Recently, I had a birthday, but I didn’t have a lot of time to dwell on being a year older because my calendar was so full of “special” birthday events. Besides attaining another year of age, I’m sure I gained five pounds during the celebrations! What was important to me during what became my birthday month, were the friends and family members who wanted to share it with me. Each lunch, dinner, cupcake with a candle, was delightful, but three things put it all in perspective for me: receiving the Mildred Bell Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama, an engagement party for my youngest daughter, and the unexpected death of a friend the day after he was part of a small, but joyful, birthday dinner party for me.
Three days before my birthday, I spoke the following words before almost four hundred people as I accepted the Mildred Bell Johnson award:
When Mildred Bell Johnson founded the first Girl Scout troop for African – American girls in Alabama and then worked diligently as a civil right activist, educator, Girl Scout district director, and assistant moderator of the United Church of Christ, she never dreamed that there would be an award named for her. She was doing what she believed was right for her community and for young women.
Today, I am humbled receiving the award named for Mildred Bell Johnson not only because of its namesake, but because of my admiration for the women who have received this award before me. They are a class of women whom I deeply respect for their integrity and their willingness to often forsake recognition while bringing others together to make a difference – or as Girl Scouts say – to leave a place better than we found it.
As a brownie, Girl Scout, and leader, I was taught and taught others to believe that we have a responsibility to be involved in any way we can contribute. I also learned that none of us do it alone – no matter how hard we work.
To digress for a moment, when my son, Stephen, was just beginning to learn how to print, he did something wrong and apologized by leaving a note on my pillow that he signed your little angle as he couldn’t spell angel.
I am honored and grateful today to accept this award, but it really is a reflection of the accomplishments and efforts for our community and its members by most of you in this room.
I thank the Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama for singling me out today; I thank my friends who listen and help me connect the dots whenever I get a hairbrained idea, and I thank my family – especially my husband, Joel, who for thirty years has supported me in anything I try to do and our four wonderful children, three of whom are here today. They, and all of you, are the angles that combine to make me whole. Thank you again.
At that moment, I was a little worried that receiving a lifetime achievement award at this age was premature, but I was excited to be joining a class of women I deeply respect. It was a perfect day.
A few days after my birthday, five couples got together for a “special” birthday dinner. We laughed as we shared good food, friendship, and an evening where work and pressures were forgotten as we enjoyed each other’s company. It was a weekday work night, but we ignored that fact and stayed longer than any of us meant to. As we compared notes the next day, everyone who had been there agreed, it was a time good memories were made.
We flew to Houston two days after the dinner to attend a shower for my daughter and her future husband given by friends of his parents. When we landed in Houston and I turned on my phone, I saw I had voicemails, texts, and e-mails asking me to immediately call two people. We all know that when messages say urgent, but don’t say why, it isn’t good. It wasn’t. One of our dear friends who had been at the birthday dinner had had a stroke and died. He hadn’t been ill. He wasn’t old. My husband and I stood in the airport shocked remembering humorous exchanges with him during the birthday dinner, plans he had made to go to a basketball game next season with my husband, and realizing that in a matter of hours the love of his life was now a widow. We walked to the car waiting for us in disbelief. As my husband made small talk with the father of my daughter’s fiancé, I called our friend’s wife and other friends and shared a moment of shock, sorrow, and “what can we do to help” with them. Then, my husband and I had to put on our game faces to enjoy the weekend with our daughter.
I have blogged before about my reaction to my daughter being in love (My Daughter is in Love – 9/23/12) and once again, I felt excitement and joy seeing how happy she is. Her happiness brought me flashbacks of when I fell in love and got engaged. As the weekend progressed, I couldn’t help but think about our friends who also had a perfect love that now had ended as I watched this young couple just beginning their lives together. Aloud, I wished them joy and happiness, but in my heart I prayed for them. It was a prayer that comes from knowing how important the angles are that make us whole and how fragile keeping them together is.
DHG Comment: My daughter got engaged August 30, 2012. She normally is a very private person. The piece below was written almost three years ago after we hung up from a telephone conversation during which she first told me she was seeing Kevin exclusively. I hope it brings back memories for you, too ….
MY DAUGHTER IS IN LOVE –
Tonight, my daughter called to tell me she is dating someone special. My daughter is in love. You should have heard the lilt in her voice. She was asking my approval, but at the same time she was telling me that while it mattered, it didn’t. She is seeing Kevin. No question about it.
So many times we post about our fears; but, this time, I have fears that are good ones. I’m scared whether she has picked the right boy. I’m petrified that he’ll not love her enough or that he will love her too much. I’m frightened that she will give up her dreams to bend to his wishes. I’m afraid that she will place career or other distractions ahead of her heart.
No matter how much I may worry, tonight my daughter is in love. Even though we only spoke on the telephone, I know her eyes were shining and she was grinning that little crooked smile that she only allows to show on special occasions. Nobody else’s thoughts mattered tonight…my daughter is in love.
She told me that she feels silly because she feels good when Kevin calls her or when he walks into the room she is in. When he strokes her hair or takes her hand, she tingles. She actually used that word and then laughed because my daughter is not a tingly person. My daughter is analytical. She approaches the world carefully using her mind and senses to evaluate and make determinations. Tonight, she giggles and literally says her intellect says one thing, but her gut says something else. My daughter has been in the process of making a career change that probably will mean moving to another state, but tonight she isn’t sure how to balance what she knows would be a smart move in terms of her career against how she feels emotionally. For the first time in her life, my daughter is making a decision based purely upon the feeling you get the first time you go into an ice cream store and can pick any flavor you want. It will be a decision that hopefully reflects the peaceful sensation that comes from seeing a rainbow. My daughter is in love.
I’ve been married so long that I don’t think of my husband with giddiness. He is the guy who drops his socks next to the bed. He falls asleep on the couch for two to three hours every night watching CNN or a ballgame and then tells me that he can’t sleep. Until tonight, I forgot how much I once enjoyed his phone calls checking on me during the day. Now, his calls often seem like annoying distractions when I’m working. We share meals and conversation, but we have fallen into a pattern that might be called routine or even a bit boring.
My husband also is the daddy who would do anything to make his little girl laugh whenever her world seemed to be crashing. With shaking clumsy hands, he tenderly bathed and fed her, tried to fix the bow snapped into her wisps of hair and taught her to bat a ball. He would give his life for her. Tonight, he is the father of a daughter who is in love and that colors my love for him.
My daughter is in love.
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Debra H. Goldstein received a 2012 IPPY Award for her debut mystery, Maze in Blue. She has won awards for both her short stories and her non-fiction pieces. Most recently, in August 2012, her short stories “Meme’s Place” (It Was a Dark and Stormy Night – anthology published August 2012) and “Grandma’s Garden,” http://www.Alalit.com (2012) and a legal piece, “Practicing Social Security Law – The Best Kept Secret,” Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin, p. 26-29 (Fall 2012) [w/Jennifer Goldstein] were published.