Today, February 27th is our oldest son, Benjy’s 19th birthday and the first birthday he has ever celebrated away from home. In our house we have a birthday ritual of cards, gifts and goodies set out on the kitchen table at breakfast time. So.. in order to assuage my maternal ache at being unable to celebrate with him in person, I am instituting a new custom for our family called “Birthday In A Box”.
This replicates some of our home spun birthday traditions, but has been adapted for college life ( I did think briefly of climbing into the box myself since I am only 5 feet tall but realized that this might not be the coolest kind of surprise for a college freshman.)
I have packed it full of 3 things college students need;
food, food and more food as well as new clothes and birthday cards and gifts from Jonny and I , Aron and Jacob and his grandparents. On Saturday night we smuggled it into his dorm building with two of his friends and it will be there for him when he wakes up, or before he goes to sleep-the more likely option,since bedtime is always after midnight. There is a personalized birthday cake, candles ,balloons and lots of plates so he can share with his friends. I have also included some of his other food- favorites that represent different phases of his life; English chocolate-Cadburys of course, his special shortbread, cinnamon rugalech, pitta chips and hummus( for an Israeli flavor), pesto, olive oil, and rice ( a favorite from his stay in Asia) and have even included a measuring cup to facilitate the rice cooking, should he get around to it.
I am sure he and his room mates will need little motivation to munch their way through the food mound and I have no doubt that through the giving of this gift, Benjy will know we love and miss him very much and we are thrilled that he is so happy and successful at college.
There are, of course, gifts that we would all like to send our family and friends that are impossible to package in a box. Two recent news items in particular have resonated with me in that they highlight things I have wished for Benjy since the day he was born. You cannot buy or sell them, you certainly can’t eat them, but once you have acquired them, you want to keep them topped up and ready to share. Here are a couple of the many I would like to gift him.
The first is very personal. Last Thursday the media reported that research has definitively demonstrated the importance of the dreaded colonoscopy as a life saver. “Study offers strong evidence that colonoscopy saves lives” screamed Reuters and many other news outlets. My father died aged 59 of colon cancer and in contrast, an EKG that accompanied a colonoscopy Benjy was having at age 15, showed up a life threatening heart problem for which Benjy has now had successful surgery. So in a round about way this colonoscopy saved Benjy's life. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about my father and wonder if things might have been different for him, if his condition had been identified earlier through regular screening.
So ..Benjy-I wish you the gift of good health and you can do a lot to keep it that way-go get your well checks, flu shots, visit the dentist, eye doc ,keep up the regular exercise, sleep enough and laugh a lot, exercise your brain through interesting challenging courses ,the arts and listening to different peoples’ points of view. Look after your emotional health and spiritual health. I know, nag, nag, nag but I also know that while it can’t cure everything, prevention and the nurturing of your body and soul may improve your lot and will add to your quality of life.
In another story this week, The New York Times just awarded 8 college scholarships to high school students who have shown tremendous resilience in their lives already. The article explained that,
“ these students did not succumb to the setbacks that came their way. Certainly they wobbled and buckled, but they picked themselves up and chose to make their lives as full throated as they could, capitalizing on their talents.” As I think about Benjy’s birthday gifts, resilience speaks to me both because Benjy has always demonstrated this trait and because it is my deepest wish that he will continue to face what ever life throws at him with his cheery, positive, can-do attitude, and serve as an inspiration to friends and family.
Here is a picture of the contents of Birthday In A Box for Benjy. Let me know what you would include in a “Birthday In a Box” for someone you love at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’d like to brainstorm(!) with me about making one of your own, please get in touch.
A happy, healthy birthday to Benjy and to any of you celebrating a milestone this week.
PS: Benjy's friends gave him, his "Birthday In A Box" at 12.15am and he opened it with us listening in on the phone. The gift to us of hearing his delighted response to each new item he discovered, was priceless.See the picture below...