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Sue Bruns: A pretty perfect birthday

I recently celebrated my birthday, although some might not consider the way I spent my day to be much of a celebration.

My earliest birthdays were family affairs with siblings, cousins, or with my favorite great aunt and uncle, a childless couple who lived in town in a very clean house with a lot of breakable items and a big shaggy dog about the size of a pony.  

In my school years, I had birthday parties with guest lists arranged by my mother, who always insisted that the less popular or “different-in-any way” girls should be included.  At the time I was less impressed by her acceptance and inclusiveness than I am today. The guest list varied from year to year, but many of the girls ended up being long-term friends I am still in touch with today.

My birthday party pictures included the shy neighbor girl who usually played alone; the tall girl with wiry braids, a gap-toothed grin and early onset acne; the girl who was being raised by her aging grandparents; a sweet classmate who was the only “little person” in the county;  the most intelligent girl in the class, who wore a fancy dress, white gloves, and patent leather shoes when the rest of us were wearing shorts and sleeveless blouses; and various other classmates from John Ireland Elementary school. When my sister was three, she was added to the guest list.

Since my birthday is in late June, all of my birthday pictures were taken in my mother’s garden.  It was her opportunity to showcase her hollyhocks, cannas, and snapdragons.  I don’t believe it ever rained on my birthday when I lived in southern Minnesota, but it has rained on several birthdays since I’ve lived in Bemidji, as it did on my most recent one, but that didn’t bother me.

I had no plans for a birthday party, this year being one of those non-momentous years — no decade marker or multiple of five — just another day.  My daughter had come home for the weekend for a friend’s wedding, my son called to wish me happy birthday, my mother-in-law presented me with a delicious home-made loaf of banana bread, my husband gave me a long sleeved fluorescent yellow bike jersey, and my siblings and several friends sent cards, emails and text messages or called.  

At my age, just being remembered on my birthday is the nicest present of all.  When my mother-in-law called to see what I was doing, she seemed shocked when I said, “Scrubbing my floors.”   

“On your birthday?” she said.

A surge of cleaning ambition had hit me the night before, setting in motion a major undertaking of thorough cleaning that would take at least a week to complete, but it didn’t bother me to be scrubbing on my birthday.  Rather, it satisfied my compunction to complete a task begun.

My husband had planned a little birthday biking with a dinner to follow in Dorset, but the weather didn’t cooperate.  Instead, we had a quiet day at home, making breakfast together, working together, visiting with family, watching the Twins beat Texas, and catching a bit of the FIFA playoffs.  

By the end of the day, I could check a few details off my “to do” list, including the dining room and living room floors, the re-potting of two plants, and a bit of yard work.  I could sit on the sofa in my relatively clean living room and eat a chef salad for dinner — prepared by my husband. On a trip to town for errands and groceries, he had returned with margarita mix — an item not on my list but one which I had telepathically sent to him and he had read perfectly.  

Exhausted after a busy day and happy with my perfect birthday but disappointed with the choices of television programming for the evening, I looked to him for one last birthday special.

“How would you like to do something we haven’t done in a long time?” I asked.

“Play cribbage?” he guessed.

“How did you know?”