Looking Back on my 81st Birthday

Lillian at age one - 1933
Lillian at age one – 1933

As I celebrate my 81st birthday, I look back on some notes I made in 1983 – 30 years have passed, unbelievable!

Tomorrow I’ll be 51 years old.  Life for 50 years has been at times joyful, frustrating, exasperating, full of hope, full of despair, happy and peaceful, exciting, full of promise, loving, surprising (sometimes amazing), full of achievement and fulfillment, always holding the idea that I didn’t know what wonderful things were yet to come.

I think of other years in the “1” category – when I was 11 and in the 6th grade – the girls at school somehow found out my birthday was coming up and when I went to school on that day, each of them had brought me a little gift.  I don’t think any of the gifts were new – just things they had found at home.  I remember a Grimm’s fairytale book, a picture of the Sacred Heart – little things.  I was completely surprised and it was especially nice since that was my last year at that school.

Lillian at age 11 - 1943
Lillian at age 11 – 1943

At 21, it was a very special birthday because I was expecting my first baby.  Grandma gave me my last winter coat as she had promised for every year until I was an adult.  She also gave me a camera which I was able to use for years while the kids were little.

Lillian at age 21 - 1953
Lillian at age 21 – 1953

At 31, we were in our own home in Oakley and the three oldest kids were 3, 7 and 10.  I remember that particular year counting off all the many reasons I was so much better off at 31 than I had been at 30…maybe trying to rationalize for being over 30.

At 41, it would have been the first year we had our dog, May, on my birthday and that was the year my three-year-old youngest daughter made a birthday cake for me with her brother’s help and it seems to me that May got part of it.  

So, now we’re at 51 and looking ahead.  L – September 29, 1983

In the 30 years that have passed, I lost my husband, mother and sister, but I have my four children, a daughter-in-law and son-in-law, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.  One son lives with his family in St. Louis, but two of the children and their families live in the area and my oldest daughter has come back to live with me.

Of course, May, the dog, has been gone for awhile, but in the passing years there were several dogs plus a couple of cats  – and now, we have little Addie to keep us company.

Addie and friend - 2013
Addie and friend – 2013

I’m happy and grateful that I have reached the age of 81 and still look forward to good things yet to come.

Johnny and Martha – 1933

Johnny and Martha

They stand in sepia tone, his arm around her waist,

An inscription penciled on the border – “Johnny and Martha, 1933”

The grandchildren laugh and say they look like Bonnie and Clyde,

Reminiscent of depression-era robbers from an old movie.

They’re right – his darkly handsome face glowers at the camera,

She looks stern with her ash blonde hair tucked under a cloche.

They didn’t have the adventures of their look-alikes,

They only struggled to raise their family in hard times

And one day showed old snapshots to their grandchildren.

Honorable mention, 1997 Ohio Poetry Day Contest

Today, March 9, 2010, would have been the 78th wedding anniversary of my parents, Johnny and Martha.

They were married in 1932 in the middle of the Great Depression by a justice of the peace with only their parents in attendance – Mother was 15 and Daddy was 19.  In spite of their young age, they were always loving, strict, conscientious parents to my little sister and me.

Daddy passed away in 1978 and Mother, in 1991.