Saturday, August 16, 2014

How Did I Celebrate My Birthday?

It was my birthday this week and I took some time to review my life, especially in relation to birthdays. At least this is what I told my wife, when she asked why I hadn’t loaded the dishwasher yet.

A few years ago I received a book of quotes from Mr. Rogers, the children’s television personality from here in the United States. One of my favorite quotes is, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” I have never been good at birthdays, so I keep trying.

When I was 12, I was out riding my bike on my birthday. Like most 12 year old boys, I wanted to be a cowboy, and so I pretended my bicycle was a horse. And like most cowboys, I held a long piece of grass in my mouth. I am not sure where I saw a cowboy engaging in this blade of grass chewing behavior, but it was probably on television.

It was a wonderful warm summer day, and the breeze felt good as I rode my bike at a full-out gallop. I rounded a corner and the hooves of my horse slipped on loose gravel. I was elated that I had not suffered too badly and escaped with only a few minor scrapes.

Unfortunately, that entire day I had a scratchy throat. Nothing seemed to help. Not drinking water, not drinking a carbonated sugar-filled beverage, not even the homemade ice-cream roll my mother made for my celebration.

At the end of the night, mom asked me if everything was alright. I finally told her about my scratchy throat and explained that it felt like I had a sliver in my throat. She rolled her eyes, grabbed a flashlight and looked in my mouth, all the while muttering about my odd way of describing things.

Then she stopped. She stepped back and looked at me, and then looked down my throat again. In absolute amazement she called my father; “Come look at this, he has a sliver stuck in his throat.”

That sentence was repeated a few more times at the hospital emergency room to nurses and doctors and then they repeated it again once they looked at my throat. It seems that when I fell off my bike, that long piece of grass had slid down my throat and a small piece had impaled itself into my flesh.

 I am not so good at birthdays.

A few years later, as a college student, I was working at a camp. I stopped into the office early in the morning to pick up something I needed and the office manager stopped me and handed me some mail. It was a letter from my mother. I put it in my pocket and promptly forgot about it until lunch time. Then, when I had the chance, I sat down and read the letter. Mom started out the letter by saying, “If I timed this right, you should be getting this letter on your birthday.” I stopped short, realizing that, indeed, it was my birthday. I had squandered half of the day in ignorance, not realizing it was my birthday.

I am not so good at birthdays.

Therefore, I decided some time ago, to keep working at my birthday, specifically my 26th birthday. All year long, when people ask how old I am, I say I am 25. Then when my birthday comes, if it is a success, I will move on. So far, they haven’t been a success.

This year was no exception. It started out wonderful, with a trip back home to the county fair, with my wife, daughters, and a couple of their friends. I visited with my mom, and my sister, and her granddaughter, who developed quite an attachment to Eldest. (Even though my sister is the youngest in the family, she is older than I). It was a wonderful day. We ate funnel cake, since birthdays and cake go together. We bought some maple syrup to pour over homemade waffles (I love breakfast, and real maple syrup is amazing).

Things were looking quite successful.

Then in the evening, the family and I went to a baseball game. My alma mater, Roberts Wesleyan College, was holding an alumni picnic before the game; it was great to see friends. My youngest and middle daughter spent a little time with the college mascot, Reggie, and there was food.

Things were looking quite successful.

It was a chilly night, with temperatures in the mid 50’s (F). This was not a bad thing, since I sat between Beloved and Eldest, and they snuggled close to keep warm. I like snuggling with family almost as much as I like breakfast. But, about halfway through the game, it began to rain. A light rain, just enough to make us all damp and to make it feel even colder.

Not only that, but the hometown team was losing, by quite a significant margin.

I am not so good at birthdays.

So again, my birthday wasn’t a success, but I will “try, try again.” It’s tough being twenty-five again, but I will persevere.

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