“Yet Another Birthday,” Feb. 14, 2017

From the end of December to mid-February, 10 of the 16 members of our big, blended family will celebrate a birthday.

That’s a lot of cake. Mine is up next. But let me assure you this is not some pathetic ploy to get you to remember my birthday.

There’s absolutely no reason for you to do that. Unless you really want to.

Birthdays in my childhood were not the wingdings that seem to be in fashion today. In my family, we didn’t do birthday gifts or parties. My mother baked a cake. We sang “Happy Birthday.” We ate the cake, and that was that.

I assumed that was the norm until I started school. Imagine my surprise to hear other kids describe their celebrations.

I’ve told this story before, but I am going to tell it again.

On my sixth birthday, in first grade, tired of feeling left out, I rose from my desk and invited everyone in class, including the teacher, to a party after school at my grandmother’s house.

Imagine my grandmother’s surprise when I ran home after school to tell her what I’d done. Her jaw dropped to the floor. “The teacher, too?” she said.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said. “And the principal. And the janitor.”

Only two kids showed up: A boy, who brought me a candy bar. And a girl, who ate it.

That’s a true story and in my opinion, it’s worth retelling.

Same goes for this one:

In fifth grade, at a different school, some of the mothers would bring cakes to class to celebrate their children’s birthdays. One of them was a lovely woman whose daughter, Brenda, through no fault of her own, happened to be born on my birthday.

Upon hearing from the teacher that it was my birthday, too, Brenda’s mother insisted that I stand with Brenda while the class sang “Happy Birthday” to us both.

I was mortified. The class sang both our names, but the cake proclaimed only “Brenda.” Birthday cakes don’t lie.

What I remember best about that day occurred later at recess.

Back then, before litigation and child safety became serious concerns, school playgrounds often featured a “merry-go-round,” a metal disk also known as an “instrument of death.” The boys would push the disk in a circle, faster and faster, while the girls would cling to its bars, hanging on for dear life.

On that day, fired up by Brenda’s cake, the boys outdid themselves, pushing faster than ever. I locked my legs around a bar. My friend Nancy clung to a bar next to mine. We were giddy with anticipation.

But as the disk approached lightning speed, Nancy lost her grip and ended up clinging in a choke hold to my neck.

I liked Nancy a lot. But I soon surmised that trying to save her would either send us both into orbit or, worse, to our graves.

OK, I’ll just say it: I bit her. Hard. On the nose.

Estimates of how far she flew varied widely. The good news _ my birthday gift _ was, thanks be to God, she was somehow not killed or maimed. I apologized profusely. I hope that she forgave me. But we were never as close after that.

I told you those stories to tell you this: A birthday is a gift in itself. It tells us we have just lived another year of life.

That is something to celebrate.

There are no guarantees for the year ahead. But the one just completed is over and done. No way to change it. No going back. Maybe it wasn’t our best year ever. Maybe we didn’t give it our best.

All we can do is look back and learn and hope for another chance to do better.

When your birthday rolls around, I hope it’s your best birthday ever. May nobody eat your candy bar. May your cake show only your name. And may you never, ever have to bite a friend.

You really don’t need to remember me on my birthday.

Unless you really want to.

Comments

  1. Sandy Williams says:

    I so needed the belly laugh this piece gave me. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Kate Sciacca says:

    I never cease to laugh out loud with that line…”a boy, who brought me a candy bar… and a girl, who ate it.” The picture in my mind is hilarious 😂

    A blessed and very happy birthday to you dear lady, and may you have many many more. Mine comes up in a few weeks – I think I’ll do 38, or maybe 40…. those were fine years… fine fine years 😀.

  3. Maria says:

    Between Dec. 28 and Feb 18th, are immediate family celebrates 11 birthdays ! This year we all got together with one cake, big enough for all the names on it. What a joy watching all, from a 1 year old to a 81 year birthday celebrate life, love and joy. Mine too….58 years young . Another year of knowledge for this chapter…Blessings to you too Sharon!

  4. Uniqlady says:

    Hoppy bird day two ewe!

  5. Naomi Smith says:

    Happy Birthday! have a wonderful day and many more. Love your columns and you.

  6. Jim says:

    Happy Birthday Miz Randall,
    Wish you had shared with us the actual date. I’ve truly enjoyed reading your adventures over the years, but I lost track of you for ’bout a year ago. So glad to have found you again, and I look forward to catching up. Best wishes!

  7. Happiest of birthdays Sharon. You truly took me on a trip down memory lane when you did a play by play of the “Merry Go Round” (that’s what we called it at our school) incident. I laughed and snorted at the same time at the thought of her choke hold and the “nose bite.” Nothing is truer than real life. I loved it. As far as birthday’s when I was a child I only remember one party when I was five. My Aunt Doris made me a birthday cake (she was the family cake baker) and I was to have a party that afternoon. Mama decided I need a Tonette. Don’t know if you know what that is but we couldn’t afford beauty shop perms so a Tonette was a home permanent for children. She sat me on a wobbly stool in our kitchen and told me to sit still….what 5 year old can sit still on a stool much less a wobbly one. She finally got my hair all rolled up on tiny curler rods and put the perm solution on and set me on the back porch steps and told me not to move. She said she would call me back in to put the neutralizer on it. Well, I sat there for what seemed like forever and then decided to go next door to visit our neighbor. My curlers and me were off the porch…..about an hour later I heard another neighbor yelling my name and said, “your mama is looking all over the neighborhood for you. You better git on home right now.” So me, and my curlers, ran home. Needless to say, the perm solution had dried and when I finally bounced up the back steps my mama was red-faced and huffing like a bull that saw red. She yanked me in the house and plopped me on that wobbly stool and drenched my head in neutralizer. When she rinsed all those chemicals down the drain, she sat me up on the kitchen cabinet to survey the damage….and OH there WAS damage. My sweet little head of hair was so fuzzy and and fried from the dried perm solution there was nothing to do but let it dry and put a bow on each side of it and call it a day. You could not have gotten a dog brush through it. But you know what, I had the BEST birthday party ever. My aunts eyed my “new do” with wide eyes as if to say, “my goodness, Mary Katherine, what happened to Cathy’s hair?” But no one said not one word. I smiled for all my pictures and thought I was the cutest 5 year old ever. It should actually be a crime to put that many chemicals on the head of a child but I survived to have many more birthdays. I hope I made you laugh like you make me laugh. … and I hope you have a Happy Birthday. Cheers & Blessings – Cathy Cress Eller

  8. Jennifer says:

    Happy Birthday, Sharon! Hope this is your best birthday ever. You are the greatest. Thanks for reminding us to live each day with joy.

  9. Heather says:

    Haha oh my goodness I laughed so hard my husband looked at me like I was abducted by aliens! I have always had to celebrate my birthday 10 days early as my uncle who is only 4 years older then me his is first. I don’t ever remember any names on the cake and he always got to pick the kind of cake he wanted I was just happy to get a slice after he got his. I now make my own birthday cake and I happily sing happy birthday to myself with my family giggling because I’m so tickled about it. I loved your story it brought back some fun memories. Happy birthday Sharon may you be blessed with many many more!

  10. shashi says:

    Wish you a happy birthday ! sending blessings and lot of love. Thank you for reminder that we lived another year. May you live long !

  11. Jeannette Buck says:

    As always, right to the nitty gritty, with humor and a twist. Enjoy many more years, and keep writing!

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