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Sharon Randall: The very best birthday gifts

If you’ve celebrated as many birthdays as I have, you’ve probably had your share of gifts. All deserved, I’m sure.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever been given? Chances are it wasn’t wrapped in pretty paper. The things that make us truly happy are often hard to wrap.
Growing up, in my family, we didn’t do wrapped gifts. For Christmas, I’d find a doll sitting forlornly like an abandoned dog under the tree ó until I turned 13, and Santa got confused and, instead of a doll, left me a bra.
On birthdays, I’d get a cake from my mother, if she wasn’t too tired to bake one; and a five-dollar bill from my daddy, unless he got lucky and won something better on the punchboard at the general store.
I had no expectations of more and no shred of disappointment. I was lucky. I grew up in a time and place where gifts were neither lavish nor compared. Some people had more; others had less. But mostly, we all had what we needed ó not too little, not too much, just enough.
My favorite gifts as a child were the hours I spent with my grandmothers. One lived alone on a mountain, where she knew the names of every plant and creature; the other lived on the main street of a small town where she knew the names of every soul that passed by her window, where they’d been, what they’d bought and how much they’d paid for it.
I inherited both their natures, a split personality that’s equally content whether alone or in a crowd. Until I get my fill of one and start to miss the other.
My dual nature has often been confusing and not just to Santa Claus. Some who should know (never mind who) say it makes it hard to choose a gift for me.
Hard? It ought to be easy. A gift, as I see it, is not what you think someone needs. It’s what you give them because you know it will make them happy.
From my kids, all I need is a phone call and I am happy as a mother clam. From my husband, I want dinner out. Fortunately for him, that’s not a problem. From friends and family, far or near, the best gift is simply to be remembered with a card or an e-mail ó especially when I forgot their birthdays. Again.
This birthday I got everything I wanted. My kids called to say they’re still glad that I was born (a traditional greeting I started when they were small). And my husband took me out to eat.
I heard from friends and family far and near, including hundreds of readers who were kind enough to wish me well because they “really wanted to,” and not just because I wrote a column shamelessly goading them to do so.
The U.S. Postal Service was not amused, but I was thrilled.
My friend, Linda, gave me a copy of a print that hangs in her hallway showing a curly-haired toddler in overalls. It reminds her of her sister; it reminds me of my kids. She wanted me to have it because she knew it would make me happy. We all need a friend like her. Then, just when I thought my birthday couldn’t get any better, I got a phone call that was, so to speak, the icing on my cake.
My brother, Joe, who is blind, lost his apartment a while back and has been living temporarily with our sister. He called on my birthday, as he always does, to sing “Happy Birthday” off-key.
I wish you could’ve heard him. But he also wanted to share his good news: He had just gotten word that he can move back into his apartment.
See what I mean about easy? He didn’t have to go shopping. It didn’t cost any more than the price he’s already paid. He didn’t even need to wrap it.
He just knew that it would make me happy. I only hope he doesn’t try to top it next year.
– – –
Sharon Randall can be contacted at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson NV 89077, or at www.sharonrandall.com.

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