Saturday, November 24, 2007

Birthday Week and Gifts of the Heart

Besides Thanksgiving, this is also birthday week at my house. First, Nichole's birthday on the 20th, then mine, on the 25th. So in honor of birthday week, and since writing something new this busy week, is impossible, I thought I'd post an old birthday story, instead. I hope you enjoy it. An the photo is of me at 2 years of age. It's the only photograph of me that survived the war with us.

A Grandma's Gift of the Heart

My eleventh birthday was a week away when we arrived at the refugee camp in Austria on that cold November day in 1947. My grandparents and I had fled our Soviet-occupied country of Hungary with only the clothes we were wearing.

To frightened, cold, and hungry people like us, the displaced persons camp was a blessing from God. We were given our own little cardboard-enclosed cubicle in a barrack, fed hot soup, and supplied with warm clothes. We had much to be grateful for. But as for my upcoming birthday, I didn’t even want to think about it. We had left Hungary without possessions or money, but we were still alive. That was the important thing. So I put birthday presents and celebrations behind me.

My grandmother was the only mother I had ever known because her only child, my mother, had died suddenly when I was just a few weeks old. Before World War II intensified, my birthdays had been grand celebrations with many cousins in attendance and lots of gifts.

My eighth birthday had been the last time I received a store-bought gift. Times were already hard then, money was scarce, and survival our utmost goal. But Grandma had managed to pawn something so she could buy me a book. I loved it! Cilike’s Adventures, a wonderful book full of humor and adventure, had transported me many times from the harshness of the real world to a world of laughter and fun.

On November 25, when I awoke in our cardboard cubicle, I laid there and thought about being eleven. I was practically a grown-up, I told myself, and I would act accordingly when my grandparents awoke. I didn’t want them to feel bad because they couldn’t give me a present. So I dressed quickly and tiptoed out as quietly as possible. I ran across the frosty dirt road to the barrack marked "women’s bathroom and shower," washed, combed my hair, and finally returned to our cardboard sleeping quarters.

"Good morning, sweetheart! Happy birthday," Grandpa greeted me cheerily.

"Thank you, but I’d just as soon forget about birthdays from now on." I squirmed in his generous hug.

"You are too young to forget about birthdays," Grandma said. "Besides, who would I give this present to if birthdays are to be forgotten?"

"Present?" I looked at her in surprise as she reached into her pocket and pulled something out.

"Happy birthday, sweetheart. It’s not much of a present, but I thought you might like having Cilike back on your eleventh birthday," she said, tears welling up in her eyes.

"My old Cilike book! But I thought we left it behind," I said. I hugged the book to my chest while tears of joy flowed down my cheeks.

"Well, it almost was," Grandma said. "But when we had to leave so quickly in the middle of the night, I grabbed it, along with my prayer book, and stuck it in my pocket. I knew how much you loved that book, so I couldn’t bear to leave it behind. I’m sorry it’s not a new book, but I hope you like having it back."

"Oh, thank you, Grandma! Having Cilike back means so much to me. So very much." I hugged her again. "It’s the best birthday present I ever received!"

The gift of that old book was a miracle, to me, and I realized that day that God had blessed me with a wonderful grandmother, whose love would always see me through the hard times. And most importantly, she taught me that gifts of the heart are always the best gifts, because they truly are gifts of love.


Karen H. said...

Good Morning Renie,
Oh, what a beautiful story. It has brought tears to my eyes. You did indeed, have a wonderful Grandmother. I can't imagine how you felt when your Grandmother gave you that book back for your 11th Birthday. You must have thought you were rich. In a way you were. Oh, before I forget, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY RENIE" to you for tommorrow. I hope you have a great time being with your family. I love the picture you have kept of you when you were 2 years old. It is a cold morning outside here. The radar was showing some snow flying around earlier, but when I took hubby to his truck around 5:40a.m. it wasn't snowing here, just cold as all get out. LOL. I do hope you and yours had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We had a wonderful time here with my parents and sister. We all ate too much of course. LOL. Well, take care my friend and have a great Saturday. May God Bless You and Yours.

Love & Hugs,
Karen H.

Renie Burghardt said...

Hi Karen,

Yes, it's a brrr morning in our region, for sure! But we're enjoying being together this week. Thanksgiving was wonderful because we were together. We ate too much as well. Lol.

Thank you very much for your comments on the little story and your birthday wishes for me. I am richly blessed with a wonderful family and friends!

Have a great weekend. I'll be back to visiting next week.

God bless you and yours as well, and big Hugs,


Mary said...


This is a wonderful story. That book was very precious to you. Your grandmother was a wonderful lady, I know. My grandmother also meant a lot to me.

I'm glad you are celebrating both birthdays and Thanksgiving with your family. Happy Birthday, my dear friend. May the coming year be filled with all things bright and wonderful.


Michele said...

What a wonderful story, Renie! I know you cherished your Grandma's love, and that book... You really have shared a precious story about a remarkable woman. She molded you into the amazing Grandma you are yourself!

Happy Birthday to you and to Nichole!

Many blessings,

audrey` said...

Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday to You
Happy Birthday to Renie
Happy Birthday to You =)))

(((HUGS))) and love.

Merle said...

Dear Renie ~~ How fortunate you were to have such wonderful grandparents.
Beautiful story about your 11th birthday. I hope you have a truly
lovely day tomorrow for your birthday. Thank you for your comments. Yake great care, my friend, Love, Merle.

Patty said...

Dear Renie,
I was sent here from Merle's blog. HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Hope you have one terrific day. I did a search with your name and found several other stories that were so interesting to read about your life. Thank you so much for writing them. And sharing.

Keep warm, it's a cold 26 degrees here this morning in Ohio.

Happy Birthday,

Midlife Cycler said...

Happy Birthday today to you! That is a POWERFUL story. I loved it. How differently some of us grow up.Yours is a brave and loving story.
Thanks for sharing.

I hope you have a wonderful and blessed day today!

2 LMZ FARMS said...

Ms.Renie, I loved the story about your 11th birthday. What a wonderful Grandmother you had. Do you still have that book? I know that you enjoyed your birthday and the time you spent with your family. Hope you and yours have a blessed day.

Mary said...


Happy Birthday, my friend. I sent you a little something in an email. Enjoy!!!

Blessings for many more birthdays.

Tina Coruth said...


What a wonderful story about your 11th birthday! Your Grandmother was a strong and beautiful lady and her Grandaughter is just like her.

Happy Birthday, dear Renie. I hope every day of the coming year is filled with joy.

Love and hugs,

Susie said...

Hi Renie,
Loved the story and the picture as well! Sending you very best wishes for the Happiest of Birthdays!

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Happy Birthday, Rene!

Merle sent me.

May all your birthday's bring you joy;
many, many, more;
years to journey.
May each new day be as wonderful as the last;
discovering life's bounty;
filled with love, health, and happiness.
May your heart find its path;
through all that you do;
God continue to bless you.

Raggedy said...

Happy Birthday!!!!

Anonymous said...

happy birthday, renie! (((HUGS)))

Merle said...

Hi again Dear Renie ~~ I am so glad you had such a wonderful birthday celebration with your family and friends. Try not to miss your family too much, now they have had to go back home. Thank you for your kind words. I am also glad to have found a friend in you and you are so kind to share stories of your life with us. YOU are a treasure, Renie. Glad you liked the Grandma story about Honk the horn. Can just picture it and giving the Hawaiian good luck sign !! Take great care,
Love, Merle.

ancient one said...

Happy Late Birthday Renie, I got to the party late..LOL

I truly loved that story about your eleventh birthday. How wonderful to get your book back after thinking it was lost forever. Your grandparents were beautiful people and so are you!

The picture of you at 2 is precious!!

Nonna said...

What a beautiful, sweet story. What a loving thing your grandmother did for you.I have a very special grandmother too. She has been gone for almost 26 years now, but she is still alive in my heart. I hope you had a very happy birthday!

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

I'm back again, Renie, to says thanks for your visit to Nick's Bytes.

May I assume that the birthday week has been successful?

Grandy said...

Happy Birthday, Dear Renie!!

I have tagged you for a meme, that I can't wait to see what you have in store. When you've returned from your birthday celebrations, please come play and show us what we can learn from your "ABC's".

Hope you had a great one!!

Renie Burghardt said...


Thank you very much for your lovely birthday wishes and for the beautiful e card you sent me. I had a wonderful week with my family and friends, and miss them now that they are gone. It will take me a while to get back to my normal routine. All the nice comments here cheer me up though. And I thank you for yours.

God bless you, my friend!



Yes, my grandmother was a wonderful woman, and I miss her to this day. She went to her Heavenly reward in 1989, and her birthday would have been the day before mine, November 24th, and she would be 107!
She was a real blessing in my life, and so are my children and grandchildren. I have much to be thankful for.

Thank you for your nice comment. You have been a special friend, and a blessings as well.



Dear Audrey,

Your sweet singing made me smile! Thank you my dear friend.



Renie Burghardt said...

Dear Merle,

I had a wonderful birthday, and am a bit sad now, but all the good blogging friends like you, are cheering me up. Thank you for your lovely comments, and for mentioning my birthday on your blog. And thank you for the comment on my little story. I'm happy that you enjoyed it. I always enjoy my visits with you!

Warmest regards,


Hi Patty,

My daughter and family flew back to Ohio yesterday. They made it fine, thank the Lord. The weather has been chilly here, too.

Thank you so much for your kind comments and visit. Hope you visit again.



Hi Jody,

Thank you very much for your nice comment and birthday wishes. It has been a wonderful birthday.



Renie Burghardt said...

Dear Laura,

Yes, I still have the old book!
Thank you for your nice comments on the story and for the birthday wishes. Your always kind comments are very much appreciated.

God bless!


Hi Tina,

Thank you, my friend! We've been wishing each other happy birthdays for a number of years now! I'm thankful for old friends like you and Mary.



Hi Susie,

Thank you so much for your good wishes. It has been the best birthday ever.



Mr. Nick,

Merle is such a sweet friend. I am touched by her gesture. Thank you for your wonderful wishes, and for your visit. Hope you visit again.

Best wishes,



Thank you for your birthday wishes!

Hi Pia!

Thank you, my friend!



Hey Ann!

Thank you for your kind words on the story and your birthday wishes. I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Hi Nonna,

Thank you very much for your nice comments and good wishes.



Hey Grandy,

Thanks so much for the good wishes. I'll be over to check out the meme. :-)



Mr. Nick, good to see you back. As soon as I catch my breath, I will post a new blog.


You are such a faithful, nice friend. Thank you!



Karen H. said...

Good Morning Renie,
I hope you are doing okay this morning. I came by yesterday, but I kept waiting to see if you were going to post. I'm sorry you feel sad, but they will be back for Christmas won't they? I know how you feel because I feel that way every week when hubby has to leave to go out over the road. It just breaks my heart. It was damp, misty and foggy day here yesterday. It had cleared up last night when we was coming home from the basketball game. The moon was out and the stars were shinging. Our local weather man said on the 10:00p.m. news last night that we may have some "ICE" this weekend. He did say it was still a few days out and they would be watching it. I hope not. I want some snow, but no ice. Ice is too dangerous to drive on. Well, I'm out visiting, so take care and have a great Tuesday. May God Bless You and Yours.

Karen H.

Mary said...


Please drop over to my blog. I have an award for you.


Renie Burghardt said...


I will be by soon. Had a bad day here today. Thanks so much for visiting.

God bless!


I will come tomorrow, okay? Had a bad day here today. And I'm not sure which award you want me to pick up. Please be patient with me, my friend. Thank you for your thoughtfullness.


deborah wilson said...


A wonderful story! And Happy Birthday to you!

Sandy said...

I LOVE that story. Beautiful.