The most valuable gift I received when I left home

I have a couple of very faded, stapled sheets of blue airmail paper, endlessly folded and unfolded, tired yet enduring, useful beyond measure.  They sit poking out of my pen mug by my computer, and before that, from my Filofax. This ancient prop is the list of family and close friends’ birthdays that my  mother wrote out for me and sent when I moved to distant shores a hundred years ago.

A simple capitalised month with a line underneath, a list of names , each with number next to it. The critical date. Sometimes helpful additional information in parenthesis – an association, a reminder where they fit into things.  Spattered and squeezed into the spaces are my own additions over years. The friends, and friends who became family, of the last 25 years.

This list from my mother enabled me to stay connected to the land and people I chose to leave behind (at the time not knowing for how long).

It kept me in the loop, able to send cards, or later emails, then texts, then video messages to people I cared about.

That list reminded me where I came from, my clan of origin, most of them blood not all, some those critical people in life that despite sometimes years of absence and very little knowing of each other, will open their door and hearts to you if you need it at any time.

It’s a slice of history, a reminder of my beautiful mum, and a genuinely invaluable resource.

Now I text my daughter to remind her of key birthdays in her clan, and then I send the contact number too. (I don’t chase her, the ball’s in her court now.)

I deliberated whether to still include her name in the written card that lies on the dining table with a pen for everyone to sign before being despatched.   My family policy has always been to have everyone sign and write a message, rather than me sign on their behalf.  So now our cards leave home with four names not five (but it feels odd and sad and unnecessary, so I cheat and say “and missing child, on her behalf”).

I don’t think i have a met a teenage who would say “please buy me a diary so i can remember to send everyone in the family a birthday card”.

BUT … there have been several times this year when my lovely girl has been mortified that she missed a cousin, a grandmother, and a good friend, despite my text (or did I forget to text her?).  I will be buying her a birthday diary next up. And populating it.  And I know she’ll appreciate the gesture.

There are some beautiful birthday diaries out there (and some really ugly ones), if you want to gift your child.  NP Bowman recognized the need and beauty of remembering birthdays and created The Birthday Book – Red Squares or Yellow Streams or Monochrome Grid. There’s one for any gender or style, and it includes a month to a view format so just easy to use. Or this.

This one is lovely if your kid is into art, history or likes some pictures on the page. A Book of Days Illustrated has week-by-week pages with illustrations from the medieval books of days found in the British Library. Love it.  They’ll have it forever.

There are three rogue entires on my blue list. The last three read: St Georges Day January 1st, New Years Day January 1st and Have a Nice Day – everyday.  Thanks Mum.