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The Best Birthday Gift Ever!

by Susan...

The phone rang and, characteristically, without so much as a quick "hello", Mikey launched into the purpose of his call.  "What are you doing for your birthday, Mommy'sMum?"  I smiled at his inability to grasp onto  the necessity of social niceties and began to formulate my answer.

Having no plans for celebrating your birthday is not unusual when your special day is the week before Christmas - especially, like this year, when it falls on a Saturday.  It's a busy season and there have been many years when the day has come and gone without much ado, between shopping, and wrapping, and Christmas parties, and church gatherings, and school concerts.  (It's hard to compete with Jesus, whose birthday is the same week.  And who would want to? :) )  So when Mikey asked what I was doing that day,  I responded quickly without going through my mental "Calendar of Social Events", and said, "Nothing...  Why?" 

Mikey was quick to fire back.  "Good! I'm taking you to the Marlie's game.  You're gonna love it!  They're playing Rochester.  It's a home game - at the Ricoh Coliseum..."

"Do you have tickets?" I ventured.  I was trying to wrap my head around having to go to a hockey game.  I hate hockey. 

"Oh, don't worry, there's always empty seats.  We won't have trouble getting tickets when we get down there." 


"How are we going to get there, buddy?"

"Oh, Dad's going with us.  He's gonna drive.  We've got it all figured out.  We're gonna drive down, park at the coliseum and find a place to eat.  There's lots of restaurants down there..."

I had a feeling that my birthday plans were on a train leaving the station and too bad whether I wanted to be on board or not!  But love covers a multitude of apprehensions and I was soon chuckling over the irony of how it appeared I would be spending the day... or the afternoon at least. 

Then I remembered.  "Oh, Mikey, I forgot!  I'm so sorry, but Papa bought tickets for The Messiah that night.   I won't be able to go to a hockey game that day after all."  I hated to disappoint him, but I can't say I wasn't a bit relieved.

"Just cancel it," he said.  His tone was matter of fact and I'm sure it made perfect sense to him.

"But I can't just cancel it..."  I tried to explain,  "We have to go.  The tickets cost a lot of money and Papa would be disappointed."

"But why do you have to go?" 

I tried to explain that it's tradition.  "It's something that Papa and I really enjoy doing together.  We try to go every year if we can.  And he's already bought the tickets.  They cost a lot of money and we can't take them back..."

"What IS "The Messiah"?" he interrupted.

I tried to find words he could understand and accept.  I began to tell him that it is one of the greatest masterpieces of music of all time and that it is traditional to have performances at Christmas time.  I don't think he was impressed by the fact that it is one of my favourite things to look forward to all year.  But at the same time, the last thing I wanted to do was disappoint a little boy who had landed on the perfect birthday gift for his beloved grandmother.  His voice went low and his disappointment was obvious.  With one final ray of hope he asked, "What time is the concert?"

"In the evening," I said.  "It always starts at 8 o'clock."

"Mommy'sMum!  I've got it!  I'll call you right back!"

There was no "goodbye" as the phone went click and the line went dead.  I set the handset down into the re-charging station only to have it sounding off again a few minutes later.


Once again, there was no "hello" in return.  Mikey started right in on his perfect solution.  "I talked to Dad," he said.  There was no question but that I would instantly approve of this newly decided adjustment in our plans.  "The Marlies play at 3:00.  We'll go down in separate cars.  After the game you and Papa can go to your concert and Dad and I can come home!  It's perfect!"

"Are you sure?"  It was a silly question.  His tone had already told me that he was dead sure.

So that's how I came to be sitting in the 12th row behind the net, last Saturday afternoon, as the Rochester Americans beat the Toronto Marlboroughs by one goal in an overtime shootout.  (Not that I cared!) The last few minutes were pretty exciting.  And as much as I enjoyed being with Mikey and exulting in his giving of "the gift", I must admit it was kind of hard for me to stay connected to that little black piece of rubber down on the ice.  My mind wandered a time or two.  Ron pulled out his cell phone in order to capture a picture of me enjoying the game at one point during the second period:

I hope I didn't snore!

I did stay awake for most of it.  Long enough to make sure Mikey had a slice of pizza.  And there was a trip to the gift shop to buy him a Marlies sweater that he can wear playing shinny hockey on his backyard rink this winter.  Between parking, the pizza, and the hockey sweater, his gift only cost me about 85 bucks.  Good thing Mikey and his dad paid for the seats! 

As we walked back toward the cars I thanked him for the best birthday present ever.  I stopped, got down on his level and looked into his eyes just before he and his dad got into their car to go home and we separated to go on to Roy Thomson Hall.  "Mikey, thank you so much for this birthday present.  I loved that you gave me your very best gift.  You know what I'm getting you for your birthday next year?"  I paused for effect.  "It'll be the best birthday present ever I could give you!"  His eyes shone with expectation.  

"Tickets to the symphony!"  I crowed.

Papa and Daddy Mike erupted into laughter, but judging by the way his face instantly fell, I don't think little Mikey appreciated my humour at all.

One of my more wakeful moments.  I love this ragamuffin kid.


Marilyn Yocum said…
A belated happy birthday!
Oh, he wanted to make it all work out for you. it's so nice to be cared for and about. How nice that you got a little snooze out of it.
Ah, but Susan, he didn't give you tickets to a hockey game ... he gave you something much cooler. He gave you his desire to share with you something he loves. Talk about the bestest gift ever. And this from someone who doesn't understand hockey. How can a game, on ice, have a penalty for 'icing'.
Susan said…
It's true, Dave! The real gift was experiencing the game with him and from his point of view... watching him hang back near the dressing room at the beginning of the game to see how many players would high-five him on their way out to the ice, and how he left his seat (his dad's eyes securely on him every second) and ducked under the security barrier (unchallenged!) so he could press his face right up to the glass for the second half of the game. And how he made his way around the arena from ticket booth (he specifically chose the location of our seats), to the gift shop, to the dressing room door, to the rinkside right next to the glass (and the fights!), and the straightest path possible to our seats. This kid lives, breathes, and eats "hockey". He's a rink rat! :) That's something I'll never understand. But on Saturday afternoon he was completely in "his" element. And I was invited in... That was the true gift.

Happy birthday to you,too, tomorrow. I hope it's the best one EVER! :)
Theresa said…
Wow Susan, is he the little baby that Fanny used to hold and love about 10 years ago?? Time flies!!

I cannot understand Canadians who do not like hockey....sacrilege!
What a sweet grandson.
Angcat said…
Hey Susan,
The TSO actually does do events for children, fun stuff, at their level.
You can check it out on their website...
Not sure if this would work, but it's a thought.
Happy Birthday.

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