My birthday is tomorrow. This used to be an exciting event.
Number three was an absolutely killer train party, for which my parents made little cardboard train cars for the guest to chug themselves around in from pin the tail on the donkey to the beanbag toss to whatever other games were going on. Number nine fell in 1976, so my parents threw an Olympic-themed party complete with various events and homemade medals. Not surprisingly, I got the overall bronze; my best friends Stephanie and Cindy could run like gazelles, although my shotputting whipped everyone by a mile. Number twelve involved a neighborhood scavenger hunt. Number sixteen did not bring a car, not that I was expecting one, but I did get my own set of keys to my mom's VW Beetle, on a brass pig keychain that I still have tucked in a drawer somewhere, plus a soccer ball a friend brought back from a trip to Germany. Number eighteen came the day before I left South Bend for good, after a summer spent crashing with various friends and high school teachers after my mom moved away. I had cake and deliciously wicked wine coolers with two of those friends--no tents or Levi Johnstons were involved, so no pregnancies ensued--and the next morning hopped the bus and took off for the future.
Number twenty came on a 20-hour layover in the Lima, Peru airport, toasted by friends with cold Pilsens. Number twenty-five came a few weeks after delivering the boy; everything hurt, the Giordano's delivery got screwed up and instead of ravioli I got some questionable lasagna, and nobody in my family except my mom remembered to call. Number twenty-six came as a surprise since I had somehow spent the previous year thinking I was 26 already, so I was distressed to realize I'd completely missed out on being 25 (see: first year of parenthood brain malfunction). Number thirty saw me dropping the boy off for his first day of kindergarten, which told me I was officially maybe not exactly old, but definitely in a different stage of life. After number thirty-three, things got even more interesting, not always in a particularly savory way, but I suppose I am more or less back on track now.
My grandma used to make me a butter cake with marshmallow cream frosting. I never got the recipe from her. After the boy came along and I was purportedly grown up, there were no more cakes because I demanded birthday chocolate chip cookies instead. Sometimes now it's just a Twinkie. I do not know what baked good will be involved this year, if any.
The absolute best birthday phone call I ever got was... I don't know, probably 15 years ago, my grandparents and favorite aunt and uncle on speakerphone (which I normally loathe, but this was awesome), singing a wine-fueled rendition of Happy Birthday in joyous four-part harmony.
I still have two grandparents left (the non-singing, non-butter cake set), which is pretty good for someone of my advanced years. My all-grown-up son plans on spending the day with me, working on the carpentry project we started at the beginning of the summer but let tail away from us. We will probably have some decent snacks and a beer or two.
No more gauzy Illinois late-summer evenings with the approaching candles heralded by cicadas. Time to firmly focus on what's ahead.