A Snooper’s Lifelong Surprise

A Snooper’s Lifelong Surprise

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Upstairs and down, an eleven-year-old performed her least enjoyable weekly job of dusting end tables, baseboards, and particularly the individual rungs on the winding wooden staircase, three bedrooms. That day, she noticed that her mom’s wooden cedar chest on the vanity was slightly ajar. Even though it had always been there, she hadn’t particularly noticed it.  Wonder what mom keeps in this chest, she mused to herself. To salve her curiosity, she took a peek. As she fingered carefully through loose old-looking papers, her eyes fell on Ruth Arlene born May 7, 1934 written on a small oblong paper. That’s odd, that’s me, but the date is wrong. May 5 is my birthday. I’ll have to ask mom. But then, she’ll know that I was snooping through her stuff, she reasoned. But I have to know for sure. So, she garnered-up courage and with the little paper in hand, hurried downstairs to find her mother. 

“I found this, Mom. Who’s right, this paper or you?” After a quick glance at the paper, her mother said nonchalantly, “Oh, Ruthie, I got your and Mac’s birthdays mixed up”. “Your birthday is really May 7, and his birthday is September 5, instead of the 7th.”  Without fanfare, Mac and I switched days on the spot. Nothing more was said. I had no problem with two-days later in May, but Mac said later that he was disappointed to give up the 7th because the first day of school often fell on that day.

Birthdays were very special to our country-family of six children, we were given the privilege of choosing a particular type of cake that Mom would bake from scratch topped with our favorite icing.  We waited for the weekend when our traveling Dad was home to have our favorite meal, cake and candles—no parties or piles of gifts, but merely, a family celebration.

Thirteen years later, the situation changed for Mac when after retiring from the pastoral ministry and enlisting in the Army as Chaplain, the required copy of his original birth certificate listed his birthday as September 7, 1935, the original date he had celebrated for eleven years. September 7 was returned to him. My family still observes May 5 as my birthday. Jim’s family and my friends observe May 7. So, in essence, the life-long change is that I have two birthdays. Not bad.


Celebrations are significant. Research: First recorded in 1480–90; from Latin cellebration- (stem of celebrātiō ) “large gathering, widespread use, celebration (of a festival)”; celebrate,-ion. Related words:  Anniversary, bash, birthday, ceremony, festival, festivity, gala, jubilee, observance, party, performance, spree, triumph. When a group was asked what they have celebrated, they mentioned; college loan was paid off; when our mortgage was paid off; graduating from college; when an engagement ring slipped on their finger.


I hadn’t realized how important a birthday acknowledgment was for me until my first birthday after Jim and I had married. I waited expectantly all day, but no mention was made. But Jim made up for it. From then on, he hopped on the birthday wagon and became a creative birthday enthusiast. Even when traveling 1000 miles a week round trip to and from Seminary, very early on my special day waiting for my preschool children to wake up, I heard a light knock on the door to find a birthday cake on the porch.  Jim had arranged for one of the church women to bake and deliver a cake. How thoughtful and special. The gal who made the cake and delivered it, will be reminded about what she did when she reads this blog. “Thanks again, Liz.  I’ll never forget your gift.”


Jim never promoted himself in any way but the kids and I soon discovered that he thoroughly enjoyed the celebration of his and others’ birthdays.  He enjoyed my surprise church-wide surprise birthday celebration with a decorated sheet cake of a football field.  Everyone was aware of his enjoyment of watching football. 

On Jim’s last birthday in October, 2019--(He passed in March 2020)--before we knew he was ill, he received an early birthday cake from Elaine and Roger as we stopped by on the way home from (we didn’t know it then, our last trip together to Texas) a cake from me, and another from Kay. He marveled that he had received three cakes, and smiled his well-known genuine smile. Celebrating the life of Jim will always be special to family, church family and friends.

Celebration is innate, obvious as babies get excited at the sight of a familiar voice or face, youngsters jump up and down and shout when a brand-new red wagon is rolled out, a teenager gets a bicycle, the family invests in a puppy or a kitten, etc. Celebrations accompany school academics, sports, drama, music, art achievements, etc.  I recently attended Preschool Graduation complete with caps, gowns and tassels, marching in on familiar graduation music. Clapping followed as each child was introduced and they walked across the stage to receive a diploma. A gala affair.

The interviewed group mentioned Christmas, Easter, New Year’s, Fourth of July--often celebrated with fireworks and get-togethers. Watching fireworks worldwide has become a quiet celebration for me, in my living room via TV. 

D Day--the day I’m writing this--is especially memorable because on June 6, 1944, Mac, who was nine and I was ten, were visiting our maternal grandparents for the week. Granddad was soft spoken and very serious and when he summoned us--a first--to join him and Grandma on the wide gravel driveway of their country residence, we were cautious and curious. Granddad quietly explained the worldwide significance of D Day and that everyone was celebrating and we were going to celebrate, too. Then he shot his long gun several times up in the air; then a couple more shots, the sounds eerily reverberating above the valley below. That was it. They went back into the house and Mac and I continued playing.  Back in the mid-40’s, children were very aware of World War 2.  I’ll never forget that special D-Day celebration and its significant ties to Grandma and Granddad.

Special note: For this last part, if you are not of the same spiritual leanings as I have presented, please overlook them and sift out the general, generic need and enjoyment of celebration and consider them a healthy use of time.


The importance of celebrations has been around since the beginning of time. At the last Lord’s Supper with his disciples, Jesus said, “This do in remembrance of me” –a solemn celebration.  Christmas, Easter, and other religious special celebrations are very important to people of all faiths. As I chatted with brother John about this blog and church celebrations, he asked if I was familiar with the hymn Lord of the Dance. I had sung it years ago but had not remembered the lyrics. I Googled the hymn and was delighted about the compressed theology of celebration from Jesus’ viewpoint. Two of the five verses and the chorus follow: Do yourself a favor and google the entire Irish tune and lyrics.   

I danced in the morning
When the world was begun,
And I danced in the moon
And the stars and the sun,
And I came down from heaven
And I danced on the earth,
At Bethlehem
I had my birth.

I danced on a Friday
When the sky turned black
It’s hard to dance
With the devil on your back.
They buried my body
And they thought I’d gone,
But I am the Dance,
And I still go on.

Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be,
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said he.

 Celebration and praise go hand in hand in the scripture. Reading devotionally, praying and singing hymns and spiritual songs is typical for many daily private celebrations. Celebration was God’s idea and is good for the soul. Enjoy celebrating others, joining in on other celebrations, giving and receiving.

The milestone of reaching 90 has been the longest and most celebrated birthday of my lifetime. My response to, “How does feel to be 90?” is, I don’t know how one is supposed to feel at the ripe old age of 90, but I feel genuinely loved and am thankful for excellent health, inner peace and for the marvelous life of ministry the Lord continues to provide. 

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord. Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything. Eph. 5:15 (NIV).