Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Dec. 11, 2003

Toasting and roasting friends

The holidays are all about tradition, and last Saturday was one of my favorites - the annual Christmas breakfast with my gal pals from campus.

The six of us squeezed into a booth, caught up on family news, joked with our waitress and exchanged gifts - candles, ornaments, jam and teacups filled with candy.

"It's probably a good thing my son isn't here,"said one of my friends, whose son often works at the restaurant. "We're the kind of group he hates - the ones who sit down, eat and then stay forever."

And we did stay for awhile. After we ate, one friend said she wanted to make a toast. We lifted our glasses and coffee mugs, and she told us how much she appreciates us and how important it is to get together each year. When she finished, we all wiped away tears.

Then, some in the group started checking their watches. I began gathering my things, thinking it was time to go. But they had a surprise for me - a belated birthday celebration. One of them had given me a card in September when I turned 50; the others had forgotten. So they decided to combine Christmas with a birthday party. They lit a "5" candle and a "0" candle and held them over a small loaf of cranberry bread.

They gave me a card in which they wrote their sentiments:

"I'm glad three months later you are still 50 and we can celebrate your birthday when we could work it into our schedules."
"You're still 50 so we must not be too late."
"You could call it your one-quarter birthday and celebrate more times."
"Some things are timeless ..."
"At least your memory isn't gone - the rest of us forgot your birthday. I guess we can't point fingers about getting older."

They presented me with several gifts. The first was a purple "Old Lady Crossing" cane, complete with a horn and "Get out of my way" sign, Dirty Old Man repellent, a single knee-high and a rearview mirror with "Hello, beautiful" on it. The label on the cane had the following verse:

You're an old lady out on the move. Everyone best get out of your way.
You're loaded up with all your gear and headed out for the day!
Some may call you slow or funny, they might even say you're insane.
But if they comment about your age, you can beat them with this cane!"

The other gifts included items which our mothers and grandmothers might collect: Styrofoam meat trays; pieces of used folded aluminum foil; a plastic bag filled with plastic bags; Cool Whip and Country Crock plastic containers suitable for storing leftovers; individual ketchup, mustard, salt and pepper packets, napkins and plastic forks and spoons from restaurants; and old make-up (including a tube of really red lipstick!) in an old cosmetic bag. They also gave me Puffs to Go! (one for every sleeve), a seven-day pill box, a plastic rain bonnet, a crocheted apple that holds and dispenses a ball of string, bread and butter pickles dated 9-12-95 and an old man figurine with "You're never too old for a booty call" on his back end.

We laughed until we cried just as we do every year when we get together.

But I was a bit disappointed that no one gave me what I really need - rubber bands and Twist Ties!

Left, me with my 5-0 candles. Right, gal pals Pat Hudgins, Wanda Allen,
Jackie Harmon, Ann Foster, me and Linda Puntney in December 2003.

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