It wasn't just my niece that had her birthday recently; my father had one too. My father, not getting the memo about the rest of the clan, holds his birthday in the early part of the month; the rest of us are in the closing weeks and if it weren't for my other-brother it'd all be in the final week. (This is another thing bunny_hugger and I will have to negotiate as we draw closer together, as she's an early-month birthday person too.)
Anyway, my father's birthday I was able to find presents for by that most wonderful sort of serendipity: I was walking into Borders and found something magnificent on the bargain-tables in the vestibule. I don't mean to go cheap for buying a parental present, but the perfect present may turn up anywhere. In this case it was a pair of Popular Mechanics books showing various wood-crafted toys and nicknacks and other creations which could be built, ripped from their pages from the past century. One of them was even plans for building toys. My father is a natural guy for doing stuff with wood, and plans for anything, need them or not, are great; plans for toys that his granddaughter might play with, all the better.
So where things started going wrong: I wrapped these up and left them on the coffee table for him to discover in the morning. But he didn't notice them in the morning and left before I left for work, leaving me unsure whether he'd seen them at all. I supposed he'd open them when he got home, but he was ... out. And stayed out. And didn't show any signs of coming home soon. It turns out he went to spend his birthday with his granddaughter and her parents, pushing the chance to get his presents from me and my mother almost past my mother's bedtime.
That was a good delay, though, as it gave me time to run to the supermarket and buy an ice cream cake before he got in. And when he got home he appreciated the wrapped books, joking in that way that's almost distinguishable from agonizing about buying books for the guy going blind. (His vision's been worsening, as it often does in age, but when you consider in college he had 20/400 vision, squashing his Air Force ROTC dreams, that's saying something.) Still, he opened them, mercifully, and was delighted exactly the way I knew he would be, only fifteen hours later. Also he asked me three times where I got the ice cream cake, as if he didn't believe the answer. This happens.
Trivia: James Finley built the first suspension bridge in the United States, across Jacob's Creek in Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, which opened in 1796. Source: The New York Public Library American History Desk Reference, Editors Marilyn Miller, Marian Faux.
Currently Reading: The Great Hedge of India: The Search For The Living Barrier That Divided A People, Roy Moxham.