In September of 1977, for my 24th birthday, my old girlfriend, Linda gave me a handmade birthday card. The card dearly touched my heart. Now, over 40 years later, I still have it.
The Birthday Card
By Richard Mabey Jr.
Going through some of my old journals today, I stumbled upon the birthday card that my old girlfriend, Linda, gave to me on my 24th birthday. Something inside of me trembled as I held that cherished card in my hands. Linda had given me her handmade birthday card, back in September of 1977.
I was so deeply in love with Linda. We dated for well over a year. I asked her to marry me and she accepted. Sadly, we didn’t make it to the alter. Something that to this day, deeply saddens me.
Linda was an artist. She was an exceptionally talented artist. I believe, I truly believe, that Linda was a genius when it came to artwork. At the time, I was working hard to get my play produced. It was the true story of my grandfather, Watson Mabey and his brother, Earl Mabey, growing up along the old Morris Canal.
Linda had this Bohemian perspective on life. She loved folk music. She spent hours upon hours working on her artwork. Linda had this little store in northeast New Jersey, where she sold handmade greeting cards, drawings, and three-dimensional miniature scenarios of nature.
This is the inside of Linda’s birthday card that she gave to me over 40 years ago. I still cherish it.
Linda would often wear long cotton dresses. She had an array of old hats that she would wear at her little store. She often wore old denims with old flowered patterned cotton blouses. She loved to wear colorful scarves around her neck. She had long brown hair that hung down past her shoulders. She never wore makeup. Linda had this beautiful aura, a shining countenance, and a smile that could warm up an entire room with a hundred people in it.
At the time that I dated Linda, I worked three jobs. I worked in the Public Health Department of my little hometown, I wrote for a local newspaper, and also worked as a salesperson in this catalogue showroom. I was working like a madman for two reasons. First, to buy Linda a diamond ring. Secondly, to bank enough money to put down on the purchase of a starter home. I was bound and determined to skip the apartment stage of early married life.
O. Henry may not have dreamed up this ultimate irony. The more I worked, the further apart Linda and I became. At one point, I was working 60 hours a week. I was weary, worn and exhausted from working too hard. Sadly, the physical, emotional and spiritual closeness that Linda and I shared was ebbing away. It was such a sad thing.
Linda was the last Bohemian type woman whom I was ever to date. Soon after Linda and I broke up, I took a job in the Marketing Services Department of a national toothbrush manufacturer. It was the dawn of the 1980’s and I began dating women who were more closely aligned to a corporate mindset. The driven type of women. I confess that deep inside, I missed Linda and her Bohemian, carefree, artistic spirit tremendously.
I was never to see Linda ever again after we broke up. Except for one special night at one of my poetry readings.
In the summer of 1994, I presented a poetry reading workshop at one of those big bookstores. I remember that there were at least 50 people in attendance that night. To my amazement, as I stood in front of all those people, I saw Linda in the audience. My heart melted like an ice cream cone on a summer’s day.
When the poetry reading was completed, I thanked everyone for coming out. I will never forget this. Linda was sitting in the third row, all the way to my left hand side. Immediately I began walking over to Linda, after thanking everyone for coming out to the poetry reading. This lady stopped me and asked me some question about writing poetry. I politely answered her as quickly as I could and looked over to where Linda was sitting. She was now gone.
I scanned the area of the bookstore. I left the group of people who were all gathered about talking about poetry. I searched that bookstore, high and low, Linda was gone. I went back to the podium and gathered up all my notes and waved goodbye to everyone. I went out to the night sky of the big parking lot. I scanned the parking lot as well as I could. Linda was gone.
I got into my car. And, before I turned on the ignition, the waterfall commenced and I cried my eyes out. I’ve never seen Linda again.
I pray that Linda is alive and well. I pray that she is happy. I pray that she is still an artist. I pray that her Bohemian spirit still burns brightly in her heart.