Four years after her emerald search came up fruitless, Maddie eight at this time, sat with her siblings and cousins and their parents-my family-around the table. We had gathered to celebrate my birthday. After they sang Happy Birthday in harmony and the multi-layered lemon cake was gobbled up, it was time to open my presents. I noticed my first-born grandchild snap to attention, anxious to share in the celebration.
This was the year my husband surprised me with a magical wrought iron gazebo for my garden. Earlier in the morning, he had blindfolded me and ushered me outside; the lingering scent of orange blossoms made me gasp and adjust the blindfold to uncover my nose. When he uncovered my eyes, the inviting garden hideaway glistened in the sunshine.
Now, at the table, full of my family, on the terrace overlooking Pauma Valley’s mountains and orange groves, my daughter placed a huge box at my place. “This is for your new gazebo, Mom.”
I realized there had been some planning around the gazebo gift. Inside, a shiny metal star-shaped lamp from Mexico covered with dozens of pin prick sized holes that would scatter soft diamond-like lights when it hung from the top of my new spot in the orange grove.
“Our present is in the back of our van, Mom. It’s a concrete bench. You’ll need a place to sit in your gazebo,” my middle son offered.
One gift left. I noticed Maddie wiggle her little forefinger authoritatively instructing her cousin, Bayley, to stay seated as she jumped up and rounded the table toward my chair. She stood behind me; I sensed her lean in over my shoulder.
The remaining gift from Maddie’s parents, wrapped in gold with a turquoise ribbon, was small which usually means jewelry. Apparently, Maddie was privy to the contents, a lovely necklace of brilliantly colored gems.
As I heaped gratitude on my loving family, including my lone grandson and three younger granddaughters, Maddie’s little cohorts, I felt a delicate tap on my right shoulder. She leaned in and whispered urgently, “Please Neeny, can you take me to the bathroom now?”
When we were both in the small private restroom, she closed the door and leaned against it. She inhaled, bent her little platinum-haired head down and paused. She took a moment to smooth the front of her daisy patterned skirt, looked up at me and with great intent inquired, “When you die, can I have all your jewelry Neeny?”
Happy May Birthday.