Birthday Surprises

Elizabeth's First Birthday - September 10, 1961

This photograph is fifty years old.

Taken September 10, 1961, it’s one of me with my parents, Judy and Gene Harper.

It is a bit faded and blurry, but I’ve seen it so often I think I know it by heart.

For the longest time I focused on the hugeness of the cake preferring its sweetness to a sad memory of a mother with no contact and a father who died too young.

It’s funny how your vision can change as you grow older.

You go along adapting to the shifts that occur with perception and depth until one day you look at a photograph you’ve seen forever and your eyes see something you’ve missed.

Suddenly, this still young family looks different to me.

It’s no longer the size of the cake or the look on my mother’s face that draws me in, but the image of my tiny body leaning ever so slightly towards my dad and my small hand reaching for his.

I never really noticed it before … my hand in his, and it feels like a gift of awareness, a happy birthday of sorts fifty years later from my father to me.


15 thoughts on “Birthday Surprises

  1. I was in my mid thirties when I realised that my father, quite a withdrawn person, was also one in touch with the emotional state of his children even if he didn’t always quite know what to do with the information. That he had helped me to be this way, and that as an adult, I had the option to chose to learn consciously to learn better how to deal with others, be more graceful and kind. I fail every day, but I still remember the moment of insight and the huge gratitude I felt for it, and to him, the gift bearer. I hope that everyone is blessed with such moments, and the time to have them make a difference in their life time. It seems even as a toddler you knew where love was to be found, and it was given to you. Many happy returns. xo

  2. Many people, I am sure will have noticed that daughters always reach for dads, and boys always reach for mums. I do wonder why that is, Happy birthday Elizabeth, you share this birthday with my grandson Jordan, who is 15, and its my birthday tomorrow, 56 or 5560 I am sure which, It is also my step daughters birthday on the 12th, Monday and she is 27.
    Have a great time with John and the family.
    Kind regards.
    Tony and Jacquie Sanders.

  3. Hello Elizabeth…Happy Birthday to you….I know you are six hours ahead and well into your birthday already, but I just woke up and saw your blog post notification.
    I know what you mean about how we have the same perceptions about old photos we’ve seen over and over again through the years until on day, suddenly we come to a realization about them and they take on new meaning. I’ve had that happen to me, too.
    Did you ever blog about your mother? I’m glad you have a fine Englishman to fill in the hole your parents seem to have left in your life. With a bit of life patching and a new outlook a lot of things can be overcome.

    What a sweet gift your father gave you as he held your hand in that photo. I wonder if they ever thought you’d be referring to that over the years and that it would take on so much meaning for you in your life.

    Have a very happy rest of your day. How could you not? You live in England for goodness sakes! Jealous. 🙂

  4. Oh, such a sweet perception…I am reminded of an old hymn: “Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms, leaning, I’m leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms!” Only God knows the reasons for what you have been through with an absent mother, and a father too soon gone, but you know your father loved you, and are now even more convinced by the witness of your darling 1st birthday picture. This is a simple gift, and a gift from above. Just like your beloved husband. And I am so happy for you and all the goodness of your life! Happy 50th Birthday!
    Pam H. from So. Cal.

  5. Catching up after a busy week. I love your birthday post! Happy birthday and happy discovery.

    I totally missed the ear sequence! I relate a little about having a physical characteristic that affects how you present yourself to the world. For me, it’s a fungus on my toenails inherited from my mother. My toenails are tiny little blips of raised, thick whiteness. Really ugly (little kids would look at me feet in sandals and exclaim, “You have ugly toes!”). One of my aunts who shared the toe glory figured out that she could use fake toenails and cover it up. I thought it was silly vanity at the time, but I’ve been doing it every summer since then. It’s really fun to be able to wear cute shoes and not have people avoid looking at my feet or have little kids say something. It’s SO silly, not important in the grand scheme of things, but has definitely made a positive impact on my daily life and summer shoe options. I would have probably done exactly what you did!

    As for ears, mine both stick out in such a way that a college friend once told me that if my head disappeared and only my ears were left, they would make a butterfly. I actually love that imagery!

  6. photos are a great way to pick up little nuances in character. i see your dad leaning in towards you making sure he’s baby doesn’t fall.
    Happy Birthday Elizabeth. I hope it was a wonderful day for you.
    (that really is a large cake – it’s as big as you are.)

  7. Sweet Elizabeth, I do hope your Birthday of yesterday was special – you deserved to be honored on such an auspicious occasion – and I’m sure John did something to make the day a lovely memory for you.

    So, belated happy Birthday wishes – may each year just get better and better.
    Many happy returns – hugs, Mary

    P.S. I laughed and enjoyed your ‘ear story’ – you looked beautiful in all the pics.

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