Gloria opened the photo album from last summer. Her birthday party had been on the beach front of her small cottage situated on Lake Huron. Right now, she was especially grateful for the photo book because there would not be a family gathering this year for her birthday during the Corona Virus pandemic. This year, she would have a quiet birthday by herself. It was considered too dangerous for her family to make the trip. She had assured them that she would be fine and would look forward to their phone calls. “Don’t send presents this year.” She said. “We will all have a big party when this is over.”
The photos from her birthday party last year showed her family in a circle of chairs outside on the sandy beach. Gloria’s chair was resplendent with ribbons and a birthday banner. Gloria was pictured with a funny cone shaped birthday hat and a big smile filling her face. The sound of the gentle water lapping against the shore and the laughter of her family gave a better music than any stereo system. They had all commented about what a perfect day it was. That August 19th, 2019. Later that day, they would have a bonfire, but first they would have birthday cake on the beach, and she would open her gifts.
Gloria laughed when she looked at the photos of her gifts. Her sons and her daughters-in-law had purchased her a large George Forman grill for her. What a hoot! Gloria had the tiniest cottage and absolutely no counter or pantry space at all. Still, they seemed so proud of themselves. Gloria clapped her hands in a feigned delight and told them, “It is perfect, I can’t wait to use it and I will have you all over for some b-b-q.”
The next photo showed Gloria holding up a pastel green polar fleece shirt in front of her body. Her daughter,who had given it to her, had remarked, “Mom, now you won’t have to keep your old flannel shirt. This should be lovely on you. I thought you would like the color.” In fact, green was Gloria’s favorite color but her favorite shirt would still be the over sized flannel shirt that had been her husband’s. She felt comforted when she was wrapped inside the soft cotton of that shirt now worn through in some spots. It was her memory shirt.
“I do love the color.” Gloria said as she touched the new polar fleece garment. “Thank you everyone for these beautiful gifts, I sure am lucky to have this wonderful family.”
The next 3 photos in the album were so precious to Gloria she smiled from the memory of having received a perfectly selected gift from her grandson Dennis.
She noticed that these three photos were in the right viewing order and almost made a video of the moment. In the first photo, Dennis faced his grandmother with his little hands held behind his back. His smile was broad and excited. In the second photo of this series, Gloria is reaching her hands out to Dennis to receive the gift from him and her smile was just as broad and her excitement just as much as his. In the third photo, Gloria is caught clutching her hands to her heart with tear rimmed eyes as she looked at this perfect gift she had just received from her grandson.
Gloria had taught Dennis a love of nature from rock talk. Gloria’s grandson had lived in Gloria’s cottage home with his parents when he was very little. “Rock talk,” Gloria had said was “from rocking Dennis every night whilst she told him story after story about the wonders to be found along the sandy shores. Treasures await us everywhere,” she had whispered to him every bedtime. “We will find a treasure tomorrow,” she would promise as his eyes closed in slumber.
As a toddler, Dennis had held his grandmother’s hand while they beach combed. Her garden had some of the spoils of these adventures. Among those were gnarled pieces of drift wood, a feather tied to a string and hanging from a tree branch, some old abandoned sand shovels stuck into sand piles, and even an old row boat dragged into the garden that had now rusted and became their special place to play that they were pirates.
Last summer, when Dennis had visited, Gloria simply had spent her time sitting in a beach chair watching his adventures as he ran into the waves, or along the shores by himself. He always promised to stay in her view.
She put the photo album to the side. She would look through the rest of the photos later. Right now, she wanted to hold that gift again. She walked to her kitchen windowsill and picked it up. Such a precious gift. It fit perfectly into the palm of her aged hand. It felt right there.
It was a small smooth rock. No one else would ever know or experience the joy of that stone. How lucky she was that she had received a gift so perfect for her.
Gloria clutched it against her old flannel shirt. “Happy Birthday to me.” Gloria said and she really meant it. And that was August 19th, 2020. It was the year Gloria turned 70 during a global pandemic. It was also the year that she learned there was more than one way to define “rock talk.” For certainly the rock was talking to her sense of love. Her spirits were rising. Her love was lifting her up. She was content. Tomorrow, she would walk on the sand and look for treasure.