Long ago, in 1969 and in 1972, I wasn't so lucky.
In those years, our family was given something called a "furlough," a summer off from our assignment as a missionary family in Japan. Every three to five years, the Board of Missions paid for us to return to America to reconnect with our family and with the churches who supported. In actuality, we were given a full one year furlough, but we only took three months of it. I was a student at Takayama Shoogakkoo, a public school in Mitaka, Japan. Missing an entire year of Japanese school would have placed me forever behind my classmates and made it impossible to continue. Keeping up with all the characters I had to learn week to week was hard enough when I had perfect attendance. Trying to catch up on dozens of them at the same we learned more would have required a Herculean effort I could not have mustered.
Furloughs were happy times for our family when my brother and I got good glimpses at what life in America was like. We loved the attention we received as family members doted on us, and we experienced what was, essentially, a three month vacation.
When it was time for these furloughs to end, we began our long journey West that took us to the Far East.
It just so happened that our return at the end of the two summer furloughs coincided both times with my birthday. The plane departed from the West Coast on the morning of August 30th, my birthday. Of course, I reveled in this fact from the moment my eyes opened that this was my special day. As the airplane took off heading away from the sun and America as fast as it could go, roaring its engines, my birthday ticked away. What seemed like several short hours into the flight, the pilot came across the intercom to announce that we had crossed the International Date Line, and that now it was August 31st. I had my birthday morning, but not the afternoon. I had lost my birthday.
I made up for those lost birthday afternoons by the joy of reuniting with my Japanese friends again upon our arrival, and through birthdays like the one I had yesterday. Two cakes. Two birthdays. I am so blessed.