I apologize for being away from the keys most of the day. Today is my 50th birthday. I drove up to the country to have lunch with my mother. We reminisced about the old days. “Lord, but you had a big head,” she said. The really old days.

She presented me with a present she has been working diligently on for over two years: a hand-stitched quilt incorporating my late father’s old work shirts, which he selected himself. The center panel, shown above, was lettered by him at the start of the project, months before he died. That’s his handwriting, is what I’m saying, rendered in stitches by my mother.

Look at the level of detail in her work:

Every single stitch, put there by hand! And here’s the thing: she has arthritis, which means that she labored through pain. For over two years! Stitching a quilt big enough to cover a bed.

It’s an heirloom, of course, and I love it with all my heart. What a sweet, kind, generous mother I have. She gave me life. I am knitted together from scraps of her and him. And now I have this quilt forever.

Christmas 2013

Julie and the kids gave me some nice presents too, but this one just knocked me flat and made me cry. It’s a watercolor of my faithful friend Roscoe:

I apologize for the glare in the photo. I couldn’t figure out how to get the reflection off of the glass (the painting has been framed). The artist is our friend Susan Woodard Kelly, who paints all kinds of things, including pets. When I took the wrapping off and saw the image, I was looking at Roscoe. I mean, this is my dog! I don’t know how Susan captured his expression, but she did. It’s all in the eyes. Oh, I was so happy! I cried like a baby. If you love your dog, you need to click on that link to Susan’s name, and commission a watercolor. She did that one from a photo of Roscoe. That too is an heirloom.

It was a happy birthday. It is still going to be a happy birthday. For dinner, we’re having sushi, vintage Champagne, and Chantilly berry cake.

I would like to read an open thread here from readers talking about how they met their true love. No politics, no culture war — just tell your love story. Now, I’m going out to get the sushi, and I will try not to break my hip. Fifty! Lord have mercy. Grateful, is what I am. Grateful.

UPDATE: Best dog ever. Don’t you dare contradict me:

UPDATE.2: View from your birthday table: