A Special Birthday Gift

Eight years ago, I wrote about the high priority we placed on celebrating our two children’s birthdays. They could have a cake made into any shape their hearts desired, and Jo Anne labored many hours creating an airplane, penguin, a 7 car train, flower cart, and a clown, to mention a few. The night before the big day, when the birthday child was fast asleep, we decorated the dining area with crepe paper streamers and balloons.

We wrote an affirmative quality about the child on 15-20 Post-It Notes with liberal doses of praise, affection, and encouragement and placed the notes throughout the house. Some were in plain sight and others in unlikely places like a sock drawer, on an orange juice carton, in their shoes, backpack, or trombone case. In the morning, the birthday child looked forward to finding their special “love notes,” even if sometimes they wouldn’t admit it when they got older. We continued this practice until they graduated from high school.

Several years after Ellen was married, I was looking for something in the closet of her former bedroom. A shoebox fell off the shelf and among the contents were a few dozen colorful birthday sticky notes she had saved all these years. Evidently, they meant more to her than we realized.

Ellen turned 40 last month. She’s been married 16 years and has lived in Ohio since her college days. Jo Anne and I wanted to make this milestone birthday extra special with a unique gift, something that we couldn’t just order online from Amazon.

We have at least 1,000 family photos stashed away in shoe boxes, large envelopes, drawers, and cheap scrapbooks. Most of them are dated and labeled, but in spite of our best intentions we never properly archived them. This was the perfect time to tackle this long overdue project.

We selected over 250 photos of Ellen, from birth to college graduation, mounted them in archival quality sheet protectors, and put in 3 ring binders. Reviewing all of those family pictures sure brought back a flood of memories! It was quite an undertaking, but the project was finally finished and shipped to Ohio.

Ellen gave us an unexpected FaceTime phone call on the big day as she was opening the box. Seeing her reaction told us the project was worth the many hours we spent compiling this one-of-a-kind gift for her. Maybe she’ll find room to tuck in some of the colorful birthday Post-it Notes she has saved all these years.

Do you have memories of giving or receiving a one-of-a-kind gift?