Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - December 1, 2017

Friends and family

About 50 of us stood quietly, but intently, watching the main doors. Many were holding cameras or had their cell phones ready to take pictures. Then nephew Michael received a text. They’d be coming in the south door.

We all quickly rearranged ourselves and returned to anticipation mode.

Someone said they could hear them approaching the main doors on the east side.

Another quick shuffle and we returned to our original positions.

Another text. They were on the elevator.

Once again, we scurried. The elevator was near the south doors.

Subdued chatting outside ... and then the south doors swung open.


Brother Dave, like me, is not a limelight person, so he WAS surprised - and also a bit overwhelmed and so, a bit emotional. My big bro was turning 70.

I was so happy his sons Paul and Michael and families had pulled out all the stops for his birthday bash and had rented the third-floor auditorium at Salina’s historic Masonic Hall.

Once all the handshaking and hugging were over, we settled down to work on the Dave trivia quiz. “Where did he grow up? What sport did he play in high school? How many cars did he wreck when he was in high school? What’s his favorite candy? When did he begin buying season tickets for Kansas State University football?”

Art and I each missed only one of the questions on the quiz. Of course, the fact that sister Gaila and I supplied much of the information might have had something to do with my good score! Dave even missed one about his beloved “Star Trek” show.

The hall was decorated with some of Dave’s favorite things - old Beatles albums, Monopoly games, baby shoes, a purple K-State pennant, a model red 1957 Chevy, and family photos. There was also a large photo of Dave in his National Guard uniform with a large blank mat where we could pen birthday wishes.

Among the food was an “appetizer” plate of bite-sized tooth-picked slices of Snickers - Dave’s favorite candy bar.

But without doubt, the hit of the evening was a full-blown auction, complete with a professional auctioneer. Ten dollars bought cards worth 500 “Dave Bucks.” Auction items were divided into food, movies and memorabilia, and sports categories. Paul described each item in detail while Michael held them up. Dave’s nephew Ryan helped the auctioneer spot the bidders.

Daughter Mariya “scored” a 40th anniversary “Star Wars Monopoly” game and a Luke Skywalker action figure.

But the ones who really got into the auction action were the kids. They jumped up and down, waving their bid numbers high in the air. One of them spent 380 Dave Bucks for a package of Oreos! I told Art they must have inherited the “auction fever” gene from Dave, who frequently attends garage sales and auctions.

Art, whose family never attached much importance to birthdays, had almost opted not to go, but said he was glad he did. In an email to the boys and their families the next day, he said:

... I think the auction was the highlight for those assembled, but I loved the historical setting and it was nice that the kids with their energy could run off some of their steam. It was also nice they could actively participate in the activities of the grown ups ... AND THAT IS RARE, INDEED!!!!! ... So this is just a wordy way of saying ‘good job.’

It was also a good way to begin our Thanksgiving week. Our gathering was smaller than it has been for many years, but that may have been a good thing. After the surprise party the previous Saturday and Thanksgiving on Thursday, we still had daughter Katie’s birthday Friday. She was turning a quarter of a century.

I had suggested earlier we could go to “Murder on the Orient Express” and have dinner at the Keltic Star, a local restaurant specializing in food from Great Britain.

She responded via text: “... I like the idea, although maybe a different movie and restaurant? :-) Like the new Pixar movie “Coco” and La Fiesta?...”

I laughed ... and said “Sure!”

Seven of us went to “Coco” - an animated movie about the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday. We laughed out loud and cried like babies in parts. Full of vivid color and lots of music, the film shows the importance of inter-generational family ties. The Mexican and family themes continued when we went to La Fiesta, always a cheerful, colorful, lively place.

Art joined us there and then we retired to Mariya and fiancee Miriam’s place, where Katie opened her gifts. There were a couple of Harry Potter-themed items and a “Wonder Woman” DVD. While those were things she had asked for, the black dress from France was a complete surprise. It was decorated with colorful French macarons. She and I had seen it hanging in the Metz shop owned by our friend Pierre who has rented us our “home away from home” on recent trips to France. Although Katie developed a taste for the meringue macarons, she also loves key lime pie. Miriam made a delicious one for the birthday girl.

Katie was looking forward to the gift from her Dad with a mix of anticipation and dread. The last few years, Art has given ones that involve puzzles. This year, he wrote a poem with clues to “find” the gift. Katie had barely finished reading the 20-line poem when husband Matt grabbed his phone. The first letter of each line formed the URL for the website Art had developed. He spent weeks adding information and photos to the web-based family tree connecting Katie and Matt’s families.

Looking back, Dave’s and Katie’s milestone birthdays and our Thanksgiving get-together were all quite different events. Still, they all shared one common theme, a theme that was at the core of the movie as well. They all illustrated how thankful we should be for friends and family.

Top: part of the folks who gathered to help Dave celebrate his 70th birthday; bottom-left: Katie and her macaron dress; bottom-right: Katie ponders the puzzle clues while Matt is already testing out his possible solution.

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Other columns from 2017 may be found at: 2017 Index.
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