All The Gifts

It was my birthday on Monday. 40 years, the mind simply boggles.

I’m excited, to tell you the truth. There was a time in my life when surviving to reach 25 seemed well outside the realm of possibility, so this is a pretty big deal to me.

I’m not freaked out, but I am philosophical. I’ve been thinking about birthdays, and about birthday gifts. There have certainly been some doozies.

On my 11th birthday (Mom, is that right?) I was given the gift of a gorgeous bay American Saddlebred 3-gaited show horse. His name was Mod World, and he was a handful. We understood each other, Mod and I, and we had a great season that year, including the day we won an Open Park Saddle class over the top of some truly talented competition. I didn’t stop smiling for a week.

There were other extravagant gifts: another horse, a car, an opal and diamond ring from my husband, which made me cry.

It seems to me, though, that some of the best gifts didn’t come on my birthday, but were given at any time, simply for the joy of it.

A ticket to the ballet to celebrate a good report card.

The road trip to Missouri to visit my brother and his family.

A love (OK, obsession) of reading.

Those poor patient young women who tried to teach me to knit.

All the random smiles of strangers, the people who gave up their bus seats to me when I was on crutches, the way one of my nephews leapt up into my arms, serene in the knowledge that I’d catch him.

All wonderful gifts.

I heard Joseph Campbell tell a story once, about a young boy who wanted to give a birthday gift to his teacher. He left his village and walked to the sea, which was several days away. When he got to the beach, he sat and watched the tides and the birds for a day, watched the sun rise and set and listened to the wind and the waves. Then he picked up a pretty shell from the beach and walked home.

He went to his teacher and gave her the shell. She took it from him, thanked him, and asked, “You walked all the way to the sea to get me this shell?”

“Oh no,” he said, “the shell isn’t the gift. The journey is the gift.”

I think that story is making more sense to me now. This is my gift, this life of mine, these friends I have, this family which loves me. This is my journey.

To all the people who have shared it with me, I thank you most humbly. Shall we see what the next 40 years brings us?

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12 Responses to All The Gifts

  1. Bells says:

    Happy birthday! Congratulations on feeling so positive about 40 when so many people give in to the ‘woe is me’ stuff. Beautiful post. Am a huge fan of Mr Campbell.

  2. Anna says:

    I’m such a twat… I totally missed your birthday… Does a “sorry” and a “grattis i efterskott” make me come out on the good end again?:kram:

  3. essjay says:

    I’m so glad you had such a wonderful birthday and that it didn’t bother you to turn 40! It is often hard to remember to be thankful for everything you have – you’ve said it so gracefully. Here is to 40 more!

  4. Alwen says:

    I think my angst-i-est birthday was not my 40th, but my husband’s 30th! I felt so much like I hadn’t done anything that year.I hope you had a great birthday, and many happy returns!

  5. KT says:

    Great post, girl! Thanks for sharing. May this your 40th year be the best ever, full of daily gifts. 🙂 KT

  6. Georgie says:

    Many Happy Returns! It’s great to see you enjoying it, being positive and philosphical. A lovely thought-provoking post.

  7. Happy Late Birthday. 40 is a piece of cake (she said, having just passed her 56th, which doesn’t feel that old until I see it written down). Every day is an adventure, and a lot of those adventures involve yarn- it could be worse…

  8. TinkerTots says:

    Happy Birthday! I’m so glad you had a wonderful day.

  9. TinkingBell says:

    Happy happy happy birthdaywelcome to the 40sthey’re fun – mostly!

  10. Trudy says:

    Oh Sweetie! How beautifully you write, and what a wonderful story of the journey being the gift. Our life’s journey IS our biggest gift, and oh–so little control we have over it, huh!!I will get that picture of Davey and “Sea” before we leave–you cannot imagine how dfficult it is to use a camera while you’re holding a child in each arm, loving it for dear LIFE!My forties were times of wonderful joy and excruciatingly vicious pain, and I have survived both. There is no “perfect age”, unless you can count the moment you’re living right now!

  11. Joanne says:

    Happy Birthday! May you have 40 more happy years…:) or more. What wonderful gifts you’ve received!Thanks for all your kind thoughts and comments on my blog. I’m doing my best to keep working, knitting, walking, etc. through this hard time. It’s pretty hard to see a baby struggle like this…but I’ve been so appreciative of all the wonderful comments from my cyberfriends. 🙂

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