We celebrate three birthdays in our family in the last week of April and the second week in May. Birthdays are always special for us, but even more so this year.
On April 24th, our son, Sean, turned 44; a unique birthday since he was born in April (the fourth month), on the 24th day, in the year 1974. He marked his celebration with a clever costume party. On April 30th, our middle grandson, Christopher, will celebrate his 21st birthday. Then, on May 12th, my beloved R.J. will once again be older than me by 7 months. That's a distinction I love reminding him of until I become the same age next January!
To help explain our family's reverence for birthdays, I wanted to refer you to a post I did nine years ago, on January 7, 2009. Sadly, however, I have realized that it doesn't appear in my list of past posts.
The next best thing, then, is to recreate it here. I'd love to receive your comments about it, including your own memories of birthday moments.
He climbed the dark stairwell slowly, his back and arms weary from a hard day's work, a day that marked his 26th birthday, but that fact did not enter his mind. He thought only of his new bride, waiting for him on the other side of the apartment door. She had greeted him every night these past two months since their wedding, with a smile and a hug, and always neatly groomed and dressed.
His key clicked in the lock, and her voice called to him, "I'm in the kitchen!" His coat and keys found their way to the living room chair as he closed the door, then followed her voice. He certainly didn't expect the scene he found before him.
On the tiny kitchen table was a birthday cake, candles lit, and his wife behind the table, beaming at him, as she exclaimed, "Happy Birthday honey!" He didn't move or speak for several long seconds. His wife's expression changed to one of puzzlement. "It's coconut - your favorite," she explained in a quiet tone. Her words elicited no response. He continued to stare at the cake. Did you forget it was your birthday?" she asked, walking over and giving him an extra long hug. His arms wrapped tightly around her, he pressed his face next to hers, and she was aware of his cold skin against her warm cheek. And then, she felt his tears. His body trembled as he confessed, "This is the first birthday cake I've ever had."
That is a true story I think of ever time a member of our family has a birthday. The man was my father who grew up in a most dysfunctional household. He told me often that he never knew familial love or affection until he married my mother.
He would tell the story about that birthday cake over and over to anyone who would listen. It never failed to make me cry. I believe that is why birthdays in our family, as long as I can remember, have always been marked with special dinners, gifts, congratulatory songs, hugs, cards, and always, always a cake.
Mine, this year was lemon with lemon icing - at my request. When I was growing up, my mom would always bake me a three-layer cake: pink, white and blue with white boiled icing (a confection rarely seen on cakes anymore). I remember my ninth birthday when my dad decorated my cake with a beautiful carousel he had made out of paper and cardboard.
My husband bakes my cakes for me now, and delights in decorating them with special sayings or pictures. He would take his decorating skills to new heights every year with our children's cakes, usually fashioned in the shape of a favorite Disney character. We have pictures of all of them, and our now grown children remember them with fondness. It's our grandsons who are the recipients of his special cakes now, the most recent being a purple dinosaur.
The year my mother passed away, I attempted to make my dad's favorite coconut cake on his first birthday without her. I cooked the icing, made the lemon pudding filling, and baked and frosted the cake with care. He was touched by my efforts, but we both knew it wasn't as good as hers. I made the attempt, though, and that's what counted.
Some people might think it's silly to make such a big deal about a sweet reminder that you're one year older. But, to me, it is also a reminder of how much we are loved in our family because, whenever I blow out my candles, I'm reminded of that story my dad used to tell about how much it meant to him to have that cake.