Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Sweet Birthday Indeed

Shana Tovah, everyone. A happy and healthy New Year to you all. Hope the holiday was filled with good food, warm family times and meaningful synagogue experiences. Hope the sound of the shofar roused you from the spiritual sleep you might've fallen into this past year.

As I said in recent posts, my 45th birthday (English calendar) fell on the first day of Rosh Hashanah this year. My birthday always seems to fall somewhere between Rosh Hashanah and the end of Sukkot every year.

I consulted the Hebrew calendar last week; September 23, 1961 was a Saturday, the 13th of Tishrei, Parshat Haazinu (which happens to be next week's parsha, and happens to be one that my daughter has to prepare a parshat hashavuah for to present to her classmates next Friday). I was born a couple days before Sukkot.

My mother told me that in 1961, when Yom Kippur was done, and the men went out to pray to the moon, her uncle (the reason she came to Toronto in the first place, from Switzerland) kept her in mind and prayed that she'd have an easy time of delivering me when the time was right. And after I was born, he walked rather far, from his home to the hospital, to visit my mother and me, the newborn, and brought the lulav and etrog to the hospital so that my mother could witness and partake in the brachot.

And apparently I was born about three weeks early. I believe that must be the only time I've ever been early for anything!

Okay, so personal birth history aside, Saturday was my birthday. My parents and family and a couple close friends had already wished me well before the holiday. My husband had told me on Friday: "You can take a nap on Shabbos afternoon, and I'll look after the kids. That's my birthday gift to you!"

I like my Shabbos naps, and after working so hard to prepare for the holiday, and having been rundown with my cold all week, it was to be a treat.

At shul on Saturday, a couple of people wished me a happy birthday -- one was a longtime friend, but it was a pleasant surprise to me that she'd remember; the other person is a shul fixture, whom I only know for a few months, and I just thought my husband must've mentioned it to him. He gave me some funny answer as to how he knew it.

So at lunchtime, I was already pretty tired and said, "Can we hurry it up. There's a bed with my name on it." Everyone insisted I go to sleep and not walk the dog as I contemplated doing before my nap. And off I went to lullaby land.

I woke up to hear a bright and loud voice downstairs. It sounded vaguely familiar to me as someone from shul, but I wondered what they were doing here. I made myself presentable then went downstairs.

Yes, I saw a couple from shul and I also saw a sweet table spread out on the dining room table. My kids were hovering around and wishing a happy birthday....and slowly, couples began trickling in, doing the same.

Apparently, a short time before Yom Tov came in, my husband contacted several couples from shul, who are good acquaintances or even better friends, to invite them for tea and to celebrate my birthday. He'd only told my two oldest kids before lunch, and they helped set up everything while I was asleep.

There were about eight couples in my home, and lovely people. My husband had picked the right people to invite -- people who have been welcoming and warm to us since we joined this particular minyan and became involved. (my husband is treasurer; and both he and I are on the setting-up-kiddush committee) People we know a little, and whom we'd like to get to know more.

I am not one for surprises (I feel very vulnerable with things out of my control) nor is he, but he chose to do this for me. It was a beautiful, subtle and low-key gesture and thus very welcome, and I felt very comfortable with the whole thing.
The surprise worked, and the happiness remained...

Thank you, TorontoPearl's husband, for once again showing just how much you care, and how much I mean to you. And thank you to my dear children for happily keeping the secret, if even for a few short hours, and helping your abba to pull it off.

One of my guests had asked me if I'd asked my husband for a particular gift. I said, "No." She continued. "Don't you have a wish list?" I said, "No." In all honesty, and maybe with the wisdom of an old(er) Jewish lady, I can say that standing in shul today, being able to hear the blowing of the shofar with my family around me, knowing that my parents and my siblings and families were in their respective shuls doing the same, is a wonderful gift.

And I hope next year that we will all be able to share the gift once more...