September 17, 1983
My 11th birthday. I was an awkward, chubby sixth grader, more child than anything, though I tried desperately to fit into the junior high school world I had entered on the first day of school. Though I had plenty of friends, I felt decidedly unpopular. And while my grades were great, I was certain I wasn’t terribly smart. Besides, I was somewhat immature and felt completely unsure of the nuances of appropriate tween-age behavior. For example, while the other girls my age were ga-ga over John Stamos, I was nuts about Garfield.
That’s right. Garfield. That incredibly lazy, fat cat who loved lasagna. Smarter than both his owner, Jon, and his doggy-friend, Odie, Garfield had a charming sort of dry wit I only dreamed of possessing. As the ultimate fan, I owned everything Garfield, from notebooks, folders and other school supplies to the posters adorning my bedroom. Every afternoon I tried to find a way to visit my grandparents’ at the store they ran so that I would have a chance to keep up with Garfield’s last antics through the daily comics in the newspaper, and every night I spent all of my spare time drawing pictures of my favorite fat cat.
To my great delight, my paternal grandmother, Mammie, agreed to make me a cake in the shape of Garfield for my birthday. The day of my party finally arrived. With the house decorated, I spent an anxious afternoon waiting for my grandmother to bring over the cake. An hour before the party, she pulled into our driveway. I was ecstatic!
As my grandmother came into the house, holding a cake stand covered with foil, a bright, playful smile stretched across her face from ear to ear. After a big hug and the customary birthday check slipped into my hand, she sat down and said, “Well, Paige, I’ve got something to tell you about that Garfield cake. Garfield is just as naughty in cake form as he is in the funny papers. You see, the oddest thing happened while I was making the icing to frost it. I never could get the colors just right. In fact, the orange for his fur … well, it just came out … GREEN! Of course, I guess it makes sense, seeing as Garfield has been stuck in the sewer all week in his comic strip.”
Slowly, she began to remove the foil which covered the Garfield cake. Soon, I was staring at my edible rendition of my beloved character … complete with the black triangular stripes on an pea green coat of icing fur. I wasn’t sure whether I should laugh or cry. I felt like doing both. My grandmother laughed. The merry sound made me giggle as well, though I have to admit that I wasn’t sure if my grandmother had teasingly played a birthday joke on me or if the pea green icing just happened to be a coincidental mistake.
The answer to this mystery still eludes me thirty years later. To this day, I cannot reconcile in my head which way my birthday Garfield came to be frosted in such an interesting color of icing. Yet even though the colors weren’t quite right, I seem to recall the cake tasted divine … just like every birthday cake my grandmother made in my honor. And in my mind, I can hear her cheerful laughter and see the twinkle of her happy eyes as she delighted me with a birthday cake memory to last a lifetime.
A year ago today I struggled with the very idea of aging, feeling as if my life were slipping by too fast. Many of my lifelong hopes and dreams continued to remain unfulfilled. It seemed that for all the years I had lived, I had simply gone nowhere fast. Forty felt oddly old, as if I somehow woke up one morning and found I’d aged overnight.
God’s gracious. Over the past twelve months, He has taught me a lot about contentment with my age or rather with my current stage of life. I’ve grown to look past the number so that it no longer defines me. To my delight, as September 17th rolled around again, I didn’t have the same sort of dread that I experienced, though a tiny part of me still wanted to whine about growing older.
This morning a friend sent me a message: “I walk in the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice, granting an inheritance to those who love me, and filling their treasuries.” (Proverbs 8:20,21). So, as you get older, you can know for certain that you also grow richer!”
Rich. Oh, and I do feel rich. So very rich.
The riches of my life aren’t simply my family or health or home, those these are certainly things that I hold dear to my heart. Rather, my life is built on 41 years of riches, stored up from the memories I have of love, compassion, shared joys and shared tears, moments of instruction. They have been passed along and given to me through my parents, grandparents, great-grandmothers, aunts and uncles and cousins and friends from all walks of life. Anytime I go back in my mind, I find that the memories there point me back to God, cutting through the confusion. And like a treasure box filled with jewels, my heart is full to overflowing with a richness, overwhelming my soul.
The inheritance of living each day isn’t in what happens tomorrow, but rather in what I’ve found along life’s journey so far.