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Birthday kisses

When my birthday comes around, I don’t need lots of presents or cards or fanfare. I don’t have to have a party. I am happy just knowing it’s my birthday.

I love my birthday—and everything about it. I love celebrating life. I like thinking about what a gift each day is and how fortunate I am to be on this earth and how much I have been given. I like hearing from people I see often and those I haven’t seen in years. The whole day fills me with extraordinary gratitude.

Months ago, I hadn’t expected the pandemic to affect my birthday. Somehow, I thought the coronavirus cloud would lift a bit during the summer and that July 26 would be a fairly ordinary summer day. I was wrong.

As we entered the month of July, it occurred to me that we wouldn’t be able to have my birthday dinner with my parents, as we usually do. John and I decided it would be fun to get steamed crabs, which our boys were especially excited about. I knew it would be a lovely day no matter what we did.

Then, last week I realized I wouldn’t be able to get my annual birthday kisses from my mother.

Every birthday—for as long as I can remember—my mother has given me a kiss for each year of my age plus one to grow on. We have never missed a year. That might be surprising, but I always take my birthday off. I have always stopped by my parents’ house to collect my kisses.

It’s a small thing, and during a global pandemic, I know there are far more significant losses. But I think it’s OK to be disappointed, even in the little things, particularly when what we really miss is being with the people we love.

Even though we couldn’t spend real time together, my mother told me she would bake me a cake. I got to pick which kind—hot milk sponge with fudge frosting and jelly in between the layers. She and my father dropped it off on our back porch, masks in place and waving and talking to me from a distance. They put two plastic birds on the cake because my 4-year-old goddaughter reminded her grandmother that Aunt Rita likes birds now.

I put on my mask and went out to open my presents from them. Inside a little pink bag were 45 dark chocolate Hershey Kisses—44 kisses and one to grow on.

My birthday kisses. One for every year. My mother counted them out for me herself.

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