Gift-bags? Birthday falls short

Sunday, October 12, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:27 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

It’s my birthday. Well, almost — it’s in three days. I am going to be 56, and I still act like a child when it comes to the day of my birth. But usually my expectations far exceed reality.

In my fantasy, I awaken to a room filled with flowers. My dear husband has taken the day off to be with me and grant my every wish. He is standing by my bed with a tray laden with my favorite foods — eggs Benedict, strawberries and cream, and piping-hot coffee. There’s a single rose in a crystal bud vase. He hands me the morning Missourian with a banner headline that reads, “Sharon Harl is having a birthday.”

While I dine on the scrumptious feast, he draws a warm bath, pouring in bath salts that bubble. He presents me with a new cashmere bathrobe and bedroom slippers with feathers on the toes.

After a leisurely, luxurious bath, I find a large present waiting on the bed. I open the beautifully wrapped box and discover a pair of black wool slacks and a soft, red-and-black sweater set. Of course, the outfit fits perfectly. My husband arrives back in the bedroom — he’s been downstairs doing the dishes and cleaning the kitchen — to inform me that a hair stylist and makeup artist are waiting to do a complete makeover.

After an hour of cutting, coloring and polishing — they also do a manicure and pedicure — I look in the mirror and I am 10, no, 20 years younger! (Hey, this is my fantasy!)

I walk into the living room and swirl as my husband gasps and whispers how beautiful I am and how lucky he is to have such a wonderful wife. Then he rushes me out the door where a limousine is waiting to take us to a surprise luncheon in my honor.

I walk in the door of a ballroom decorated with thousands of balloons and crepe paper. No — crepe paper is too cheesy.

The 200 guests stand and begin singing “Happy Birthday.” Every one of them has brought a present, and not one of the gifts is in a bag; they have all been professionally wrapped.

My husband has had a chef flown in from New York who has prepared a fabulous buffet of all of my favorite foods. Several dignitaries stand to tell short anecdotes about my great wit.

My loving husband presents me with a yellow diamond ring right before the waiters wheel out a birthday cake covered with sparklers.

The afternoon is spent on a shopping spree. I buy one gift from every merchant downtown. By 6 p.m. we are home where all of my children and grandchildren have gathered to celebrate my special day with an old-fashioned birthday party.

All of my daughters and daughters-in-law have spent the afternoon frying chicken and making buttermilk biscuits. There are pointed paper hats at every place setting and a paper crown for me. All of my grandchildren are dressed in little suits and frilly dresses. And each of my grown kids take turns telling me how wonderful I am.

Instead of a birthday cake — remember, I already had one for lunch — the kids serve my favorite dessert, pineapple upside-down cake. After everyone has left, not before making the kitchen spotless, my husband whisks me off to bed — and we read until we fall asleep.

And the best part of my fantasy is that the next day when I get on the scale I have lost 10 pounds!

Of course this is only a fantasy, and a pretty good one if I do say so myself. The sad reality is that I’m always the first one up. My husband doesn’t know how to poach an egg, let alone make the sauce for eggs Benedict. He wouldn’t dare buy me any clothing — he learned his lesson when he bought me a pink angora sweater set 25 years ago, and I looked like a big wad of bubble gum.

A makeover to my hubby is a haircut and new lipstick. I don’t have 200 friends to celebrate with, and a shopping spree in my husband’s mind is going to Westlakes, Lowe’s and Home Depot on the same day. Most of my daughters and daughters-in-law can’t cook, and the only time all of my grandkids will dress up will be at my funeral.


My birthday will be pretty much as it has been in the past. My husband will give me a gift. He makes his selection from three I have picked out, so it’s sort of a surprise. My out-of-town kids will call. I’ll receive several cards in the mail, most from places that want my business. My in-town kids will stop by with gifts placed in those dreaded birthday bags. My husband will ask if I want to go out to dinner, and I’ll decline. But I know at least one part of my fantasy will happen. My husband and I will go to bed that night — and read.

If you have a comment or want to send me a card — it didn’t work last year, but I’m trying again — please e-mail me at

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