Sunday, March 6, 2011

Birthday Celebrations - Part I

As I approached my birthday this year, I found that I was experiencing conflicting emotions.  Last year's celebration had been so special.  Turning 65 had seemed like a milestone that deserved special recognition. Since I'd written about the celebration on my blog (linked) last year,  I decided to look back and see what I'd written.  The feelings of excitement that I felt that day all came flooding back.  I love entertaining, and my favorite group of ladies were all coming to my house to celebrate.  During the celebration, I received flowers from my son and my sister.  Now, looking at the photo from last year, I am again reminded that one of our dear classmates, seated in the center of the photo that I included in last year's post, lost her battle with cancer in the year since we all gathered at my house a year ago.

Birthday Lunch
Garden Room
Broadmoor Hotel
In the past year, my life has also been forever changed.  I am not the same lively, outgoing, cheery person who loved nothing more than being with my friends and family.  I have experienced that which I feared most, the loss of a child.  The shock, the pain, the sorrow, and the loss that I have suffered have greatly changed me and the way I see and experience the world around me.  I certainly no longer take anything or anyone for granted.  

I also know that life is to be celebrated, and on my birthday,  I chose to celebrate that I have survived the events of this past year.  At first, I could think of no way to celebrate.  Then, on Sunday morning last week, the day before my actual birthday which falls on the 28th of February, I suggested that my husband and I drive up to Colorado Springs for brunch at the Broadmoor. (See the link here.)  We couldn't get reservations for brunch.  (No surprise here because I know that the waiting list is always long.)  So, instead, we made reservations for a late lunch at my second favorite place to go at that dear old hotel:  The Garden Room.

We left a little early so we could walk around the Broadmoor Lake a few times.  I love this place.  So many wonderful memories of childhood and my years as a single mom are associated with the Broadmoor.  As a child, we learned to swim in the pool here, or we ice skated in the old ice arena.  The same arena where Peggy Fleming trained.

 During the 80's, when I was a single mom, I worked at Cheyenne Mountain School District which is located just a few blocks from the hotel.  Many times after work, or during my lunch hour, I would walk around this lake with friends.  Or we would go for lunches and special dates in the evenings at one of the great restaurants in the hotel.  
I've never been to the Broadmoor that I didn't feel like the time and the place was special.  It seemed like the perfect place to celebrate my birthday this year.

As we walked around the lake, I had my first bona fide sighting of a robin for the season.  It seemed fitting that I should be blessed with this sight on this day.  I had heard what I thought were robins singing when I awoke that morning.  Yes, my day was being blessed.  I recalled that last year, my first sighting had been the weekend after my birthday when I went for a run with Amy and Julie.  I teared up at the memory, but was also deeply touched by how much I needed to see that red-breasted signaler of spring.

Jim and Sally
Birthday at the Broadmoor
Lunch in the Garden Room was also just what I needed.  I love going to this special restaurant in February for Valentine's Day or my birthday because the setting of lush greenery always uplifts the spirit.  It is the perfect place for a short respite from winter. 

After lunch, we of course had to visit the shops.  I always hesitate to admire something in a gift shop when I am with my dear husband because the next thing I know, he is buying it for me.  My eye was caught by the most beautiful tea pot and cup and saucers to match.  I loved the rose pattern, and noticed that daffodils, my favorite flower and symbol for my life, was also featured on china.  I really did try to dissuade my generous husband from purchasing the two sets for me because I knew he had already ordered my birthday gift.  He bought it anyway, and I do love it!  Even the boxes the china came in, deserved to be on display in my favorite red hutch. Thanks again, Jim for this beautiful gift.

Jung Hee puts candles on cake
Thinking my celebrations for the year were over, I got up on Monday morning, my actual birthday, and grumbled about having to work on my birthday.  When it came time for our morning break, my dear, wonderful students surprised me with a party.  I couldn't believe it when Jung Hee pulled tulips in a vase out of a bag.  Soon, Shin pulled a cake out of her bag.  Then, she began to pour orange juice in to small plastic cups.  It looked like they were getting a great party together!

Shin lights candles
Sure enough, there was a wonderful cake, flowers, colorful napkins, fresh organic strawberries and oranges, and wonderful little chocolate cookies spread out before me on what was our classroom work table.  My students even produced candles for the cake and matches to light the candles.  Shin is quite the party planner!

Birthday Spread

Before we all ate the wonderful birthday food, we gathered for a group photo.
English Language Institute Students

Here I am surrounded by my five wonderful students.  They gave me permission to post this photo of them. I am blessed to work with these five international students this semester.  Each one is very special. They will never know how much this party meant to me.  The gratitude that I feel for being able to teach these students will never be forgotten. 

 As I teach them, I am reminded that life is greatly enriched when we are able to do what we love most.  For me that is teaching and being involved with young adult who are just beginning their journeys through life.  My passion has long been wound up in teaching English to speakers of other languages.  I admire my students' fortitude in coming to a foreign land to attend college.  I celebrate their growth as individuals as they risk learning a new language, a new culture, and meeting new people who do not share their language and culture.  I also marvel how human connections transcend language and culture and how love and respect grow when we all learn together.  

For so many reasons, my birthday was indeed special this year.  I've learned that even after unspeakable loss, life is beautiful, and it should be celebrated.  Thank you, dear students, for making my day so special.  Your kindness will never be forgotten.


#1Nana said...

Happy Birthday Sally. It sounds like you've had wonderful celebrations. It's great that you can bask in the love on your birthday!

Mollie said...

Happy happy of happiest belated birthday wishes to you!

DJan said...

What an absolutely wonderful and uplifting post, Sally. Thank you for sharing your day, your feelings, and your journey. As you know, I've also experienced the same loss, and I am truly moved by this post.

Happy birthday, Sally! I have three years on you. I'm testing the waters towards seventy...

becca said...

how wonderful to look back on everything with a smile and love. hope this birthday is just as wonderful and if i miss it have a happy birthday hugs

Munir said...

Happy Birthday. I hope that this year brings a lot of good news to you and yours. Thank you for sharing the pictures.

Olga said...

A celebration was well deserved. How sweet of your students to throw you a party. They look so happy to be doing it for you, too.

Arkansas Patti said...

Goodness you really know how to milk a birthday with two celebrations.
What a sweetie husband you have. Most hubbies are clueless about what the wife wants. Just takes a little listening which he has obviously mastered. He is a cutie and you are quite lovely.
Loved the picture of you and your students. Wonderful to have a face now for your class.
Happy belated Birthday.

Cape Cod Kitty said...

Warm belated Happy Birthday wishes, Sally. That is a beautiful celebration. I so admire your work teaching English, and I am certain you were most deserving of that lovely and delicious honor!
Years ago I visited beautiful. We also camped in the Cheyenne Mtn area at Pikes Peak National Forest. We drove an entire day and never saw another soul. LOVED IT.

Mare said...

That was a wonderful day enriched by many different people in your life. God bless you on your birthday, and everyday after, too.
You are a gifted writer, and I enjoy reading all that you share with us.

Grandmother said...

Happy birthday to you! I enjoyed learning a little more about you as well, although the part about losing your daughter bruised my heart for you. How do we survive that kind of loss? I turned 65 this year (in Jan.) and am still contemplating just what this means to me.
As for your gardening, I thought of Rumi's quote:
"Lovers find secret places
inside this violent world
where they make transactions
with beauty."

Nat said...

Belated birthday greetings to you!
Looks like you had a wonderful celebration... hope it marks the start of a year filled with blessings :-)

Linda said...

A wonderful post. I'm touched by the fact you still see beauty in life after such tragedy in your own life. You are making such a difference in the lives of your students.

KathyA said...

The visit to Colorado Springs was indeed special. BUT, the celebration put on by your students was wonderful! They love you -- it's obvious and very well deserved.

I think that tea set is gorgeous! Happy Birthday!

Linda Myers said...

Looks like you're making a real difference in other people's lives. How lovely your students celebrated your birthday with you.

Joanne said...

God Bless YOU!!!!! What a wonderful way to celebrate life. I am so happy that your students made your day so special! Blessings, Joanne

Kay said...

Happy birthday, Sally! I can really see why your students love you so much. You are such a blessing. This is a beautiful, heartwarming post. It made me teary. Your students are truly a fantastic bunch of young people.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

Happy Birthday. It's wonderful that you arranged one meaningful celebration and that your students surprised you with another. All the best.

Sightings said...

Of course I've just "met" you and didn't know, so to find out you lost a child ... I just can't imagine. So please know, above all, that's what is in my heart.

I've heard of the Broadmoor; never been there; so it's nice to see your pics. Wow, It looks like some place! And from me, too, happy birthday.

Terri Tiffany said...

Your days sounded and looked wonderful! I've read about that hotel, I think there is a writers' confernence held once a year there. I would love to see it.
Again, I am so sorry about your loss. I didn't realize your child died this past year or if I had, I had forgotten. I am sure each event alone is difficult. Blessings to you,

I Wonder Wye said...

happy BD!!! What a wonderful celebration! Both times. Our daffodils are blooming here -- and 5 minutes down the road 7 acres of daffys are nodding and in golden splendor -- I will try to take a photo...

Jeanie said...

Oh, Sally, what a touching and beautiful post. I send you wishes for a happy "new" year to come. You have had quite a journey in the past year and such sorrow. It is my wish for you that you will be able to find some joy in the coming months as you celebrate your life.

It certainly sounds as though you are surrounded by wonderful friends and a dear husband and family. These are in and of themselves, wonderful gifts. Happy Birthday.

LC said...

I just found your blog through your comment on Never Ending Journey, and enjoyed your birthday celebrations! Happy birthday wishes from another former English teacher who celebrated #64 during February. Your determination and courage in choosing to see good in life after loss and in choosing to celebrate all that is good and beautiful is inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

Deb Shucka said...

I'm so glad your birthday was a time of surprises and love and so full of life. Great pictures. So much joy. Sending you a belated and virtual birthday hug.