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.

The 1953 Yearbook Picture

When my sister passed away in December of 2010, there was some question among her family as to which of her pictures was her senior yearbook photo.  I told them that I didn’t recall the picture and believed she had chosen not to order the picture nor the yearbook back in 1953.

A couple of weeks ago, my oldest daughter and I made one of our rare trips to the big library in downtown Cincinnati which has a whole floor devoted to genealogy.  My daughter noticed a new feature – a collection of old high school annuals.  I thought this might be the time to clear up the mystery of the picture and was lucky to find a copy of the Withrow 1953 annual.  I found my sister’s senior picture right away.  I don’t know why she didn’t order it at the time – it was a nice picture.

We also found pictures of her working in the Treasurer’s Office and sitting in front of the famed Withrow tower.

My sister is the blond in the center of the picture.

Then, we had a most unusual experience when we looked inside the front cover and saw a handwritten message from my sister to the owner of the yearbook.

The best of luck to a swell gal who has always been willing and ready to do small favors for me throughout my four years in high school.


Shirley Applegate


There were no other notations in the book and no way to identify her good friend.

This was downright eerie.  What were the chances that an annual with her message would be donated to the big downtown library and that we would pick up the book and find the note over 58 years after she had written it?

Shirley went on to have a devoted husband of 55 years, 2 sons, 12 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.  I’m glad we were able to find her senior class picture to pass on to them.