When I enter the word “birthday” in the search engine in my mind, memories start popping like Orville Redenbacher in a microwave. I guess birthday experiences are so laden with emotional markers, they really stand out.
I mean, people are actually likely to say very nice things to you on your birthday — well, except for when they’re teasing you about how you’ll need to call the fire department to help you extinguish all the candles on your cake, etc. And usually your favorite people are likely to join you in celebrating your big day, adding to the merriment. These same people might even surprise you with a party or a gift you’d never expect. Business establishments even get on board, sending coupons for free and discounted purchases in honor of your special day. You can bank on having some very tasty eats, AND you get to watch your life odometer turn over to start a fresh new year. What’s not to love?
One of my very first birthday related memories is of my mom telling me that I shared my birth date with an aunt. Wow, I was born on her birthday?!
[Riiiinnnng… riiiinnnng.] “Hello?”
“Hey there, Bob, it’s Dick. I’m calling from the hospital — your little sister just had a baby girl!”
“No kidding! Congratulations! That’s just great. …Hey, Honey — Dick’s on the phone. They just had their baby. It’s a girl!… What time was she born?”
“About an hour ago. We’re naming her Linda Kay.”
“Wow. We had just sung “Happy Birthday” when you called; Kathy was blowing out the candles on her cake. What a nice birthday treat! Thanks for calling, Dick. Give Mary Anne our love.”
While I was growing up, I loved being able to be around my aunt, and I always had a particular fondness for her. After all, we were Birthday Buddies. Once, when I was about four, I was visiting her house by myself and she lifted me up to sit on her kitchen counter so we could have a conversation face-to-face — la-dee-da! Oh my, how endearing was that? Off and on, throughout the years, we exchanged birthday greetings across the miles. I wish I could tell her how special she always made me feel.
The next special birthday memory was the Gerber Baby doll that arrived in the mail for me. I can’t begin to tell you how much I loved that doll. Nor can I begin to tell you how many baby food labels my parents must have collected to be able to send off for it!
Another wonderful birthday memory was being able to be the bridesmaid in my brother’s wedding on my 19th birthday. We were both living in southern California, I in college, he newly graduated and working for an insurance company. It was an enchanting and lovely occasion, but somewhat surreal, in that my brother was now to be a husband. Overall, it was win-win: I inherited another sister AND their anniversary is very easy for me to remember.
More recently, I had a week long celebration for my 50th birthday — Linda’s Grand Jubilee. But that’s a topic for a future post…
To better understand the significance of the next special birthday memory, I should explain that I’ve been a cake decorator for over thirty years, mostly in a labor-of-love capacity, except for the year and a half I was the cake decorator at a Baskin Robbins. (I wish I’d have taken pictures of some of the cakes I did while working there. One of the craziest cakes I designed was a wrecked motorcycle — it was for a guy who was celebrating the fact that his buddy survived an accident virtually unscathed.) Consequently, my family looks to me to decorate cakes for special occasions and have never really baked for me. So when a couple of years ago, my daughter baked and decorated the cake for my birthday, it was so special. I was really touched.
And then last year, my newest daughter-in-law planned a bash for my 60th. She pulled out the stops and ushered me into this new decade in grand style. Friends and family gathered in my honor and my very musical offspring put together the family band and performed my special requests. They even brought in — be still my heart! — steel pans!!
Addressing the son who would be bringing the steel pans about two months before the big day: “Do you think it would be dorky to have ‘I Feel Good’ at my sixtieth birthday party?”
“Well, I intend to have a lot of fun and I love me some James Brown,” at which point I started to move my feet and bust a line of the chorus. “Do you think I could get away with singing it?”
So, it’s my party and I’ll jive if I wanna, jive if I wanna, jive if I wanna… You would jive too…
Oh wait, different song. At any rate, I got my wish. I sang several songs with them backing me up: Linda Rondstadt’s “That’ll Be the Day”, James Brown’s “I Feel Good”, and Carlos Santana’s “You Are My Kind”. The absolute best Kodak moment was when I got the crowd to sing along with “I Feel Good”, a conga line formed, then I looked over and saw my 85-year-old mom clapping her hands and singing to James Brown. Fun, indeed.
And shortly after that party, I started thinking I needed to launch this blog.
[That is, until Monday…]