I have no one to blame but myself. I think it all started for me with that first picture (I have no actual memories of the event), the one where I’m in my high chair with a cake with one candle in front of me. I have an unknowing look on my face but I’m about to start a lifelong habit of expectation. People are lined up on both sides of the table and I’m obviously the center of attention. And why not, it’s my birthday.
Ever since then birthdays have presented one kind of problem or another. Sometimes it’s a problem for those who remember and must plan an event, a card on time, a meaningful greeting or those who forget and have to assuage their guilt. Other times it’s a problem for the birthday boy or girl who can’t decide if they want people to know or if it would be better to pass the day in anonymity
There are some people, the husband for instance, who must not have had their birthday expectation pump primed in infancy. There is never a hint about the approaching holiday. There is never a post birthday let down. It’s just another day and these people might even be surprised if you remind them that they are a year older on that day. There are others who, like me, anticipate what might happen with a fair amount of excitement. I have a list of these kindred souls. Some years I even go out of my way to feed their birthday appetite.
And so it was several years ago with my friend J. Carroll Barnhill. He talks about his memorable birthdays and always includes the one where I kidnapped him out to the beach with a picnic supper. He hadn’t been there in years and it was quite a trick to get him out of his boots to wade in the surf. A little sand on the fried chicken, a picture of the sun setting with a sailboat silhouetted against the sky, and you have a birthday memory.
There was also the year that he actually cleaned off the back porch and I got him a swing to hang from the rafters. Another time we had a breakfast party with a stack of whipped cream frosted pancakes for a cake. And the year he turned 80, I managed to get the word out to most of his family and friends for a get together complete with presents and pot luck food. Why do I do these things? Because I know he loves the fuss. How do I know that? Because, like a kid, he is reminding me that his birthday is coming. Sometimes once, sometimes twice or more. He clearly hopes to have fun because of what happened on seven, twenty-seven,thirty-three.
This year, knowing I would be out of town on the infamous day, I took him out to dinner at a restaurant. It wasn’t his favorite restaurant but it was convenient and he had a good meal. And we enjoyed ourselves. It’s your day J. Carroll and I’m giving you a little notoriety on my blog to memorialize the event. Happy birthday fella!. Hope you’re having a great day.