Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth of July!

I’m pleased to report that we are in the United States for this historic holiday. A couple of years ago we were blest to be present in Philadelphia, at Independence Hall, attending the ceremonies held there to commemorate Independence Day. It was an experience we’ll never forget.

We later stood in line to see the Liberty Bell. For two history buffs visiting from Canada it was a wondrous day of celebration, and we very much felt the sanctity of the occasion.

Anniversaries are important, for they bring us back, however briefly, to the beginning. They remind us of what it’s all about.

We’re here on vacation for a few days, visiting our friends in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. This time we used my spiffy new TomTom to get us here and seriously, we’ve never made the trip faster.

It’s interesting when you get with friends after the absence of a year. It doesn’t seem as if anything has changed at all. You come in to a great welcome, and it’s just as if you were never really gone.

Our friend is a cop, and he always has great stories to tell, of course. In years past it is he who taught me how to handle and fire different styles of guns. My interest in weapons is tied to my desire, as an author, to get things right.

Our friend’s mother has her birthday today, and so we’re pleased to be here to help her celebrate.

My beloved and I have an anniversary coming up in a couple of weeks—our fortieth. 40 years – and they said it wouldn’t last. He and I are, in many ways, complete opposites. One of the ways in which we’re different is that he doesn’t like parties at all – and I do. As a consequence, you can count the number of parties we’ve attended, over the course of our marriage, on one hand. Seriously.

The only birthday party I’ve been the recipient of as an adult was the one I threw for myself on my 50th birthday. I had to take action myself, because, after being promised by my husband and kids that they’d throw one for me when I turned 40, they not only forgot to give me the party, they actually forgot my birthday that year.

I don’t have to learn my lessons twice. My beloved agreed that we could host a dinner at a restaurant to mark the occasion of our anniversary this year. I drew up a list and the girls—my daughter and second daughter—volunteered to send out the invitations and co-ordinate the responses.

We chose a Chinese Buffet restaurant that’s popular with so many of the family. The guest list had about 40 names on it; we decided that we’d pay for the meal, but leave ‘drinks’ up to the individual guests. The other point on which we were both fairly insistent was that on the invitations, we wanted the words, “best wishes only” to be written. We truly don’t want any gifts. We’ll have a wonderful evening surrounded by family and a friend or two, and count ourselves very rich indeed.

We had the names of our friends here in Hazleton added to the list, even though we know they won’t be able to make the trip north for a dinner. But we wanted them to know that, since they are close friends, we were thinking of them.

This is how we found out that our girls forgot to put that tiny, heartfelt message—“best wishes only”—on the invites. I’m not completely certain how I feel about that.

Friends, my first response wasn’t a pretty one. I know I should be taking the high road, here. I should just consider that they were acting out of love. I know they can’t necessarily see the value in hosting an evening at a restaurant without getting something back in return. I saw the looks on their faces when I said we were paying for dinner and didn’t want gifts. They both thought it was way too much money to simply “give” an evening to a lot of people we don’t often see.

A part of me counts that as a failure on my part. I obviously didn’t successfully impart to my daughter that there is value to be had in life far beyond the material. The best things in life really can’t be measured in dollars and cents. They are of the heart and from the heart.

Not often do I find myself in a catch-22 of my own making; I have to make myself accept what the girls have done as an act of love on their part, while simultaneously reconciling myself to the fact that, like it or not, there are going to be gifts at this dinner.

Proof positive that you never get too old to have life throw you a moral curve-ball.


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