No birthday is complete without a decadent birthday cake. The centerpiece of this year’s birthday was a scrumptious devil’s food chocolate cake that my wife baked using a recipe handed down from her mother. An incredibly moist, flavorful chocolate cake served as the base for heaping layers of rich, dark chocolate frosting sprinkled with colorfully coated chocolate candies. As I drowned my senses in chocolate bliss, I carefully blended the textures of chewy cake, creamy frosty and crunchy candy with every bite.
This ultimate snackoisseur experience helped to numb the sobering realization that I am now another year older. For me, a birthday has often been a time of reflection, a time of taking stock in my life. What are my life goals? What is my purpose in life? What directions do I want to see in the future? How many more birthdays will there be? What birthday gifts would be truly meaningful?
This year, as I celebrated my birthday with several of my closest friends, I concluded that friendship, true, loving friendship is the ultimate gift in life. The birthday gifts each friend gave me at this celebration were unique symbols of the deeper gifts of friendship that each friend has offered me over the years.
My friend Patt brought me a beautiful gift basket filled gourmet foods, delectable treats for our three cats and a colorful handmade cross she brought back from a recent trip to Costa Rica. These birthday gifts complement the gifts she has given to me in friendship — spiritual nourishment, love of animals, appreciation for diversity and hope.
Dear Clara gave me the gift of bubbly, a bottle of fine brut champagne with which to toast my birthday. It is an endearing reminder of the lovely, intimate bridal shower she hosted for my wife and me in the summer of 2016. Clara not only gifts me with her bubbly personality, but her deep respect for the ultimate friendship found in the commitment of marriage.
Jeanne, always a caring friend, gave me a meaningful book on healing, signed by the author who is a doctor along with a gift card to a fine local restaurant known for its sumptuous, healthy fare. Truly a shaman at heart, Jeanne has inspired me to heal, not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well, gifts for which I am eternally grateful.
Our exceptionally good neighbors, Jack and Jackie, offered a generous monetary gift which I intend to invest it in a feast of Chinese food, one of my ultimate “Snackoisseur” delights. Over the years, they have provided the wonderful gifts of decorating our condo building for every holiday and maintaining the condo premises, extremely appreciated given this snackoisseur’s lack of handy skills.
Another kind neighbor, Eileen, who was not well enough to attend my birthday celebration, sent an adorable fine china gift box decorated with Shamrocks in honor of my Irish heritage. This was accompanied by a card in which she quoted part of the Irish blessing. She provides many gifts, but most profoundly, the gift of inspiration — of facing life’s difficulties with grace and dignity.
Mary, our author friend and fellow Catholic, gave me a Rosary, an exquisite coffee-table book about the Mysteries of Our Lady of Fatima and newspapers sent by her relatives living in Australia. She offers the gift of faith, not only in God, but faith in my abilities as a writer. Her faith has inspired me to embark on two book projects myself, something I never dreamed I would do.
Carl, my best friend since college, and his wife, Bobbi Jo, gave me a flowering cactus for springtime and a gift card for Dunkin’ Donuts, one of my favorite eateries both for the coffee and the boston-crème donuts. Over the years, they have graciously entertained my wife and me for many festive occasions at their home. Their gift is the love of life, even amidst challenges and trials.
Another true friend, also named Jeanne, came to our party despite a broken ankle — no easy task considering the stairs she had to climb to get here. Inspired by my last blog dedicated to Easter, she gave me a delightful Easter basket, lovingly filled with all the very same candies of my childhood that I detailed in my Easter blog. Thoughtful generosity is her gift that I dearly behold.
It was a birthday to cherish, not so much for the cake, but for the love and affection from my wonderful friends, the most important gifts anyone can have in life. I am truly grateful to each of them for sharing my birthday with me. I can’t say thank you enough!