Not My Birthday

Maybe it’s just me, but it has always been disconcerting, and sometimes even creepy, to hear the voice on the other end of the phone line close with: “Have a blessed day!” The insinuation seems to be: “Remember, God’s watching, sinner.”

It’s a big Baltimore thing, and I do tend to pick up local idiosyncracies by osmosis or something. Like pronouncing Saturday like “Sayerdee.” That’s a long way from “Sataday,” the way I pronounced it back home in Rhode Island. One of these days Shop Boy will live somewhere where the locals pronounce it right, and I’ll be cured.

Meanwhile, slap me if I ever end a conversation with “Have a blessed day!”

Shop Boy tells Mary often how blessed he already is. See, not everyone in this life gets to know exactly how and where he or she will die.

Me? Heart attack, on a platform, running for a train.

Mary always gets mad when I say it, seeing this as some sort of criticism of her desire to never get to the station too soon and have to wait around. Criticism? Where’d she get that silly idea?

On February 26 a few years back, Shop Boy and Mary were running frantically for the Amtrak train when Shop Boy stopped, dropped the bags, stomped his foot and said sharply to Mary:

This is NOT my birthday!

She nearly died of laughter right there.

“Poor little bear,” she said, softly touching my enflamed cheek. “We can give you a credit. Now, come on!”

Credit means that for every hour of my birthday ruined, one hour of birthday princehood is added on.

Well, start the meter.

We’ve got Mary crazy printing for her beloved Cousin Mollie’s Greek party this weekend in Florida (we’re carrying the printed materials with us), unprinted menus due at Woodberry Kitchen and Shop Boy staring down a murderous, multiple-magazine deadline, then the rush to do laundry and pack for Florida, where we’ll land, grab a cab to Mollie’s and start prepping food for the party.

Shop Boy will take his next breath sometime shortly after that party ends.

Happy Birthday to me!


True story: Each year around this time, Shop Boy would make the trudge home to Cranston, R.I., to let Mom make me a birthday cake.

She wouldn’t hear of me not coming, and got quite guilt-trippy if I didn’t make arrangements.

Shop Boy was the first of her seven kids to permanently abandon the old Rhode Island home. Every time I came home, Mom would make a huge deal out of it. I don’t know if my siblings resented the attention I got for messing up their weekend or not. Wait, of course they did. Even I resented me. Who did Shop Boy think he was?

Grow up!

That’s what Mom would say — to me and to them — as she pulled my favorite cake from the oven: an apple cake with cinnamon icing.

(Shop Boy does not like apple cake with cinnamon icing, but my mom believed with all her heart that it was my favorite. She wasn’t going to hear otherwise from me. I’d eat three slices and thank her for remembering.)

Devil’s food cake, white icing with coconut: This is what Mom made me every year I lived at home. You move away, memories change.

So, yeah, it’s my birthday. February — yuck. Sneak blizzards. Ice storms. 70 one day, 15 the next.  Rats in the alley.  Early tree buds frozen. The unique male pressures of Valentine’s Day … and March is the month that Mom died.

Shop Boy has also recently had ugly, hurtful arguments over politics with Dad and my big sister Margaret. If you’ve read this far, you know that shutting up is hard for Shop Boy sometimes.

I’m going to make up with both of them today. Life’s too short.

And Shop Boy has a train to catch.

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2 Responses to “Not My Birthday”

  1. Norine Says:

    In my heart right now, I am baking you a devil’s food cake, white icing with coconut. And wishing it would taste like your Mom’s.

  2. Michael Tim Says:

    I love your site! :)

    Experiencing a slow PC recently? Fix it now!

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