Thank You to My Friends Who Have Helped Me Celebrate My 68th Birthday

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” ― Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

I am blessed with a network of incomparable friends, and every day of my life I thank God for them. Today, my Writers Group celebrated my birthday by taking me out for lunch. As is often the case, we looked at each other at the table, and we marveled at how very blessed we all are to have each other. Because we write together, we share many of our deepest dreams and because of the nature of writing, many of our disappointments surface, too, and something about those dynamics defines friendship itself. Friendship is a living, breathing, growing organism that is comprised of individuals–all of whom dare to share all of themselves–their victories and their defeats. Thank you, God, for the gift of friendship.

Part of my writers’ group at a December luncheon.

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My writers’ group meets every week–to write, but 0nce a month, my writers’ group assembles another day, too, for lunch and to share a good book that has been made into a great movie. Because I am the leader of the group, I have the privilege of selecting the book and movie. The first meeting was during a December, and I selected the Charles Dickens masterpiece A Christmas Carol. The next month, I selected Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, which I consider to be the very best movie that has been made from a book.

I am particularly fond of the Keira Knightley version of the movie Pride and Prejudice, and I have seen that movie dozens of times. It never disappoints me, and I never grow weary of watching the romance and the drama unfold. The surprising thing is that I don’t like romantic movies, and I NEVER read any romance novel, other than those written by Jane Austen. Something about Jane Austen rises above all other writers of romance.

Not long ago, I was watching Pride and Prejudice again, and I asked myself why this movie succeeds where most romance movies nauseate me, and I have come to the following conclusion: Jane Austen is convincing, and her work manages to rekindle a spark of hope in even me, the worst of all romance skeptics. Pride and Prejudice is also witty, and I hate nothing more in movies than comedy. But Pride and Prejudice is no cheap comedy.  It is delightful.

By and large, our writing, book, and movie group are females, but also in our midst, there is a man–a British scholar who always makes me feel that part of English literature itself is among us, rounding us out. The first time that this guy member joined our group was the day that we discussed and watched Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The movie had hardly begun before I found myself becoming emotional. I believe that my emotion that day was based on the fact that I absolutely loved the opportunity to share with other people a movie that I believe is impeccable. I am not sure that anyone else in the group knew what had moved me to tears, but the English man seemed to get it. I simply felt that he did. There is something exquisitely British about Jane Austen, and one of my master’s degrees is in English literature, and I absolutely love British movies, and I felt that this new male member of our group somehow understood all of that. I am a big talker, and I love words, but over the years, I have discovered that the things that move me most deeply have no words–they are beneath the noise of mere words. Rather, they are rooted in something inside–an understanding.

Through the sharing of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice a couple of years ago, a new friendship began.

My group watched the movie Pride and Prejudice almost two years ago, and my British friend and I have never discussed that movie again. Today, however, everyone gathered to celebrate my birthday, and my British friend came into the room, carrying a plain, cardboard box that had been taped shut. Before we began to eat, he handed me the box, and when I saw what was inside, I nearly cried again. My friend had bought for my birthday the full set of Jane Austen’s movies, and I knew that he also remembered the day that we had first watched Pride and Prejudice, years before, and again, we connected.

Philip Mappin is a retired investor, a career that he pursued after having done something in Washington DC, and now, he is one of my dearest friends. Philip is from the Lakes District in England, which is where the Romantic poet William Wordsworth lived. I have a specialist degree in Romantic poets, and Philip is my Romantic poet in the flesh. He is one of the smartest people that I know, and he is a brilliant writer. When he gave me all of the Jane Austen movies for my birthday, I was primarily moved because I know that Philip remembered that I love Jane Austen and all things BBC, and he had chosen his gift accordingly. When I received Philip’s birthday gift today, I knew that he had given me something that came from somewhere in his heart, and that consideration was the true gift.

“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” ― Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

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What a treasure it is to have a group of intelligent friends who share with me their hearts. At lunch today, I began to talk about each person seated with me. On one side of me was my Chinese friend Dr. Jane Hu [who I call Dr. Who], who is a double doctor. She is both a medical doctor, and she has a PhD in Biochemistry. Last year, Jane’s husband was also able to attend the party. He is a pathologist.

Part of My Book, Movie, & Writers’ Group Celebrating My Birthday in 2017

In the above photo, my foreign language whiz-friend is standing next to Jane’s husband. Lanee has traveled the world extensively, and she has even lived in foreign countries. She is completely fluent in Spanish, as well as English. Lanee was responsible for getting this year’s birthday party organized. She is the meekest and most gentle and completely sincere person that I know, and I feel especially blessed that she is my friend. Lanee is the friend that everyone wishes that they had. Lanee has blessed my life in many ways.

In the above photo, Lanee is sitting with my group’s premier fiction writer and poet. Regina has the capacity to conjure stardust with her words, but Regina’s other special gift is one that is more spiritual. Every time our group gathers for a meal, she leads us in prayer. Today, I told Regina that she is the group pray-er and the group prayer. About a year ago, Regina said to me that she had been praying for me. I was a little stunned by her disclosure. Since that time, however, my life has turned completely around. A couple of weeks ago, I told Regina that her prayers had been answered. I admitted to her that at times when I could not pray for myself, she had been my pray-er. Regina has many gifts, but one of them is the gift of talking to God. How wonderful it is to have a friend who can help you talk to God.

Lynn Miller was also part of our group today. Lynn grew up in Atlantic City, and she is my group’s expert on all things local Any time that I want to know where to go to do this or that, I ask Lynn. She is an authority on Atlantic City.

Some of my other friends and co-writers were not able to make my party today, but nevertheless, they are also my gifts. This morning, my dear friend from college called me at the crack of dawn to wish me a happy birthday. Soon thereafter, Google wished me a happy birthday, too. My neighbor brought me flowers, and both of my sons called me today. My mother, who is 91-years-old, sent me a card and gift and throughout the day, my Facebook friends have showered me with salutations, too.

For My Facebook Friend
by Jacki Kellum

Screen seen,
Glitter glean,
Lonely people in between.
Reaching far,
Catch a star,
How I wonder who you are!

I am not crazy about the idea that I am a year older today than I was yesterday, but when I consider the alternative, I know that I am blessed. I am 68-years-young, I am happy and loved, and I am continuously reminded how very much I cherish my friends. Thank you to everyone who took time to help me celebrate my day.

 “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” ― Jane Austen, Pride And Prejudice

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