My birthday is fast approaching and I’m a little horrified by how many people might be made aware of it via Facebook. Remember when the only people who remembered your birthday were your mom and your really good friends? Whether welcomed or dreaded, birthdays are one more reason I love Piedmont. Even in the pre-Facebook Era, this town always provided me with a perfect birthday buddy.
My OG birthday buddy was the incomparable Royanne Gwynn. Royanne (yep – she’s the namesake of one of Mulberry’s most popular sandwiches) lived for birthdays. I’m not sure how she kept track of them, but whatever her system, it was a good one. We moved in down the street from her when our girls were five and two, and she never once let any of their birthdays (or Charlie’s, once he arrived, or Chad’s or mine for that matter) pass by without a bouquet of balloons and a silly candy gift. It took me years of receiving her unrequited bounty to realize that one of the reasons she always remembered my birthday was that it was the same day as hers. Once I finally clued in, I was able to reciprocate, but of course Royanne wasn’t in it for the quid pro quo.
Royanne (she preferred to be called ‘Miss Royanne’) was from a different generation, one where you looked after the kids and younger parents on your street like they were your own, and you hoped your kids’ neighbors were looking after them in the same way. She had an old-school cookie jar that was never empty. If she saw any neighborhood kids pass by without coming in and asking for one, she’d swoop right out to set them straight. She presided over the ‘Golden Rectangle’ of Monte-Mesa-Park-Pala neighborhood for decades and is still profoundly missed.
But as the Universe takes away, so it provides. Last year I discovered a new birthday buddy: Cathy Glazier. I’ve known Cathy for years in that warm, we’re-on-the-same-side-of-justice way I know a lot of people in Piedmont. But it wasn’t until she invited me to lunch last May that I realized that we share a birthday.
I’ll admit I was a little intimidated. Cathy is a legend of the PUSD and someone I’ve admired for years. She started out as a teacher and held tight to her fierce devotion to children and learning. At one time or another, she was a force behind just about every school-supporting organization in town: she was the head of the Parent’s Club at Wildwood, PMS and PHS, helped get the Wellness Center started, founded the FallFest 5K, and recently joined the PEF Board. She’s deeply principled. Again and again, in times of controversy, she’s set an inspiring example of standing up for what’s right.
Cathy’s generosity doesn’t end with her support for Piedmont’s schools. She generally comes to events bearing gifts of leather (or sometimes cloth). Her husband’s belt business left her with a basement full of covetable merchandise that she’s not a bit shy about sharing. What people who aren’t her birthday buddy might not know about her is that in addition to her remarkable generosity, kindness and integrity, she’s also hilarious. And she’s unbelievably quick with a quip.
Perhaps I just lucked out in the birthday buddy department, but I’m fairly certain that any other Piedmonter who looks up from her Facebook feed would find folks of similar quality. They’re probably not in your inner circle, and they might not even be your friends on Facebook. Most likely they’re from a different generation, gender or general demographic profile. That’s the glory of it. Despite all the distractions, the real world in our real little town is teaming with people whose birthday you won’t need a reminder to acknowledge.