived to see three-quarters of a century go by, for today is my 75th birthday. Unlike those special days I associate with Lev, this is not a sinkhole. Because my birthday falls during Texas Spring Break—with my children and their families on different school calendars, going in different directions—we don’t have a tradition of gathering every year. In many ways that is a good thing.

While I have sometimes chosen to spend my birthday traveling, that old cliché, your presence is the best present, is absolutely true. This week is special, with most of the family gathering in Dallas for an early celebration on the 16th, dinner tonight with “oldest, bestest” friends who have come up to celebrate with me and then a weekend when the entire family is together for the marriage of my younger grandson.

When the children were growing up, I never fully appreciated how good it is to have all the chicks in the nest at the same time. [Oh my, I am full of clichés today; it must be nostalgia.] When they marry and settle in different communities, sharing special occasions with their spouses’ families too, the very rareness of times when we are all together makes those occasions even more special. Now, another generation is marrying; and we add the complications of first jobs, limited vacation time and even more families to the logistics. So this week is special.


My St. Patrick’s Day birthday is easy for friends and family to remember, so I get more than my share of birthday cards, remembrances and celebrations. Since I was widowed, friends and family have gone out of their way to make my birthdays special.

Until I married, my mother made a green dress for me each year; and when she died, I found all 21 carefully saved in her closet. I only kept the first and have few distinct recollections of the others, but they blend into sweet, indelible memory, along with birthday cakes and parties.

My mother-in-law was widowed twice, and she set a powerful example for me. When she bought herself something extravagant, she always called it “Helen’s gift to Helen.” After Lev’s death, I gave myself permission to purchase “Ella’s gifts to Ella.” Then one Friday night at dinner, a new friend—another widow—wore a spectacular new pearl necklace. When we admired it, she told us it that it was her husband’s anniversary gift to her. She explained that each year on her birthday, anniversary and Christmas, she buys herself the kind of gift that he gave her.

I like the idea of “Lev’s gifts to Ella” more than extravagant purchases for myself. They act as a budgetary control, limiting my major splurges to three, while at the same time allowing me to splurge occasionally. More importantly, they remind me of the giver— the source of my gifts and my resources. I skipped my Christmas gift last December, but I have made up for lost time shopping in Dallas on this visit. Happy birthday to me!

If you live alone, how do you celebrate your birthday?
Do you give yourself gifts from time to time?