Little Shiny Things

Glass sea creatures by Leopold & Rudolph Blaschka.

Glass sea creatures by Leopold & Rudolph Blaschka.

Birthdays, for me, are notable for nothing so much as a reminder of how quickly time passes.  And when I start thinking about that, I start thinking the Why are we hereWhat’s the meaning of life? kind of questions that have no definitive answers, and then my head starts to hurt.  I’ve felt this way since I was a kid.  At least there were gifts, then, and a cake to distract me.

I’m not that crazy about cake anymore, and there is nothing I really need, so on my birthday in those first few moments of waking, I generally feel a pang, a longing for something I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps if I had not been born in the dead of winter?  Maybe the longing is simply for sun.

Sunday, the 25th, was my birthday.  This year there happened to be sun.  As well as son of the other kind, and a plan.

And there were Facebook friends to keep me buoyed.

The first Happy Birthday popped up the evening before.  I was surprised. When I checked, it was a Facebook friend from Athens, Greece.  It made me smile and think about this woman who lived so far away, and where, for her, it was officially my birthday.  A few more birthday greetings followed shortly after that.  One was from a woman I adore, who is usually up rather late at night, and who was glad not to miss leaving her good wishes.  I went to bed thinking about that woman — a dear friend of my husband’s late grandmother (another woman I adored).  She’s also known me since I was a little girl.  She gets special props for that.

In the morning over coffee, I checked Facebook again.  There were more birthday wishes. More of me thinking fondly on each person who posted. More smiling going on, inside and out.

The plan for the day was a trip to Boston.  Drive up, pick up the Boy, and drive to the Museum of Science to spend the afternoon.  On the way, I kept checking to see how many more people had wished me a happy birthday.  The number kept growing.  I kept announcing the number to my husband as he drove.

We whiled away a lovely afternoon at the museum.  Later in the day, as I stood scanning the central room in search of Husband and Boy, I thought about all the people there — young and old, grandparents, parents, children, all of them exploring, touching, laughing.  So alive.  As opposed to the army of scientists and mathematicians whose ideas informed the basics of so many of the exhibits.

There is nothing like wandering around a museum to bring home the point of time passing by.

Still, throughout the day–a peek here, a glance there–at the increasing number of people who took a second to say Hey you, Happy Birthday kept me from wading too deeply into the murky musings of mortality.  People were waving and smiling at me from all over the world.

What a strange and wondrous world we live in.

There’s a lot to be said about the pros and cons of social media.  It’s the scourge of our society, a time suck, a spy.  It’s blessing, it’s a curse.

What I will say is this.  I read every single birthday greeting I received.  Time (the greedy bugger) did not allow for me to reply to every one, or even very many, but I liked each one which, for me, at least, serves the purpose of acknowledgment.

I can tell you that with every smile and wave you sent, I pictured each and every one of you.  How I know you, or how long.  Some of you I grew up with, went to school with, worked with, acted with, wrote with, played games with.  Some of you I’ve never met face-to-face. All of you have made me laugh.

I thought about where you are, or what you like, what music you listen to, or what you like to eat.  The words you hate, the games you enjoy.  Some little shiny thing about you that I can hold to the light, that makes you, you, makes you memorable to me so that when you wish me well, I know exactly who to picture.

I know exactly who to thank.

26 thoughts on “Little Shiny Things

  1. Mary, you have such a way with words! and have made me appreciate FB birthday greetings. I love the way you thought about each person that sent a message.
    Two years ago I removed my birthday from FB and stopped sending greetings. My reason was that I wouldn’t always see that a friend had a birthday and would sometimes send greetings and sometimes miss them.
    You have made me consider my thinking.
    I loved “People were waving and smiling at me from all over the world”
    What an incredible thought.
    So … Happy Birthday! I’m glad you got to spend the day with the Boy!
    and by the way … as adults we never lose that birthday joy that we had as children and it does make an adult birthday a bit more melancholy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww, thank you, Laurie. I’m happy to have encouraged you to rethink the FB birthday thing. It really is like a little wave and a nod of encouragement. I think we can all use more of that in our lives.

      And, yes, I think you are absolutely right about how our childhood birthday joy never really goes away. That probably explains that brief sense of melancholia I feel. It also makes me really glad that while at dinner, Sunday, the waitress evidently heard our birthday toast and assumed it was the Boy’s birthday (which it had been 5 days before mine, so we were celebrating jointly). She slipped me a note asking if we wanted a free birthday sundae for our son. I nodded yes. After the meal she brought a hot fudge sundae with a candle in it and sang Happy Birthday to him. He was sheepish, but pleased — I did check with him before I gave her the go ahead, though.

      You have made me consider my thinking about birthdays in general.



  2. Happy belated birthday! Sounds like a wonderful day. It’s nice to hear how uplifted you felt from all the FB birthday wishes.

    Just before my bday in December, I took my birthday off of FB. I had been so terrible about wishing others a happy birthday that I felt guilty accepting wishes from a mix of people I know and those I haven’t really spoken to since high school (or earlier). I know, how neurotic. So what happened was I didn’t get any wishes on my birthday. Or, well, I got three, I think. My real life social circle is pretty small, so my birthday felt a little lonely this year. It gave me an appreciation of how warming those well wishes flowing in throughout the day on facebook can feel. Your post did the same here 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • To tell you the truth, I sometimes miss an FB birthday because I don’t always check in on FB. I don’t feel any guilt at all, though, excepting wishes from people I only know virtually. A number of FB friends are people I’ve gotten to know from playing a couple of the FB games. A few of those friends have become good friends.

      I think that because I tend to be a people watcher, I notice and remember things about people, which creates a thread. For instance, I know that one man, who lives in Austria (he used to play the game that I still play), greatly admires the Russian composer, Shostakovich. That’s the thread that connects me to him, as well as game that introduced us. It’s little things like that.

      I’m sorry your birthday felt a little lonely. I’m going to make a point of wishing you Happy Birthday next year, starting December 1st, and posting it every day until I hit the right day! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Happy Birthday, Mary – a few days late. What a wonderful post about time and friends. Yes, it’s the connections we make in life that matter – whether in person or virtually. Glad your day was filled with those wonderful connections!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Since I have no family, I pay very little attention to my own birthday or any other holiday these days. The two birthdays that impacted me the most were my 30th, when I realized my youth had passed me by, and my 70th, when I suddenly realized that if I wanted to get published, I’d better get cracking! On my last birthday I too was surprised at how many of my Facebook friends had sent me a greeting! I agree that my FB friends mean a lot to me! More than most of the people I know in “real life.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • On my 30th birthday, I was living in Colorado. Our mutual friend (Jack to you, Andy to me) attended my party. It was a memorable birthday because of the party. I loved it. On my 40th birthday I was living here in Rhode Island. All my siblings (5 of them at that time) surprised me by showing up. That was pretty memorable, too.

      I’d have to say that most of the people I know in real life ARE on Facebook now, so there’s that. My husband isn’t. But he lives with me, so he doesn’t need to be. At least, that’s what he tells me.

      As for the birthday greetings I received on FB Sunday, yours especially touched me. Thank you, deeply.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Lynn. When I saw your birthday greeting on my FB wall, I pictured you and your Norwegian husband (he has such a very nice face) in your sod-covered house overlooking that gorgeous fjord. That really made me smile!


  5. I know I’m not 30 anymore.
    Birthday gifts and greetings are few.
    Everyday now is special – it has to be, as it is ‘present’.
    I’ve learned that if I don’t ‘get’ I can always ‘give’.
    Writing is like that ~ may not be wrapped up in paper, but the words,
    Oh the joy of words…

    Best to you, cheers, Jules

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Happy Belated Birthday, Mary!
    This little shiny, gem has been waiting in my inbox to be read. I’m obsessive about a clean inbox, so if an e-mail stays on the dash, it means it’s important to me. Each day I looked at the subject of the e-mail that said “(New Post): Shiny Objects” and thought, I can’t wait to read that! I NEED tor read Mary!

    Loved how you spent your birthday and the way you pictured each person who wished you virtual joy.
    I can only imagine what a bright light you must be in the lives of the people you touch everyday. You certainly are a shiny object in mine 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I love how you put this. All of it. I’m so not the birthday person, my own. I get anxious as it gets close and I cannot wait for it to be gone. I know, it’s so not the infinitely humorous Cayman, to feel this way. Or maybe it is. Not sure. Funny people aren’t quite so funny when you get them one on one, after all.
    But as always, I DO know one thing. You fetch the little shiny things that matter from the deep of your soul like few others I’ve read. My God, you’re some kind of writer.

    Peace and love, mama.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cayman, I hear you, and I’m not surprised you feel that way about your own birthday. You and I think too much about time passing, I suspect. And no funny person is ever funny all the time, especially when they’re alone or one-on-one.

      And you are always kind. Thank you for that.


  8. Our birthday is our one day of the year, even as we grow up. My mom was always stellar at making that day feel special – not with gifts and indulgence, but by remembering and recognizing all of our favorite things, from pancakes to dinosaurs to the color green.

    I think you have a bit of that in you, to enjoy the day the way you did.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thank you, Eli. It’s nice of you to say that. My mom was like your mother on birthdays. Life truly is about the little things, isn’t it?

    Thanks for reading and commenting. I so appreciate it.


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