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  • Olive Lowe

The Birthday Letters: My Annual Time Capsule

Every year I give myself the same birthday gift, and it’s always my favorite. The idea came to me when I was a 16-year-old at my church’s summer girl’s camp–don’t all great ideas come when you’re out in the woods and haven’t showered in a week? I got out my journal and wrote, “Happy 17th Birthday!” After finishing the letter, I sealed it and put it away until June 18th of the next year, my 17th birthday.


And so a tradition was born. In the first few letters I wrote in topics, including recent accomplishments, current events, BOYS, goals accomplished from last year, new goals, never have I ever, what I’ve learned, motto for life, and a birthday wish. Now I write more free-form, but with many of the same elements (as of July 13th, 2012, BOYS became HUSBAND ;-). Each year I can’t wait to read my birthday letter, usually late in my bed after gifts have been opened, a song has been sung, and cake has been eaten.



I am on a mission to help people preserve the stories of their lives. Usually this involves looking back upon one’s life and trying to recall the many blissful, tragic, humorous, and meaningful moments. But what if we were better about keeping records along the way? Although I am continually amazed at what elderly people (even those with memory-limiting conditions) CAN remember about years long gone, I wonder how much is forgotten. How much is locked away in that part of our brain we no longer have the key to? I am definitely not a perfect journal keeper. Actually, my most faithful journal keeping days were in junior high and high school. But the birthday letters are an easy way to keep a consistent and meaningful record of my life. Even the busiest person can find one hour a year to write down their most important memories and insights of the past 12 months. Then, when you’re 80 years old and you sit down to write your life story, you’ll have a wonderful resource and a place to start!


As I sit on the swing watching my one-year-old daughter draw chalk scribbles on the patio, I’ll finish off this post with a tid-bit from last year’s birthday letter:


“This year has been the best of my life, no contest. Brian and I have been incredibly blessed this year, way more than we deserve. I have been at my job a year and I have learned so much and grown a lot. We survived our first busy season. We made some awesome friends. We bought a house! I am getting close to really starting my personal history business. We got a gorgeous puppy who I LOVE LOVE LOVE.


And today, we found out we’re going to have a baby.”

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© 2020 by Olive Lowe