[A special thank you for all the birthday wishes via Facebook and email. I read each one!]
I’ve had some memorable birthday celebrations in my life, but few will ever compare to today.
The one that most changed my life was my 20th – June 12, 1973 – the day I met Mike. We were students at Wheaton College’s Science Station in the Black Hills of South Dakota, and the cooks honored students’ birthdays by supplying their dinner table with a special cake. My first memory of Mike was this cute, friendly, dark-haired guy showing up at my elbow, introducing himself and asking if he could have a piece. He insists that we met on the volleyball court a few days before and that he heard my name then, Marji, but couldn’t recall it exactly. So he guessed “Maggie,” and I figured if he didn’t remember, I wasn’t going to correct him. And it’s been Mike & Maggie ever since.
The same friendly guy, his dark hair now salted with gray, has given me 36 memorable birthdays since, and yesterday was one of the very best.
We are in the middle of our seven churches of Revelation tour. We stayed in the modern city of Izmir for two nights, which was Smyrna in biblical times, and also visited Pergamon (now called Bergama), as well as the Agora on Friday. Yesterday we traveled to the ancient sites of the churches of Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia. My best birthday gift? Watching the delight in my husband’s face as he wandered these sites, camera in hand, recording everything he observed and asking question after question of Mehmet.
The two Mehmets, guide and driver, surprised us with a beautifully decorated chocolate birthday cake to enjoy across from the ruins at Thyatira, complete with a sugar rose on top (our signature flower – how could they know?), along with a hearty rendition of Mutlu Yillar, “Happy Birthday” in Turkish.
Second gift? During our drive here to our hotel built over the hot mineral springs in Pamukkale, we watched a dramatic storm build over the hills to the northeast, in the direction of Mt. Ararat. Just as we started to eat dinner in the Ottoman Restaurant, the most astonishing double rainbow appeared. The enormous twin arches seemed so close we could almost reach out to touch them. The Turks in the room smiled at our excitement. I suspect they are used to spectacular rainbows in the land of Noah.
Third gift? A Turkish bath! After we swam in the mineral springs last night, Mike wanted me to have a special treat for my birthday.. The low prices convinced Miss Frugality that this was an experience not to be missed, and I insisted Mike go with me. In Turkey, communal bathing is a family affair and there is nothing skanky about it. Entire families, attired in swimwear, enjoy being doused with steaming water while lying on heated white marble slabs and are scrubbed and shampooed by cheerful attendants. I have never felt so clean in my life.
It was like being born again at 57.