What a weekend. I'm spoiled rotten, I tell you. I'll tell about my birthday weekend later this week. With the busyness of the weekend behind me (and more of me that's behind me with all the eating that's been going on, hee hee), let me start the week talking about the most memorable birthday I've ever had.
Everyone knows when people turn 21 they are said to have "come of age." It's when you're legal to drink alcohol and smoke. Not that I've ever done either of those. Seriously. Okay, not that I've ever knowingly done either of those. That's another post aaaallll by itself. Anyway, turning 21 is a big, big deal. Being in Australia when I turned 21 was a big, big, BIG deal.
It had already been such an upside down, topsy turvey summer for me, being away from home for longer than I had ever been, throwing snowballs the last week of July, dancing at a Baptist youth function. It was surreal, this summer of no summer. But I knew the weirdest part was yet to come. My birthday was less than a week before we were to return home to the States and resume our normal lives.
We were at a retreat center the weekend of my birthday, and I was in one of the cabins cleaning up when I realized I was by myself. I was wondering where everyone else had gotten to, when one of the girls came and told me I was needed in the gym. We walked in and everyone there shouted "Surprise!" and ushered me to a table laden with streamers and birthday cake and all sorts of other Australian goodies. See the cake? It was covered with kiwi fruit and orange slices. Not what we Americans consider birthday cake, is it? Much healthier than buttercream frosting, to be sure. But it was yummy, nonetheless. And see the jar with the yellow top just to the right of the cake? That would be Vegemite. It defies description. It's definitely an acquired taste. I never acquired it.
Back to the par-tay. They showered me with gifts that night. A handcrafted wooden bowl made from native Tasmanian wood, earrings made from another Tasmanian wood, a mug with different Australian animals on it (you can see it in front of the Vegemite jar). I was definitely feelin' the Tassie love that night.
But that wasn't the only celebration they gave me. The next night after church we all had a big party that was sort of a "farewell to Keith and Heather/birthday party." I had yet another cake to cut and one more gift to receive from the people of Sheffield. It was a koala made with kangaroo fur, handmade by Dianne's sister. I had admired it the night we went to the Baptist youth dance. (That still cracks me up when I think about it - saying "Baptist" and "dance" in the same sentence...I'll post about that later.) Anyway, we had stopped at Dianne's sister's house to freshen up before the dance (at least I think it was her sister...it was some relation, anyway) and she had one of those koala's. I couldn't stop petting it. Evidently, Dianne noticed how much I loved it and commissioned her sister to make one for my birthday. I was thrilled. This is me (bad grammar!) holding my koala with my friends Janelle and Alicia. Janelle gave me the cutest little wombat that I named after her. You can't tell in this picture, but I'd been crying. I do that a lot, you know. When I'm happy, when I'm sad, etc, etc. I was both happy and sad that evening. I was happy that they loved me so much, but was so sad knowing I'd be leaving soon.
There was one more gift I received, but it wasn't from any of my Australia buddies, it was from Keith. I think I'll save that for another post, because I need to explain my relationship with him in more detail, I think. Nothing inappropriate, mind you. Just very different personalities.
So that was how I spent my 21st birthday. It was amazing. Most people don't forget their 21st birthdays, I'd imagine, but few people get to say that they spent theirs in a foreign country doing amazing things and surrounded by new friends. I'm so grateful to the One who made that the best gift of all.