The Best Birthday Present Ever?

This year brought one of those major life event birthdays – 65. I wasn’t getting depressed about it, but I was overthinking it. Getting my Medicare and all other medical insurance policies set up was a stressful nightmare leaving me frazzled, which helped generate an all too solemn aura to this pending personal holiday. The background low level chatter in my brain repeated “this is a big one” whenever I had any thought related to the event.

For a few days the week before my birthday, my wife and I were staying with good friends and relatives in New Jersey, and spent one afternoon at a museum in Morristown. It was a fair sized museum, fun for all ages, with exhibits ranging from music making machines to a large toy train layout.

Late in the visit the four of us were in the rock exhibition room and saw 3 or 4 kids run into a seemingly dark room. We could hear the excited oohs and aahs, and decided to take a look. As we got closer we could see the room was actually a large closet, with flat black walls and ceiling, and no light except what leaked in through the door. A girl about 5 or 6 years old met us at the door and hurried us in, and as we entered the black lights came on. The rocks all appeared out of the darkness, lighting up the room in different shades of red, green, yellow, blue, and purple, and the oohs and aahs repeated.

The girl who invited us in then ran out, her companions trailing, and she yelled to her mother across the large room, “Mommy, Mommy, we showed the old peopleā€¦”. I looked at my brother-in-law, and we both started laughing. I could hear her mother quietly admonish her with a “Don’t say THAT!” and I laughed a lot more and didn’t stop for quite a while.

This kept me in chuckles the rest of the day – and the next few days. And I still crack up inside my head whenever I think about it. I can’t yet explain why it sticks with me, nor why it permanently defused the overthinking of the “big 65” as quickly as it did. I told my wife and friends it was the best birthday present I could have hoped for, one I’ll never forget.

Note: The Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey, was a lot of fun. The Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of Mechanical Musical Instruments and Automata is well worth a visit, to see 19th century (and earlier) machines that make music, and also, mechanical dolls and robots. Shows and demonstrations of these exhibits are on the schedule. See the Morris Museum web site for more details.

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