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I celebrated my birthday yesterday, and like everyone who has celebrated a birthday in the United States since around March 12, 2020 (except for the selfish, pigheaded idiots), I was forced to do it without the typical gathering associated with these kinds of celebrations.

It was also my 50th birthday, which under normal circumstances might have merited a considerable party of some sort, but alas, that was not meant to be.

Elysha still managed to make it quite a wonderful day, featuring:

A magician performing for me and friends over Zoom by way of Buenos Aires who was astounding. I met David Blaine years ago at a Moth event. After telling my story a second time in the corner of a ballroom so that he could record it into his phone, he performed a trick for me that convinced me that magic is real.

Authentic, real life wizard stuff.

Last night’s performance by magician Adrian Lacroix, who works with David Blaine, did the same for me all over again.

It was an incredibly entertaining and mind-bending hour of magic, even over Zoom.

I also read the final three chapters of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets to the family so we can sit down today and watch the film. Reading these books to Elysha and the kids has become one of my favorite parts of every day, and yesterday was no exception.

Elysha made beef stew for dinner, just like my mom once made, and baked an unbelievable loaf of braided challah with Clara. Later on, we enjoyed my favorite food in the world, ice cream cake. I also ate an Egg McMuffin for breakfast and a spicy chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A for lunch, so it was a perfect day in terms of food consumption.

Elysha and family gave me a new golf watch as a gift, and my in-laws added a small, extremely sharp knife that they expect me to affix to my keychain for all those instances when a knife is required.

My friend, Kathy, dropped by for a masked, socially distant, stand-in-the-doorway visit and gift delivery, including a card that was seemingly made just for me.

I spent a couple hours cleaning out my office of the boxes and bins that have collected since Christmas, including throwing out many, many things. I have often said that if you really want to give me a gift, come to my home and take things away, so the hours spent cleaning and organizing were exceptionally satisfying.

Then there were the unexpectedly joyous moments:

Two friends texted me birthday wishes before 6:00 AM, and three others texted before 7:00 AM. I’m awake before 5:00 AM everyday, so these friends had no fear if waking me up with their dings, which was nice.

It feels so good to be known.

A friend also texted me during the day some information about possible vaccine availability, adding, “You’re one of my few friends who just gets shit done.”

Perhaps a testament to this friend’s collection of loser friends, but I’ll take it as a compliment. It meant a lot.

Another friend wrote to me, saying, “Thank you for living life as intensely as you do. You may be the only person that I know and watch doing it. Doing every thing they say they’ll do. Pushing every day to the seams so it’s almost bursting. Thank you.”

Another wrote, “You constantly annoy me in the way that makes me a better person. Also makes me definitely want to kill you sometimes. More than sometimes.”

Another wrote, “Terrible golfer when it comes to hitting the ball. Really bad. But pretty great to walk alongside.”

Then I found this post on Facebook, written by Elysha:

“Happy 50th birthday to this cat dad, golf player, breakfast maker, problem solver, early riser. He is the best father and husband and the ultimate partner to be riding alongside, through this pandemic and through life. Clara, Charlie, and I are the luckiest people around to have Matt as our rock. I certainly hitched my wagon to a star. Happy birthday, honey. May we celebrate 50 more together.”

Best part of my day.

I don’t mention these comments as a means of self-aggrandizement but a simple reminder:

Gifts are lovely. A delicious meal is a wondrous thing. A magician’s performance can be awe-inspiring. Cash is a fantastic way to brighten someone’s day. Wrestling with the kids, reading with the family, finishing the chapter of my latest novel, and even cleaning my office are all wonderful ways to spend a birthday.

Unforgettable and perfect.

But in the end, it’s words that can often mean the most. Carefully written, well-timed sentences that make someone feel known, loved, appreciated, and even admired.

Every single thing that Elysha did for me yesterday was perfect, from the beef stew and challah to the gifts to the magician, but her words, written down so that I could read them again and again, meant the most to me. Will always mean the most to me.

We need not spend a lot of money or put forth exceptional efforts to bring joy to our friends and family. If you’re willing to sit down, think a little bit, and write something as beautiful as Elysha and my friends wrote to me yesterday, you can turn a possibly pandemic-spoiled birthday celebration into a picture-perfect day of love and joy.

Go write to someone you love today. Make their day as special as Elysha and my friends made mine. I don’t think there is any better gift.