Ceil Allen and Jan Meyer enjoy an elephant ride in Northeast Thailand.
Ceil Allen and Jan Meyer enjoy an elephant ride in Northeast Thailand.
"One photo?" I said to myself in exasperation as I was reading an email from a friend's family. They were asking for a photo to add to others for Ceil Allen's upcoming birthday celebration (to which, by the way, the public is invited).

My frustration grew as I started sorting through pictures taken over the period of 39 years I have known Ceil. How in the world was I going to cull it down to just one?

In the end, it was a really fun process. It took awhile, because of course I didn't just look at photos and say yes or no. With too many of them, I had to stop and think about the occasion, about who else was there, and wonder what they are doing now.

My criteria for the final photo selection was fairly straightforward: it should be clear and hopefully close-up. It shouldn't be a large group of people, because this is about Ceil, not the group. Also, no one else but she and I would know who else was in the photo and I didn't always remember! Possibly most important, I didn't want anything to incriminate either of us!

I never did find the really early ones from the mid-'70s when we first worked together in Chicago. I found a couple of what could have been good ones of Ceil and her longtime significant other, John, on my back deck after I had moved back to St. Paul and was in grad school. The only problem was that in one of these Ceil had her eyes closed, and in the other one, John did.

There were quite a few good ones from our travels in Eastern Europe, when it was fun to go places where few westerners had yet been. In one group under consideration, the second best -meaning it didn't make the cut - was from a small village we had found while just driving around far from the cities. We thought the town was totally uninhabited because there was not a person to be seen. But we spotted a pub in the center of town, and since it looked sort of open, we decided to stop in. We immediately found out where all of the people in town were: inside the pub! It was packed. There were no cars outside because obviously everyone had walked.

From our working trips to Thailand there were many from which to choose, such as Ceil in the fruit market, Ceil feeding a baby elephant, Ceil in a ceramics market, Ceil on a samlor (three-wheeled pedaled taxi) and Ceil in various swimming pools. Of course there were also a few of us at work.

Then there was a bunch from the Late Bloomers years, when for a retirement "hobby" we co-owned a shop by that name in Lanesboro. In that group was a picture of Ceil on top of a 16-foot ladder (the ladder named Luscious), painting the hard-to-reach places in our not-yet-open store.

There was a photo of Ceil in the convertible that was our first-year entry in Lanesboro's Buffalo Bill Days parade. Also under consideration were photos of Ceil riding in our very own samlor, which we had purchased and brought back from Thailand for the sole purpose of being our store's very unique parade unit.

The final photo I considered from the Late Bloomers era was one taken of the two of us with our very first customer. Oh, what difficult choices these were.

Well, after two full afternoons of poring over pictures, I finally had a pile of 30-some really good ones. I kept going, and after reluctantly putting aside a few more, I sent an email back to the family. "Just one?" I asked them. I said I had 14 that I really wanted to send, but I guess I could get it to seven. If I absolutely had to, I said, I guessed I would have to choose just one.

Happily, however, the answer back was to go ahead and send the seven. I stretched that permission and sent a final eight.

The public is invited to this 70th birthday party for Ceil Allen, a current Lanesboro City Council person, board member of the Lanesboro Area Chamber of Commerce, volunteer in many things and former Late Bloomer. She is known, loved and respected by many.

Her brothers and sister and others are coming from Colorado for the birthday bash, to which everyone else is invited too! The event will be held from 1 to 4 p.m., on Saturday, June 21, at the Whalan Community Center.

Ceil said to tell people to come prepared to share fun stories along with cake and ice cream, but no gifts please!