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Clay gave me a sheepish grin as I held the envelope in my hand. I married an architect, every time he hands me something that he has touched with a pen it is very obvious that he was trained to hold a writing instrument in a certain way. I have a collection of the most adorable and lovely pictures, letters, poems, home-made cards and envelopes from him. Nobody puts together a card like Clay Phillips….nobody.
I opened the card while all my kids smiled and wished me happy birthday. I think I might have said something like, “What’s this all about?” And then I read the card. I was silenced.
I looked at Clay who calmly said, “You need to go get ready.” I gave him a big hug. Was it going to be him? That was really sweet, maybe he’s rushing the kids to school and then he’ll meet me for breakfast. But, he said he had a really busy day, so it probably wasn’t going to be him.
As I quickly showered and got ready I started to think if I could have breakfast with any of my friends who would it be? There was only one lady who I wanted to see at that cafe. She’s the one friend that I have shared many cups of coffee with over the last four years. She was the first woman to welcome me back to this town with loving arms and graciousness. She was also one of the women that helped send me off when we moved away from this town. Our daughters were in a preschool/mom group together and she had taken my job as hospitality coordinator for the group, she purchased my going-away gift. Although we didn’t know each other well way back then, we have become very good friends upon my return. She understands the way I do things, she’s quirky and artistic. She loves good food. She didn’t get mad at me the one time I threw my cup of coffee all over her living room…I swear it was an accident, it exploded out of my hand and there was coffee on the carpet, couch, wall, table…you get the picture, it was awful and she just laughed at me as I panicked to find a towel. She is a giver. She has clothed my boys with hand me downs, passed down curriculum, books, toys, tomato cages and on and on. She is generous beyond measure with her time, her talents and her heart. We’ve shared lots of laughter and some tears. We’ve lamented our children and husbands. We’ve rejoiced our children and husbands. We share a love for the beauty of the country and the slow paced life. She has marveled at my little life accomplishments and I brag of her obvious talents. She is a true friend, one that is nestled deep in my heart and is forever dear to me.
I really hoped it would be her.
And it was.
I was so relieved to see Kiana at the cafe. I told her, “Oh! I was hoping it was going to be you!!!” And in sweet Kiana fashion she replied, “Really? Oh, that makes me feel so good.” That’s Kiana. Pure. Sweet. Lovely. Never thinks she deserves the goodness that she herself exudes. Oh, and she’s one hell of a photographer. Our birthdays are just a few days apart so it was fun to be able to treat her to breakfast and get to talk to her without any interruptions from our busy lives. What an absolutely perfect gift this was to me. And I would have been completely satisfied if this was the end of my birthday. But it wasn’t.
Another sweet friend just happened to be having breakfast with her husband that morning at the same cafe. This is Leslie. She’s a western Kansas girl like me, we know exactly what the other one is talking about when we say heel instead of hill and seal instead of sill, it’s an accent thing I guess. Leslie is pretty wonderful to say the least. She’s almost as tall as me so we talk about being tall girls. She makes me smile. I absolutely adore her family. She has four kids, her youngest two are twins, a boy and a girl. If I could steal her daughter and make her mine I would in a heartbeat. Every time I see the little girl she runs up and hugs me very tightly around my waist. I’m thinking she’s going to be at least 5’11” tall, so she is in my book as future wife material for my boys. See, I might get to adopt her anyway! If not, I’m just very blessed that she thinks I’m worthy of one of her hugs. Leslie and I have an imaginary date for coffee sometime before we die. We both want to hang out with each other, but we have a phobia of picking up the phone and making a date. We both rely on our friends to do the calling and asking, which makes it fairly impossible for Leslie and I to ever have coffee. I think we might be best friends if one of us would go to counseling and get over our phobia. Leslie, if you’re reading this, email me, then text me….I think we can avoid phone calls all together. Maybe we could just randomly show up at the same coffee spot at the same time and avoid the initial planning stages all together.
I love it when Kiana is around and I have my camera with me. She can do things with it that I will never be able to do. Like this scone, she made this scone pop out of my camera. I know! She gets to talking about all the features on my camera and I wonder why I have a dishwasher, because I think it can do that too! It doesn’t do much good to own a nice camera if you don’t know that it can make scones. I’m just sayin’. I need to learn how to use my camera.
Kiana’s gift was, as always, very generous. She gave me this sweet glass container that I want to put in my bathroom full of pretty soaps when I get it painted, hahahahaha, oh, like I’m ever going to get it painted! For now, it’s living in my kitchen on a high shelf so my boys won’t break it, I suspect it will be there for a very long time. She also gave me a gift card for her photography, which I adore.
Did I mention Kiana has a tiny streak of sarcasm in her? I love that. I can’t wait to use this for my family and this time I’m going to actually print the photos and put them in frames!
We were busy talking and laughing when I looked out the window and saw Clay’s truck drive by. I said to Kiana, “There goes Clay!” and then she said, “Oh, it’s time for me to give you this.”
She pulled out another white envelope and handed it to me. I asked her how long she had known about this little plan. She casually said, “Oh, a while. Now, you open that and then you need to go.”
Inside envelope two was a very fun treat that I would take as a gift for every holiday and be completely happy.
Steve Coburn (Clay spelled his name wrong, but I can’t expect him to be perfect all the time) is my all time favorite Kansas Potter. He makes simple functional items. I have two of his mugs that I use everyday, but they have both chipped and I was really hoping to get a new one. There is one store in town that sells his pottery. I was excited that I would get to purchase a new mug, but mostly that I would get to go into the Phoenix Gallery without having to say, “This is a NO TOUCH store.” three billion times. I was going to get to browse through a lot of breakable items without having my Mommy Antenna on high alert the entire time. That alone would have been a very good gift for me and I would have been completely satisfied.
Kiana and I headed for the parking lot and were saying our goodbyes when I noticed a tall striking figure walking away from us. “Kiana, there’s Clay.”
“Honey…..I can see you.” I yelled as he continued to walk away from us.
He didn’t acknowledge me as he quickly side stepped behind the only tree in the parking lot. Kiana and I laughed, “I know you’re behind the tree. But, I’ll try to pretend that I never saw you.”
If there’s one thing Clay can do, it’s make people laugh. He is very gifted with physical comedy.
Laughter has been at the core of our relationship since the moment I met him. “Honey, I can see your giant head.”
Clay reluctantly came out from behind the tree and said, “Dang it! I was hoping you two would be so busy talking that you wouldn’t notice me.” Then he told me that there was a little glitch in his plan. When he drove downtown to The Phoenix Galley it was no longer there. This news alone made me very sad. How could that store be gone?! I loved that store! Clay had to rearrange my schedule so he was in the parking lot to drop off another envelope for me, but was hoping to get away without me seeing him.
Now, let’s stop for just a second and take a look at Clay. He’s dressed for work, so I assumed he was working. He had also woke up that morning, sat on the edge of the bed and said, “Hm, I feel a bit achey.” I asked him if he was feeling better and he said, “Yeah, I’m fine.” I looked at his face and thought he looked a bit pasty even for him. I hoped he really was feeling okay.
I hugged Kiana goodbye. Clay told me to get the envelope that he left in the van for me.
It was waiting on the steering wheel. I was wondering how many of these wonderful little envelopes I would receive, surely this was the last one. I figured my day would be done in another hour since I would need to pick up Levi from Kindergarten.
On the back of the envelope Clay had written a little note about the sad news of The Phoenix Gallery closing.
Clay hung around long enough to take photos of me opening the envelope and then he said he had to get back to work. I told him thank you for such a lovely morning he smiled and said, “You know, your 41st birthday is really the big one to celebrate. This was my plan all along.” I pinched his butt and said, “Yeah, nice recovery effort.” I casually opened the envelope to see what my next treat was.
I couldn’t believe I still had more birthday surprises coming to me. I wasn’t sure what this appointment was , but I was thinking it must be some sort of spa treatment of sorts. I knew it wasn’t the hair school where I normally get my hair done, so maybe it was a nice salon where there were no instructors hovering near by to correct any mistakes. I said goodbye to Clay and he headed back to work.
Since I had a little time, I decided I would use some of the cash I had left over from breakfast to pay my parking ticket and then head downtown to browse a few shops before heading off to my appointment.
Our downtown is on Massachusetts Street. We say, Mass in reference to going downtown. So I went to browse the fun shops on Mass. And we have a lot of fun shops. Then behold! I saw the store I really wanted to see!
The Phoenix Gallery! It hadn’t closed, it had just moved!!! Hooray! I was thrilled. I ran in and bought my new mug and texted Clay a photo of it. I would have been completely thrilled if this would have been the end of my birthday surprises. Breakfast with a good friend and a new mug. It was a great day! But, I had one more stop to make and another friend waiting for me. I wondered who it might be.
…to be contiued.