In about two weeks it will be the 13th anniversary of the first, and last, time I failed to mark my wife’s birthday in a timely manner and with the proper fanfare, (any fanfare for that matter), such a day deserves. 13 years ago we’d been dating for a little more than a year and had recently moved in together. Her birthday was on a Tuesday and back then we ran – frequently together – quite a bit, so pretty early that morning we were on the front steps lacing up our shoes. The sun was coming up, the birds were chirping and all seemed right and just in the world. But Wendy’s a pretty easy read and it didn’t take long to see that while everything around us was in alignment, something was rotten in Denmark.
What I didn’t know then, but really, really know now, is that Wendy and her family take birthdays very seriously and hold them on the same latitude as more traditional holidays like Thanksgiving and Father’s Day.
The conversation that morning on the steps went something like this:
Nick: “What’s cooking Boo, you seem a little off this morning”
Wendy: [pause] “No, I’m fine, maybe a little tired, that’s all”
Nick: [poking her ribs] “C’mon, tell me, something’s up I can tell, we’re best friends, you can tell me anything”
Wendy: [pause] “It’s my birthday and you haven’t said ‘Happy Birthday’ to me yet”
Nick: [couple of beats] “Ah yes…indeed…er, well [clears throat]…Happy Birthday!!!”
Fair to say I haven’t made that mistake again.
The point is not to relive an uncomfortable memory which today most of us can laugh about or to remind me that I used to run before work, rather, it’s that this episode could have been easily averted if I’d thought ahead, bought a simple blank card at Burch’s, and written a short birthday bon mot to honor the occasion. Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy.
Chocolates and diamonds are the easy way out and don’t communicate thoughtfulness or soul, whereas a heartfelt card is usually all it takes, and can be the best, most honest way to convey your love, admiration, gratitude, or whatever message you’re trying to get across. So get a card, write from the gut, and be done with it.
That said, for our first Christmas together I bought Wendy a carry-on rollaboard suitcase which we still use. A story for another post perhaps.