You Say It’s Your Birthday…

Birthdays are your own personal holiday. And you usually get to hang out with friends to celebrate, which has always been my favorite part.

Back when I worked a newspaper job in an office with at least semi-regular hours, I used to make it a point to save a vacation day to take on my birthday. Wasn’t always easy to juggle that what with deadlines and meetings to be covered. Why the city would schedule a council meeting on my birthday instead of declaring a holiday, I’ll never understand!

You know I’m kidding, right?

Anyway, at one place I worked we always made a big deal out of birthdays: cake, ice cream, even beer and wine sometimes. Part of the ritual was that Donna, the editor, would ask, “What is your favorite birthday memory?”

The first time she asked me, I had my answer ready: “Why this birthday of course!”

But birthdays, like any holiday, can be a mix of fun and frustration. The birthday cakes from the Mooresville Bakery, run by the grandparents of a woman who would become my best friend in junior high, were pound cakes with a doll in the middle of the cake – the icing and the cake forming her dress. One year — maybe I was five or six — I got a cake with bright red icing for the doll’s dress. I loved it and, as my mother, Opal, always told the story, I “pitched a fit” and would not let it be cut. Opal cajoled to no avail, and my friends who’d come to celebrate were mystified. I cried and the cake remained intact until about a month later when Opal finally pulled the doll out and threw the cake away.  I cried again.

For a few years when I was growing up, we all had birthday parties at The Dairy Bar. This ice cream/sandwich place was hugely popular and they had a “back room” just for parties. When I was a bit older I had a skating party – I loved to roller skate. When I turned sixteen, I had a party out at our cabin on Lake Norman. I remember lots of folks showed up, but Opal was furious the next week when she found a bunch of empty beer cans and empty Boone’s Farm bottles hidden around the yard.

My Pop always sent me roses on my birthday. At first, he sent me the same number of roses for my age – like eight roses when I turned eight. I think he stopped it back to a dozen about the time I turned sixteen. I turned twenty-one my senior year in college and I got, I think, three dozen roses, including the dozen from Pop. One of my housemates said my room smelled like a funeral home!

That same year, my friends Mark and Steve took me to dinner at Slug’s 30th Edition, at the top of the then tallest building in Charlotte. We had a wonderful time – drank wine, which I never drank in those days. (It was Mateus – better than the Boone’s Farm — but don’t judge, we were in college and usually drank beer. What did we know from wine?) I kept that bottle for years. And yes, I admit I used it for the drippy candle thing.

For my 50th birthday, we took over part of one of our favorite nearby restaurants. My friend Steve (a different Steve) wrote and read a poem for me and we both cried. He and I are the designated criers of our circle. Last year, we took over most of the upstairs of a different favorite restaurant – folks came and went – and there was good wine, good food, and much laughter. This year, since my birthday was on a weeknight, we had dinner – at the same restaurant – with a few friends.

Birthdays with social media are different. I always try to at least “like” all the happy birthday messages people are kind enough to post on my wall. I’m always kind of amazed when someone writes a thank you note when I’ve posted a birthday message to them. That takes some time and dedication. In some ways, though, I feel a bit odd about posting a birthday wish for someone who is a Facebook friend but someone I don’t know in real life.

And yet, having all that good karma floating around seems like a good thing.

Hope you have a great birthday this year!

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