I awoke in an ordinary sort of way, but soon I was atingle. Today was my birthday
, and somehow the excitement was greater because I had a husband to help me celebrate. Birthdays had always been special at our house, and I wondered what my husband would conjure up for this one. Would he give me my gift at breakfast, or would he wait for dinner? Would he be likely to invite some friends in to surprise me? What kind of gift would he buy?
As I lay there musing, he awakened. He turned to me and smiled as he said, "happy birthday!"
I delayed a little dressing so he would be downstairs first just in case he wanted to put my gift under my plate at breakfast, but when I got down, there was no plate. "Never mind," I told myself, "he's waiting until dinnertime." I hurried with breakfast and saw him off to work still aglow with delight at being alive and having my first married birthday.
The day passed swiftly. Because I thought he might invite some friends in to help us celebrate and, as usual, the house was in disorder, I got to work. While working, I welcomed the interruption of the arrival of a birthday package from Mother which was filled with little things she had made for me to use about the house.
"How clever she is, " I mused, "to think of all these things, and how dear she is to do so much for me!"
She didn't have much money these days. In fact, we had to help her some with a monthly stipend to be sure she had enough, but that certainly didn't stop her from celebrating my birthday. Hot pads that looked like fat old man - an embroidered dresser scarf - a clothes pin bag that hung up on a line - all paid tribute to her ingenuity.
I went back to my household tasks with a song dancing inside. I decided to serve dinner in the dining room to mark the special occasion of my birthday.
This involved opening the table, a task not easy for one person to do since the table was the four-legged type. After considering the problem a while and trying in vain to pull one end at a time, I lay down under the table and pushed the legs on one end with my arms and the legs on the other side with my legs. The table parted alright, but I had forgotten to remove the leaf which was stored on a rack under the table. When I pushed the table apart, the leaf fell out and conked me soundly on the head. It was a nasty blow and, after I recovered, I decided not to bake a cake.
It doesn't seem right," I reasoned, "for a person to bake his own birthday cake anyway so I'll make a pudding instead."
Dinner was nice, though, with Swiss steak and a gelatin salad. By then I had learned the rudiments of cooking and had better facilities. When my husband came home, he was pleased to see the house slicked up and dinner in the dining room. I waited around a while for him to present my gift, but when none was forthcoming, I served the meal. "He must be planning a surprise for the evening," I declared, and I enjoyed the birthday dinner I had prepared for myself.
I sat waiting all evening for something to happen, but nothing ever did. When bedtime came at last, I had no more consoling thoughts. I had to face the truth! My husband was not going to celebrate my birthday! I lay quietly in bed until he went to sleep, and then I cried. In fact, I cried myself to sleep.
Why didn't I sob aloud? Just one sob would have been enough to elicit a gift from a truly loving husband. It wasn't the gift I wanted. It was the understanding. How could he possibly go through that day with me without realizing how I felt about birthdays?
Through the years I've come to realize that such celebrations were not a part of his heritage. His family did not celebrate birthdays other than to be careful about identifying them. How many ways have I disappointed him? How many times have I neglected something of value to him that I did not understand? The miracle is that we meet as often as we do, enough to seal the bonds of marriage.
Through the years he learned that giving me a gift on my birthday was appropriate without my even having to tell him so. I gave him gifts and we made big celebrations of our childrens' birthdays, and he happily adopted the custom. I taught him to love classical music and he taught me to love sailing. In many ways our marriage became a blending which enriched us both.