My most embarrassing moment when courting my wife was bringing her home for the first time. And the awkward part had nothing to do with meeting my parents, as the movies are likely to portray.

Cooley walt polo
Editor & Podcast Host / Progressive Dairy

My wife’s first encounter with my family came one night on a Thanksgiving weekend. We planned to go to a Saturday night movie, and she was going to meet me at my parents’ house for a stop-in before we drove to the theater.

The meeting was supposed to be a short hello so my parents and three younger sisters could see who had absorbed my attention the past several weeks. (She still does capture my every waking interest. This past May we celebrated our 12th anniversary. Love you, dear.)

I honestly don’t remember what was going on that night, but the whole house seemed in commotion. Perhaps the excitement stemmed from the fact that school was out and it was a holiday. Or perhaps it was just because everyone was excited to meet “the girl,” the one who could potentially be their sister-in-law.

When the doorbell rang, I answered it and ushered her through the front entryway into the living room. Immediately my youngest sister, who was 10 at the time, bounded into the room and landed right in front of my wife. Without introduction and in a pubescent, high-pitched voice, she exclaimed, “It’s my birthday tomorrow!”

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Indeed, it was her birthday the next day. Yet the awkwardness of that first interaction lives on today. It’s common in our family now to send a text or call on another’s birthday eve to exclaim, “It’s your birthday tomorrow!” My sister might recall the experiences differently, as is the case in most families, but regardless, the moment created a lasting memory for all involved.

Since I’ll be blowing out some candles on a cake this month myself, and thus get a wish of my own, I’d like to share a wish I’ve had that perhaps you could help make come true.

I got into print journalism above other communication careers because I liked the idea that words I’d write would be potentially clipped out and proudly posted on someone’s fridge or cautiously clipped and saved in someone’s scrapbook.

The endurance of the printed word was more appealing than the excitement and flash of a TV broadcast or the flicker of a web page, even though online journalism was still very much in infancy when I graduated from college. In at least one way, journalists are like any one else – we wish to know when we’ve made a difference.

Here’s my birthday wish: Share with us a story about how one thing we’ve published has made a difference to you. I’d like to hear about one of those moments that has created a memory for you, your family or your business.

Perhaps an article encouraged you to change a protocol that’s made a big difference on your dairy. Perhaps a feature story in the magazine inspired you to do something nice for someone else. Perhaps you recycled your favorite issue and made it a permanent fixture in your basement. (That one really did happen.)

Broadcasting a wish such as this always presents a risk of jinxing your chances of ever getting it. But I’m confident in our content and I trust you will deliver when challenged.

So while some people measure how good a birthday is by the number of “Happy Birthday” posts they get on Facebook or what presents they receive or if they get a card or two in the mail, I’ll count it a great birthday this year based on who calls – with a story or two of something that’s made a difference to them. PD

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Walt Cooley