"I have seen personally what is the only beneficial and appropriate course of action for people: to eat and drink, and find enjoyment in all their hard work on earth during the few days of their life which God has given them, for this is their reward." (Ecclesiastes 5:18, NET)

August 3, 2014

The birthday, part 2

As I leaned across Jackson to buckle Christian in the backseat, Jackson said, "Happy birthday!" He had wished me one over the phone on the actual occasion two days prior, and I thought it was so sweet of him to do it again. But Jackson knew something I didn't—that the celebration wasn't over yet. After my fabulous "daycation" (see part 1), I really thought it was.

Arriving at Mom's for the usual Sunday afternoon visit, I noticed extra vehicles parked out front. It still didn't register. But soon after we went in, I realized that some of my precious family members were there to celebrate my 60th.

Mom and her 4 youngest "kids" (not shown, the other 10 partygoers)
The gifts

For me, you can never go wrong with a gift of wine. Unless it's white, that is. After I gratefully received two bottles of red, the grown-up gifts ended. The rest were related to some of my childhood experiences, and they weren't all good.

Still love the outfit
The first of these was a baton to conjure up my glory days as a twirler. Considering that over 50 years have passed, I think I handled that baton pretty well. At least I could still do three basic moves. What I couldn't do was toss the baton high up in the air from under my raised leg and catch it. Maybe I should have tried it with both feet on the ground.

Although, I might have caught it if I could throw it correctly. And I might have thrown it correctly had it been a regulation baton instead of a toy one. (Hmm ... more fodder for giving Mom a hard time perhaps?) As I tossed that lightweight thing around, it was flying like a Frisbee. Everyone wisely chose to stay inside out of harm's way.

One of my favorite pastimes has always been giving my good-natured mother a hard time. She's just the most fun person in the world to tease. But she apparently thought it was time for a little payback, because the next two gifts would open old wounds from my 8th and 10th birthdays.

The 8th birthday backstory

How I saw Cadet Donin black & white
My favorite children's show to watch in the mornings was "Cadet Don." Parents could write in and have him wish their kids a happy birthday on the air. Sometimes he would also tell the kids where their parents had hidden their birthday present. I asked Mom to do this for me and, of course, she did.

Mom got me up early to watch the first show, but I wasn't included in that round of birthdays. When the second show started, I knew I'd be in that one and was beside myself with anticipation.

Finally, the big moment came. Cadet Don said, "Happy birthday, Paula Ray!" What? Could he be talking to me, Paula Kay? Why didn't Mom make sure she wrote plain enough so he would pronounce my name correctly? Give the cadet a break, woman.

Then he said, "Your present is hidden in the washing machine!" Now, a child's mind is beyond understanding. I have no idea why, but Mom's choice of hiding place embarrassed me. I guess the usual "under the bed" would have been more preferable to me than in a household appliance.

Wrong name. Embarrassing hiding place. It sure didn't turn out the way I'd envisioned it. Even though the Barbie doll I wanted was in the washing machine, I've never let Mom forget how upset and disappointed I was over the whole affair.

The related 60th birthday "gift"

Rex suddenly exclaimed, "Happy birthday, Paula Ray! Can you guess where your present is hidden?"

Having recovered from my childhood trauma, I ran excitedly to the laundry room. Uh-oh. A bunch of junk was piled on top of the washing machine. Maybe he meant the dryer. Nope, just a load of forgotten sheets in there. I was about to go complain when Rex walked in and removed the junk Mom had put there. I couldn't help but wonder if she did it on purpose just to get in an extra dig.

Never a good gift
I grabbed my gift and returned where the others were to open it. Well played, Mom. You did a twofer by incorporating an old wound from a school Christmas party and giving me a Life Savers Sweet Storybook. (The image is exactly like it but not the actual one I received, which was somewhat old and damaged looking. Don't even want to know where it came from.)

I was so disappointed when I got the same gift back in grade school because I had all the candy I wanted at home. Where was my cool little toy like the one I had brought for the gift exchange?

The 10th birthday backstory

My request was for a pink bicycle. The one I got was pink alright, but far from the sleek, shiny new bike I was expecting. It was big and clunky and clearly secondhand. Aside from the dull hand-brushed paint, what really gave it away was the masking tape holding the seat together.

When I complained (you know I had to), Mom said, "Now, Paula Kay honey, we just don't have a lot of money to spend on birthdays." I wasn't so much of a princess that I couldn't live with this cold, hard truth. So during the next 28 days, I happily rode my "new" bicycle around the neighborhood.

Then came Dale's birthday.

Imagine my shock when I saw my brother's shiny red spider bike with streamers on the handlebars and a banana seat that nary a butt had sat on, fresh from the Montgomery Ward warehouse. When I complained (you know I had to), Mom said, "Now, Paula Kay honey, you're a girl, and the boys ride their bikes more than you do." Granted, my brothers stayed on their bikes practically all day and I only went for the occasional joy ride. Even so, that excuse did not fly.

But how I've loved to tell the story, over and over again, year after year, ad nauseam.

The related 60th birthday gift

I was told to sit down, close my eyes, and hold out my hands. I had no idea what to expect, and when I felt something brush against my palm, I shuddered. No telling what these sadists were going to do to me next. Here's what happened.

July 25, 1964Wanted it   |   July 25, 2014Got it

I've never been so thrilled with a birthday gift in my life! After all these years, Mom finally made amends. And I absolutely love my brand spanking new bicycle. Suh-weet!

There is a downside though. Dale said that I was never ever allowed to tell the bike story again. But I had to tell it one last time just in case someone there hadn't heard it yet. What I found curious and suspicious is that after 50 years of me telling the story, Dale offered up an excuse as to why the bike he got was new—that Mom had extra money from receiving some kind of deposit back from her summer bowling league. Yeah, right. That was a tad too long coming, bro. Besides, I don't think she started bowling until later.

No matter. All is forgiven. I took my bicycle out for a quick spin and was quickly reminded of how much fun it is to ride one. Gliding past Rex and Dale, I shouted, "Woo-hoo! I've got the wind in my hair!" to which Dale replied, "And the sun on your face!" It was positively exhilarating.

The food

My sweet nephew Deke bought two boxes full of panini and a box of cookies from Panera Bread, one of my favorite places. Half of the panini were chicken, half were tomato and mozzarella, and they were so delicious that I had three over the course of the afternoon. Mom and Kimberlie provided an array of sides, including chips and dip, cheese and crackers, stuffed celery, and deviled eggs. Now that's a good lunch.

12 cupcakes, not 1 stinkin' candle
Kimberlie also brought cupcakes made by her friend who's starting a business. Be on the lookout for the 350° Bakery. I've never tasted cupcakes that good. And the icing was sublime—super light yet rich in flavor and not too sweet. I had a lemon cupcake first, which was supposed to have a candle on it but didn't, then a chocolate cupcake a while later. If nobody had been looking, I probably would've had a third.

During the singing of the birthday song, Angy held a plate with my lemon cupcake on it and Rex held a butane candle lighter in front of my face. I'm not sure if I actually blew out the flame or his finger slipped off of the button. If my wish doesn't come true, I'll know.

It's not much to complain about, but I'll go with it. Now that my childhood birthday offenses have been righted, it's all I've got.


I took my new pink beauty out for a proper spin on Saturday morning. The weather was unusually cool for August and the streets were still fairly quiet—a lovely time to be out pedaling. An advantage that biking has over walking is the ability to cover a lot more ground in the same amount of time, and I discovered a great trail I didn't know existed.

Because of the many years that have passed since my last ride, I was a cautious cyclist. There's also that nasty business about bones getting brittle with age, and I didn't want to end up a casualty my first time out.

By the time I was headed back to my subdivision, however, my confidence was up. I was riding at a brisk clip on the sidewalk next to a busy street. Approaching a turn, I knew it was a super sharp curve, but I threw caution to the wind. Thank God I fell on the grass and the ground was soft from a recent rain.
What Sara said about my bike

A nice young man driving two lanes and a median over stopped and called out to see if I was okay. I assured him that I was and thanked him, then walked my bike past all the curves before getting back in the saddle. Instead of being upset about my wipeout, I felt really good. The kindness of strangers, no matter how small, always touches me.

Thank you, nice young man, for caring enough to check on me. Thank you, God, for being with me always and for giving me such a cool family and a blessed life. Thank you, family, for everything you did to make my birthday the best.

No complaints. Really. Not even about the birthday candle.

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