I never really enjoyed great fanfare on my birthday. From what I understand, this is not wholly uncommon to people with summer birthdays. After all, people go away on holiday for the summer, and this makes for shoddy attendance at birthday parties. For me, not only did I have to compete with summer cottages and road trips, I also had to compete with blueberry picking, weeding, pea picking, raspberry picking, bean picking, insect control and all other things garden related.
My mom is an avid gardener, and has been ever since I can remember. She comes by it naturally enough, as her mother was also the classic “green thumb”. My grandmother could coax even the most stubborn sprigs and seeds to life, and she was a die-hard berry picker. Little wonder my mother is such a talented gardener—it is practically in her DNA. My grandma and I both had birthdays in July, so my birthday was one of the birthdays she was least likely to forget. In fact, she once bragged about how she would never forget the day I was born. So, as kids are wont to do, I was rapt to hear my grandma tell me the story about the day I was born. I heard a touching story of how they travelled one hundred miles that day—to pick peas because my mom was in the hospital, and those peas would have gone to seed otherwise.
Fast forward 39 years and you find not only a disappointing pea crop for my mother, but you will also find me far away from home, on holiday, in the BC interior with my boyfriend of five years. It was a beautiful warm and sunny day. I woke up to a cell phone full of birthday texts. Additionally, I felt all warm and fuzzy with the comfort of knowing that my parents were both thinking of me as they toiled in their garden (raspberries don’t pick themselves after all). My family and friends had grown accustomed to my “running away from home” on my birthday, and many enjoyed keeping up with their tradition of gleefully reminding me of my aging through a vast array of media.
This year, this was the day we were going to see his grandma–our grandma. Aside from my boyfriend, no one really knew it was my birthday, and I was okay with that. Fuss and fanfare was not something I was used to, and nothing I ever longed for. It was a perfect day, when we got to Grandma’s, she was waiting at the open door with arms widespread and hug ready. The outdoors and the beauty of the day was calling, so Grandma took us for a walk to her favourite sandwich shop for a lunch.
We updated, and were updated on all the comings and goings of family. After lunch, we took the “long way” back to Grandma’s. Grandma is a firm believer, and a shining example of the many health benefits of the daily walk. Our grandma kept a pace which we worked to keep up with that day—the spring in her step was something to behold.
As Grandma walked us to our car that day, I informed her that I had adopted her—she was my grandma, and I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend my birthday. She was touched and surprised. She hadn’t known it was my birthday, but was thrilled to know I thought of her my grandma. I would find out later that shortly after our departure, Grandma was on the phone to Palucid’s parents informing them that she had yet another granddaughter.
After an afternoon of sunshine and walking, Palucid and I were starting to feel some pangs of hunger. Since we were in his hometown, and since it was my birthday, I left all the responsibility of procuring our evening meal to Palucid. He decided we would check out this little restaurant renowned for its fine German wines. As per our allergy/bubble girl protocol, Palucid went in ahead, and inquired if there was any turkey or tuna on the menu. The lovely German Hostess said, “I am zorry, ve do not have any terkay or toona on the menu.” Relieved I wouldn’t have to combat any life threatening allergens, I walked into the restaurant and happily sat down at the table our confused hostess offered us. “..vhy are you eating hee-ahr if ve do not serve turkay or toona?” Palucid explained to our lovely hostess that I suffered from lethal, airborne allergies from those two foods. I smiled, nodded, and shrugged graciously as I enjoyed commentary on how bizarre and unfortunate it was for me to have such allergies. I would be lying if I said it never gets old, but hearing it with a German accent was a nice variation.
The food was not only blissfully free of allergens, it was also delightfully authentic, “home cooked” German cuisine. As I was sitting there, hungrily awaiting my schnitzel and spaetzeln, a little black ring box appeared—almost magically—beside my sparkling water. Palucid smirked and assured me that I was supposed to open this mysterious little box.
Inside the box was this amazing ring. The band was a delicate, golden filigree. The setting was an oval blue-black gem that had reflected the light in the shape of a star. This beautiful black-star sapphire happened to be cradled by four golden leaves. I hadn’t seen anything like it—it was beyond anything I imagined. I remember him saying something about this being a “real ring” to which I exclaimed “It sure is!!” Palucid patiently tried again, “No baby, this is the real ring…c’mon…read my mind here!” He was looking at me, and smirking at my “special” processing time. “Whenever…”
“Whenever”–not your most conventional proposal, but one rife with our unique “us” thumbprints all over it. When we first got together we did talk about the “m-word”. Palucid and I weren’t ones to charge and trample our way to the altar. We both had witnessed many a couple push a relationship to the altar in a “damn the torpedoes” kind of fashion. For many couples, we observed, weddings were some kind of end-game. Neither of us wanted that. To us, we wanted to build a marriage, and celebrate it—one day—perhaps, with a wedding. Thus, when it came to the whole “when’s the wedding?” discussion, our magic word was “whenever”.
Palucid knew, mostly because I told him outright, that I would marry him in a heartbeat—all he need do is ask—whenever. So, once I figured out that Palucid used the specific article of speech (“the”), and thus was implying the ring was not just spectacular, but also significant in nature, it soon followed I understood that the word “Whenever” meant: “will you marry me?”
Of course, in a heartbeat (or less) I said, “Yes”.