A New Birthday Tradition – Gift giving

I woke up feeling no different than yesterday, but today is different. Today is the day it supposedly all goes downhill. Today my metabolism slows to a crawl and I gain weight just by looking at food. Today I get to blame my impulsive and bizarre behaviors on my impending “mid-life crisis”. Today I need to find some reading glasses to be able to see the small print on the labels. Today I should stock up on the painkillers to ease the aches in my joints. Today is the day I can blIMG_6623ame my bad memory on old age. Today is the day I begin my descent to death.

Feeling energized, I made my way down to the gym and had an extra spring in my step. I worked out a little longer, partly to offset any birthday indulgences that may come later, but mostly because I just felt good. I have never been one to look or feel my age. In fact, I quite often forget, and have had to check my ID to be sure. I think that all started after 25, when I started traveling the world. That is when I really understood that age was just a number, just as time is only an illusion. Anyway, I fully understand the stigma attached to 40 but I don’t buy it.

 

Today, I am 40. So I crawled out of bed and checked my muscles but they felt pretty good despite yesterdays 2 hour workout. I bounced up and down a bit and didn’t hear my knees creak, not a peep. Next, I made my way to the mirror to look for hidden grey hairs or new wrinkles…I didn’t see a one. I was delighted to jump on the scale to learn I am the lowest weight I’ve been in years. Hot dog! This 40 thing is really working for me!

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After the gym, my big sister Trina came over to spend the day with me. I knew she had something planned but I didn’t really know what. After all, I wasn’t expecting much since we are going to Vegas in a week to really celebrate.

In my mind, today was just supposed to be a token visit to commemorate the actual day. In all honesty, Trina and I haven’t spent a lot of time together oveIMG_6635r the past few years and have grown apart a little. I was a little nervous to go along with her plan, since we have such different tastes in so many things. But I decided to give up control and go along with whatever she proposed. Trust.

I was excited when she came around the corner, arms full of gift bags and a Happy Birthday balloon bobbing behind her. Wow! That’s all I really wanted! I love balloons. So everything else is just icing on the cake. But I had no idea how big this cake would be!

After a big hug, she gave me a ginormous card half the size of my dining room table. It was hand-made and she had placed candy bars throughout to fill in the words. It read:

Dear CaraIMG_6629mels,

You are always a Starburst wherever you go. It is not a Mirage…everyone realizes you are a Smarties and a Hot Tamales. I am looking forward to our Vegas celebration where I believe we will Skor a Bounty of awesome memories. I will make sure Zero people Snickers as we Rolo into town even if we move like Turtles down the street.

Love you to Reeses Pieces, Trina

It is the sweetest card anyone has every given me. Literally.

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Next she sat me down and proceeded to give me 9 more gifts, all individually wrapped with pretty lace and delicate sparkly paper. Each had a tag with a number and a cute, humorous, or wise quote that somehow pertained to the gift. But number 8 I was feeling spoiled. From bath stuff to cat toys to a magical cloak to sea salt…she got me lots of gifts that I could use. I love useful gifts.

When we were done, Trina pulled out a bunch of crafts and told me we were going to finish some projects that she had started. These were the tools we would use to run around the city doing random acts of kindness. We worked together to put together some laminated inspirational pocket cards, snowmen booklets with  , and smiley packets of gum. She showed mIMG_6650e all the beautiful rocks she had handpainted with positive and loving words that we would be able to gift. And there was a huge bag of teddybears! Needless to say, I was getting VERY excited.

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Before we left, I remembered that I had some bags of food that I had wanted to give away so we packed that into the van and we were off. First we went to the University hospital. Parking was a zoo and I was busily scanning for a spot when Trina noticed the first metered spot closest to the door was empty. When we tried to plug it with change, we saw it was out-of-order. Free parking. Win!

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As we walked through the hospital, I opened my heart and felt my way through searching for people who needed a hug. Today, their hug comes in the form of a rock. The first man I saw sitting on a bench by himself, staring at the ground, looking forlorn. After I placed the colorful rock in his hand, he looked up at me with a surprised soft smile. I smiled back and went on my way to find my next person.12557810_10153337379132217_305382572_o

We gifted a nurse who was at the bank machine, the information lady who seemed delighted be on the receiving end, a tired doctor who was getting a coffee, an older man crumpled in a wheelchair.

But the moment that touched me the most was when I saw a fragile looking lady standing near the cafeteria looking a little sad. I turned around and approached her with a big smile. She seemed a little scared and jumped when I held out my hand to her. She backed up a little and shook her head. I softened my smile, and looked deep into her frightened eyes. “It’s ok. Today is my birthday and I am giving gifts. I have a gift for you. May I please give it to you?” She studied my face and slowly reached out her hand to receive rock. I chose the one that said “You are Amazing!” with a stipple drawn teddybear on the flipside. Before she could say anything, I turned and briskly walked away to rejoin my sister who was watching on from a distance.

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A few minutes later when we were discussing which hallway we should turn down, I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to find the same woman who I had given the rock to a few moments before. She told me, “I had to find you and tell you how much this means to me. I really needed this. You don’t understand.” With that, she reached up and pulled off her hat revealing a soft bald head. “I really needed this,” she said again softly. I looked at this young woman, with her pale complexion and her young eyes, and felt such gratitude. We hugged and I could feel her trembling. This moment was heavy and hard and powerful and deep. I have to say this was by far, my favorite part of the day.

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After giving out the rest of our rocks, we made our way back to the van where the parking attendant was working furiously at fixing our broken meter. I gave him one of the gum gifts that we had made and told him thank you for all his hard work. Next Trina gave me my next 10 gifts to open, which were even more amazing than the first bunch. Practical gifts, kitchen gifts, and more chocolates. She even made me a handwritten a recipe book!

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Next, we made our way to Superstore to give candy to kids. I was a bit nervous about this one but Trina assured me that parents would be happy to have something to occupy their restless little ones while they shopped. A lollypop ring would be a wonderful distraction! Ok….I was skeptical.

We gifted almost a dozen children whose parents were surprised and impressed with the idea of gift giving on one’s birthday. All the kids we found were happy to accept but no one could match the exuberance of this one little boy. He was the youngest of three little boys and before his mom could agree, he snatched the red lollypop ring out of my hand and yelled “YES!” triumphantly. We all laughed and she apologised explaining that he is autistic. I remarked at how awesome it was to have such an honest kid. As we left, I could hear the little guy yelling after us, “See you tomorrow!!” Back in the van, 10 more gifts. Trina was so very creative and thoughtful with her ideas, her heartfelt words were priceless.

Next stop, we drove to a low-income housing development where we spent a few years of our childhood. As we pulled into our old neighborhood crowded with townhouses, I remembered some of the struggles we endured while living on the “wrong side of the tracks”. It was a strange feeling as I walked up to my old steps and placed the bag of food on the stoop. I flashed back to a time when I was 8 and we were given some bags of food and clothes anonymously. I remembered how excited and happy and grateful I felt to be cared for by this magical somebody who didn’t even know us. I hoped that there were children living there now and they may feel that same thing.IMG_6673

After the last round of presents including books, makeup, bracelet, candy, gadgets…40 total!, we went to the mall armed with happy cards and a big bag of stuffed toys. We had no problem finding children who agreed to give our orphan toys a good home. We decided to grab a quick snack before we headed up to see a movie. As we walked through the food court, we saw two little girls sitting with their very disinterested Dad who was looking anywhere but at them. I could see their sad eyes as they unsuccessfully tried to get their dads attention. He looked like he had been through tough times and had a rough looking face. I had a hard time imagining him smile. So I thought I should try.

“Excuse mIMG_6698e, it’s my birthday today and I am giving gifts. I have these two bunny rabbits who don’t have a home. I was wondering if I could give them to your little girls to love and take care of?” His face went from dazed to confused to awestruck all in a matter of seconds. He didn’t even talk he just nodded and grew a smile that transformed his face from hard IMG_6700and closed to kind and approachable. The little girls were happy too.

Trina and I ate a healthy snack then gave out a few more gifts, before heading up to see “Sisters” which we had both been saving to watch with each other. We shared some popcorn (which is a big deal for Trina because she really doesn’t like to share food) and laughed until we cried. To end the night, we went to Menchie’s for froyo and games.

Today was a phenomenal day. Gift getting is fun and I am super grateful but it was the gift giving that brought me to tears. I have to say it is a tradition I will keep. Now that I am 40, I don’t feel like things are winding down at all. I am finally learning what works and making new traditions. I am making my moments count. And I feel like this is just the beginning.

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#BeKindToOneAnother

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