Happy Birthday, Ray

My dear sweet husband was a New Year’s Baby.  I have a small ceramic shoe that he was given when he was the first child born in 1941 in Santa Monica, California.

On New Year’s eve each year, the family would watch the ball drop in Times Square, toast with champagne or similar liquid, sign Auld Lang Syne, kiss each other and then turn to Ray and sing Happy Birthday.

Many weeks ago we began to get concerned about how to celebrate New Years without “Poppy”.  I knew it was going to be tough getting through the holidays.  But we felt like New Year’s would be even harder than Christmas.

As a family, we committed to keep things positive.  We would talk about Poppy,  but we were not going to let it get to us.  We would think of something funny and bring the conversations to a upbeat level.  But what to do with his birthday?

The following was our plan and it worked well.  At 10 minutes after midnight, when we had watched the ball drop and we had hugged and toasted the new year, we had a birthday party.  We sang “Happy Birthday” to Poppy.  We had ice cream and cake.  Then we had a birthday gift exchange.

Instead of re-gifting or using a “white elephant gift” we each brought a gift that “Poppy” would have enjoyed.  Whenever Ray received a gift, he always said, “Oh, this is just what I always wanted”.  So saying that when we received a gift was a funny and respectful way to remember him.

When we sat down to have the gift exchange, we drew numbers and Cheri, the daughter in charge would call out a number and we would either choose a gift from the stack or “steal” one from another person.  We were all amazed at how clever people were in their gifts.

It seems that each year, “Poppy” got socks or underwear for his birthday and this was no exception.  Athletic socks were there as a gift.  He loved, loved, loved to play cards and so it was no surprise that two gifts included playing cards.

Although he became a teetotaler and hadn’t had a drink since the 90s, the kids remember how he loved his bourbon and coke.  So there was a salute to his drinking days in two of the gifts.  Because we traveled so much and had long, long drives, Ray would mix cans of trail mix to nibble on as he drove.  So, of course, trail mix was one of the gifts.  There was an Ocean Isle Beach hat, which is the island he loved so much.  There was even a fidget spinner.

The gift that brought us the most joy was a hammer.  Engraved in the side of the hammer was the statement, “I love building memories with you”.  We all knew Poppy well.

We have decided that this is a fun way to respectfully remember Ray on his birthday.  We look forward to continuing this tradition.

My hat is off to all of my children for helping us keep the spirits high and remember Ray.  It was good memories.  Happy Birthday, Ray.

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