My Birthday Gift

Today is my birthday. I am <mumble, mumble> years old. 🙂

For my birthday gift, EJ is going to build floor-to-ceiling book shelves along one wall of our living room. I can’t wait. We have an upstairs room stuffed with books; it will be wonderful to have our favorite books downstairs where they are more accessible. We would have bought the materials for the shelves today, but it rained so we will get them another day.

I enjoy gifts, but my favorite birthday gifts are memories. I love to simply spend time with my family doing something enjoyable. Often for my birthday we go on a drive enjoying the beautiful autumn trees and talking. One year we drove to a beautiful bird sanctuary. Some years we have driven to cider mills. Today EJ and I drove to a home improvement store for insulation.

Ok, that might sound like an awful sort of gift, but I actually loved it. First we drove to East Lansing where Michigan State University is located. There are a lot of interesting shops and restaurants there. EJ planned to surprise me by stopping at an Asian Market for “real” kimchee. However, the market was closed today. Oh, well. We stopped at a Chinese restaurant to eat. I love Chinese food. It was interesting because we were the only non-Chinese people in this restaurant. The food was delicious. The portions were huge, so we ate what we could and then boxed up the rest for JJ. He is a late night-owl and hates home improvement stores, so we didn’t wake him this morning to go with us.

After we ate, we finally got around to stopping at the home improvement store. EJ and I love to browse through home improvement stores. We dream and drool over tools and fancy appliances and kitchen cabinets and bathroom showers and admire the color and texture of various things. We exclaim, “Oh, would you love this in our bathroom?” or “We could do our cabinets like that.” We discuss future projects. Today we admired a beautiful bathroom sink that looked like a leaf. We loved the color and texture of it even though it wouldn’t really work in our house. EJ lingered over a wood-splitter and he got a huge case of “lust” for a new washer and dryer that were on sale. We have a stackable washer/dryer in the bathroom, but the washer part quit working a year or so ago, so we’ve been washing our clothes at the local laundromat and bringing them home to dry. We only have space for a stackable washer/dryer, but the bad thing about a stackable is that if it breaks, we have to replace the whole unit. We have begun discussing the possibility of taking out the bathtub and putting in a shower so we can fit a regular washer and dryer in the bathroom. After EJ finished talking to the salesperson, I reminded him that I don’t need a fancy new washer and dryer–I would be happy with used ones. He agreed. We left the store with the insulation and nothing else.

One of our favorite stores.
Strange fruit at one of our favorite stores.

After a brief stop at Gander Mountain, a sporting goods store, we drove to a wonderful grocery store that has the feel of a farm market.  It has fruits and veggies, flowers, free coffee, and sometimes live music. It has regular fruits and veggies like apples, oranges, potatoes, and cabbage, but it also has very exotic produce that we’ve seen nowhere else–like cactus leaves and star fruit. Some of the produce looks like alien food from a science fiction movie.

Shlomo Wine
Shlomo Wine

I also love the store because of the people. I love to people-watch, and there are so many interesting people from many different cultures at this store. Sometimes there are brief encounters. Today, a man saw me put cinnamon sticks in our shopping cart and he asked, “Is that cinnamon?” I explained that I use an electric coffee grinder to grind my own cinnamon. It’s cheaper that way. He thought that was interesting. We walked a little further and a store employee saw the bottle of Sholom wine in our cart. He asked, “Is that Sholom wine? I’ve often thought about trying it, but never have. Is it any good?”  So we paused and explained that whenever we go to this store, we buy at least one thing that we have never had before, just to try it. Sometimes we like the strange food and sometimes we don’t, but it’s always interesting to try. This time, our strange new “food” was the wine.  Usually we have kosher grape juice for Shabbat, but this time we decided to try the kosher wine. We talked to this young man for maybe five or ten minutes. It was fun. A few minutes later, as I was scooping peanuts into a bag, I heard a woman walking by say to her companion, “…I would like that. I am not a reader…” Just a snippet of conversation that caught my interest. “How can ANYONE not be a reader???” I thought with horror.

Rain had threatened all day and finally hit  as we left the store. It was a gentle rain that was not unpleasant to walk through. All the way home, I shelled the peanuts we bought at the store, giving one to EJ and then one to me. When we reached home, JJ helped us unload the groceries. Then we got out the leftover Chinese food. We let JJ have most of it because he hadn’t eaten all day and he loves Chinese food as much as I do. Yum.

A beautiful rainbow
A beautiful rainbow

Later, at twilight, as EJ and I walked to our neighbor’s house to care for her little dog while she is away, I looked for a rainbow. The setting sun was shining on dark rainclouds so I thought there was a good chance for one. At first I couldn’t find any, but then I spotted a small one just above the trees. It was beautiful.

It was a wonderful gift of a memorable day.

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