Good morning, Corinne. This is the voice of your inner child, bringing birthday wishes.
Guess what I got you? The gift of sight!
Oh, not for your old blue eyes; you’ll have to struggle with those thousand-dollar specs that don’t quite do it.
Did I ever tell you about the time my wallet was stolen and I had to go get a new driver’s license? The lady wouldn’t help me because I didn’t have my birth certificate or Social Security card. I finally called Jeff City and found out you could pay $2.00 to have a copy of the license faxed to the office. If you matched your picture, you got a new license. The lady looked at me with resentment that I’d found out the secret of her nasty self. She muttered, “What color are your eyes?” as though I had to know the answer to get the deed done. “Grey,” I replied. She looked at me. “No, they’re not, they’re blue,” she admonished. Wearily, I said to her, “If you already knew the answer, why did you ask?”
That’s not really funny. She was probably an overworked state employee just trying to do her job. Anyway, I got you the gift of sight, so you could see the truth.
And something else: I also found your sense of humor where you left it five or six years ago! It’s a little moldy, but if you take it to a commercial dry-cleaner, you can probably get it restored and use it for another decade at least!
When I was in college and people asked me why I walked funny — their words, not mine — I would get really close to them and say, “Nobody knows, BUT IT’S CONTAGIOUS!” They’d jump back really far and I’d howl at the consternation on their faces!
That’s not humor, Corinne, that’s mean-spiritedness. You should learn the difference!
Meanwhile, here’s a third gift — I wrapped it for you! Go ahead! Open it! Do you see what it is?
It’s a gallon of child-like wonder! Take a drink whenever you feel jaded; it brings back your capacity to see beauty!
I always wanted to be a knock-out, or at least to have somebody think that I am. In college, we circulated a book of humor called, “I’m in Training to Be Tall, Blonde, and Beautiful”. I envy people who can just look in the mirror and wash their face without wondering if whatever’s wrong with them could be fixed with deftly applied foundation. I don’t think people realize how much stock the world takes in physical appearance. I was standing in a store recently looking at dresses, and a sales lady asked me if I was lost. I don’t know what it was about how I looked that suggested this to her; maybe my mixed-matched prints and wild hair. Who knows. Anyway, I pondered for a long minute and then replied, “Apparently. I’ll go somewhere else to shop, thanks.” As I walked away, I heard her tell one of her co-workers that I was a bitch.
Oh, Corinne! She was probably just trying to be helpful and had an awkward moment! You were a little bitchy, come to think of it. Couldn’t you have just thanked her? But here’s your last present, Corinne — open it! Open it! You’ll really like this one!
Don’t you know what it is?
It’s a sunrise! A sunrise! Get it? I got you the gift of today!
When I was a young prosecutor, my boss made me stay in the courtroom of Leonard Hughes, Sr., a stocky, African-American with a keen mind and a sharp wit. Every morning, he came out to the bench and the courtroom fell silent. He’d say, “Ladies and gentlemen, I woke up this morning which is more than some people can say. So let’s get the show started.” And he’d bang his gavel, once, for emphasis. Then he’d spend the day meting out justice. True justice. The kind that convicted people if they were truly guilty but let them off if there was a little room for doubt. He treated people decently, and called the transvestite hookers by whichever pronoun they used for themselves. He called me, “Madam City Attorney Hot Lips” which he shortened to H.L. in court. He stood five-feet-nothing and liked the St. Louis Cardinals, not a popular choice in Kansas City. A few months after he took early retirement, he wrapped his car around a tree heading to court during a snowstorm. DOA. When I heard the news, I vowed never to take another sunrise for granted.
See? A gift you can appreciate! Now, tell me, what are you going to do to celebrate your birthday?
I think I’ll just take my coffee out on the porch and watch the begonias bloom. How about you?
I’m going to dance! And sing! And throw my arms open to greet everybody who crosses my path! Come on! Let’s go!
It’s the fifth day of the forty-fifth month of My Year Without Complaining. At the brink of my sixty-third year around the sun, and the end of my sixty-second trip, I’m standing, waiting, wishing, hoping. Life continues.