Sitting at the fancy fundraising dinner, I chaffed secretly in my finery for the hundredth time before sighing internally and turning to the woman in gold sequins seated next to me in an effort to make small talk.

We both awkwardly cast about for some common ground before settling on the generally safe topic of children.  

It turns out she is a few years ahead of me on the parenting journey, and we found ourselves comparing notes on gift giving as the Christmas season pressed down upon us.

Years ago, this woman told her family that she no longer wanted presents for her birthday or Mother’s Day.

Instead, she asked for the gift of a memory – a family adventure, complete with pictures, for her to store away in her heart.

Her eyes lit up as she described a few of the memory gifts – large and small, local and far flung, free and pricey.  

Long after the glitzy evening was over, her words continued to stir something in my heart.

And this past birthday, I asked for the same: the gift of a memory.

We packed the kids up early on Saturday morning and went to the Science Museum. We squealed loudly (well, one of us did) as our towering towers of wooden planks crashed back to earth (there may or may not have been a tower building race involved).

We gawked at mansions lining Grand Avenue as we headed for lunch at the beloved restaurant my husband and first discovered 15 years ago as a young dating couple.

And as we drove home, my kids were enthralled by tales of growing up on the farm with pet snakes and raccoons and a goose named George.

We made memories, and it was so good – even the moments that caused a little friction.

It isn’t that our family fails to make memories at other times and at other events, but it was the intentional choice of making a specific memory on this day that helped to ground us in the present, in the now, in the joy of the moment.

It was among my top favorite birthdays, ever. And I’m already thinking of the memory I’d like to make for Mother’s Day.