Back in March of 1963, my Dad had his 50th birthday; it was a special day for the family. Me, I don't remember it, and for a good reason. You see, I was born little more than a month before the party! I was one of those so-called "late life" babies. When I'd look in the family photo albums, there were three events shown one right after the other. The first were a bunch of my newborn pictures - quite the cute baby, if I do say so myself. On the next page was my Dad's 50th birthday party. There was this one shot where you could truly see the grin on his face. If anything, it screamed out: "Hey there, snow on the roof don't mean there isn't fire in the furnace". Finally, on the following pages, were high school graduation pictures for my oldest brother. I think you can deduce from that, that there was a large spread for the ages of the five of us.
So, as my Mom felt the milestone of a 50th birthday was important, she wanted to do a very special party theme for Dad. Step one, she got grandmother and grandfather (my Dad's parents) to take the four older boys for the day, and she spoke to our church about using their big hall. Considering what she had planned, the house wasn't large enough for the party! She had fifty of their closest friends come to the church for his 50th birthday party. Now, as I said, my grandparents took the four older boys. Since I was the newest addition to the family, it was not possible for me to not appear at the festivities.
From all the stories that people have told me, and all the pictures that were taken, the party was a huge success. Today, looking at those pictures (and thinking about my own rapidly approaching 50th birthday!), I often think about one small item: a party with fifty close friends. I often think of my own life, and wonder: are there fifty people in the world that I would be able to call friends? In our modern, high-tech world, we think it's so great to be able to connect to each people all the time. With the advent of the Internet, we're able to chat with people across the country and around the world. We can put up a profile on web sites like FaceBook or MySpace, and we can call hundreds of people there: "friend". But, just how many of them really are our friends? Back in the 1960's, my Dad used a simple spiral notebook to write down names and addresses for all those people he said were his friends. These were the people he would write to, call on the old-fashion telephone, and the folks he and Mom would get together with every once in a while.
I can well remember nights that I spent sitting on the top of the stairs of our house, and I'd look down into the living room to see Mom and Dad entertaining a bunch of their friends. On the other hand, if friends weren't over at our house, then Mom and Dad were over visiting with them. So, sure, today we're wired into the world via the World Wide Web. Yet, just how connected are we to our own local community? We can chat and interact with folks all around the world; but, how often do we talk to those people around the block, or even next door?
As far as I'm concerned, I'm thinking that maybe over the course of the next few years, I should work on getting to know friends who are located geographically near me. If I'm lucky, perhaps by my 50th birthday, I can see them as being emotionally close enough to invite them to that party.
Click here for more by AJ Robinson.
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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