It was my daughter’s birthday today. Of course, we celebrated in all the usual ways. Presents, dinner, cake. No one was amused, however, when I questioned the reasoning for celebrating one’s birthday. I mean…what part do we all play in being born? Two people, not us, get the ball rolling by having unprotected sex. What eventually becomes us grows inside the woman of the randy couple and sometimes makes her sick in the morning. Over the course of nine months or so, we sprout more stuff, float, turn, suck in nutrients from the mom-to-be and basically live off the gland.
At some point the party’s over. The mom starts dilating and having contractions, screams at the dad and everyone lands in the hospital…if they’re lucky.
Around this time the couple is thinking they shouldn’t have finished off that bottle of wine 9 months prior, which clouded their judgement and contributed to the fix they’re in right now. Meanwhile, the wet package of protoplasm is getting ready to be born, which means, being squeezed through an opening, head first, that’s tighter, as we used to say in radio, than a bull’s ass in fly season.
Finally, daylight! Unborn kid is born, everyone checks the calendar and boom! It’s the kid’s birthday! Now every year on this day people will make a fuss, give presents and say “happy birthday!” A party might be held and a cake with flaming sticks of wax will be eaten, but not before the birthday kid extinguishes the fire by blowing on a perfectly clean cake that’s now a sugary bacteria medium. All this for having lollygagged in the warmth of mom’s belly for nine months and then getting tossed out on your head and being slapped on the butt.
Yes, the human race does have its odd customs but yet I’d feel said if my birthday came and went without notice…but especially if it came and went without cake.
When I was a kid growing up in Queens, NY, the place to be was a family restaurant on Union Turnpike called Sandy’s. My best recollection was the specialty of the house at Sandy’s was some sort of hamburger and fries, but since no one really ate at Sandy’s intentionally, its menu has long ago faded from my memory.
A Sandy’s birthday party was pretty much the same. You invited 10, 12 kids, one of whom was designated to exhibit the violent effects of nausea precisely when you were opening the biggest, and presumably, best present in the pile.
There were party favors that included one of those noisemakers that unrolls when you blow on it. It was always fun to blow the thing in a kid’s face at the precise time he or she was about to place a forkful of fries in their mouth. It resulted in proving over and over again, to the birthday boy’s delight, that french fries are definitely not aerodynamic. Either is ketchup.
Opening presents was always fun. Back in the 60’s you mainly received from your friends board games, a football or a high-caliber faux firearm you could use to pretend you were either a war hero or cowboy ridding the American West of indigenous people who still regret selling Manhattan to those nasty Dutch boys for 24 bucks in bangles and beads.
The tension would build as you unwrapped each gift. If you received a sweet air rifle the kids yelled “yay!!!!.” If you received the board game “Park and Shop” you might hear one of the kids quietly mutter, “I have that game. It sucks. Actually, that IS my game. Couldn’t wait to dump it on someone.” Receiving a football or anything else that could be construed as a projectile brought horror to the host parents as a spontaneous game of catch would break out in the restaurant. If you were accurate you nailed a busboy with a full load of dirty dishes. The noise they made when they crashed to the tile floor was the best birthday present of all.
Sandy’s closed in the mid-60’s and was followed in its space by restaurants called Sands and Pancake Island, which finally gave way at the end of the decade to the slot car craze evolving into Sebring Raceway, where we blew hours and our allowances on racing our slot cars. I lost track of it after that when I went away to college.
We’ll go out to eat again for my birthday, but it won’t be like Sandy’s. For one, it’ll just be our family and no one will be bringing presents, since to make their lives easier, I find a few things online, buy them and let the gang wrap them. When they hand them to me I act totally surprised when I rip off the paper and they give me a look that says, “whatever keeps him awake.”
Make no mistake, I appreciate the chance to take another trip around the sun, even though by now I know all the rest stops and bars and space junk. You never know how many of those trips you’re granted, but I know one thing. I won’t waste a minute playing Park and Shop. That game sucks!