I remember when I learned that Ted’s birthday was exactly a month before mine. This was back before I knew if my affections were requited, but I was scoping him out in the employee handbook where birthdays were listed.
I was delighted when I saw the date and I devised a way to use the fact that he was born on Flag Day, and I on Bastille Day (two obscure holidays that most people don’t think about in the US) as a lead-in next time I bumped into him in the break room.
Luckily, he thought it was cool (and I thought it was a sign that we should be together – clearly) so fast forward to after we began dating and our summer birthdays were something we made the most of.
Ted always went above and beyond to make things special. He put more meaning into gifts than anyone I’ve ever known. The most exciting gift I’ve ever gotten (even more than my 7th Christmas when I got my very own bike) was the surfboard Ted gave me after we began surfing together. That board has hundreds of hours logged on it by both of us, and we dreamed of passing it down to our baby girl when she got big enough.
The year we got married, Ted brought me coffee in bed and on the tray was an envelope. He had arranged for Eleanor Beardsley, the NPR correspondent based out of Paris who I would very much like to be one day (listen, I’m a Francophile and love talking to strangers, this would be a dream job), to send me a postcard from Paris on my birthday. This was during the Arab Spring and she was covering the Tunisian Revolution, so she sent one from there instead.
Now, I imagine Ms. Beardsley to be an impossibly busy person given the state of affairs in the Middle East. Yet Ted was able to appeal to her as a “newlywed trying to do something special for his wife’s birthday.” He also charmed her into reading my (fledgling) surf blog, which she commented on in her postcard – a compliment whose wings I floated on for the rest of the day – and sending a picture of herself.
So this very busy foreign correspondent, who’s never met me or my dear husband, had someone take a picture of her on Pont des Arts, so she could enclose it in her envelope to me on my birthday.
Pont des Arts is a pedestrian bridge in Paris made famous by hundreds of thousands of love birds who put a lock on its fencing as a symbolic gesture of their amour. The city put a stop to this sweet but detrimental practice in 2015 when the weight of the locks began compromising the structural integrity of the bridge. Therefore, both Ms. Beardsley’s picture and the historically significant post card serve as a time capsule in addition to a charmingly thoughtful birthday gift.
That man knew no bounds when it came to making something special. He loved grand gestures and he never shied away from recruiting others to help in his endeavors.
By far the most meaningful gift was for my first birthday after we met. He gave me novel by a woman who was born at the turn of the century in France. When she met the love of her life in 1947, she was Ted’s age when he met me. Moreover, the man who became her husband was my age when I met Ted. This man was utterly devoted and loving to her until her death in the 70s, after which, he became her literary executor.
Ted found a copy of one of her published diaries that had the hand-written inscription, “Finally, the real story – the missing piece, the passionate woman,” on the cover page by none other than her husband. Somehow, Ted found this copy and presented me with it, on my birthday. He saw a parallelism between their love for one another and ours.
I remember where I was when I opened this gift. I remember how touched I was by his gesture and the incredible effort he went to in making it.
It’s been years since I read the printout giving the history of this couple that Ted included with the book, so I just read it again. In doing so, I saw that they were married on March 17, 1955, St. Patrick’s Day, just as Ted and I were 62 years later.
The symbolism that struck me from before our relationship even began, wove through our courtship and marriage, and continues through to today. Though our time together was far too short, I ardently believe we were meant to be.