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So I had a birthday this past weekend, which I tend to do every year around Memorial Day. As far as holidays to have your birthday on, this is a pretty good one, if you can arrange it that way--unlike Christmas Day, which is when my wife likes to have her birthday, which really makes no sense at all if you ask me. The good thing about Memorial Day is that everyone already wants to party and go to the beach or hang out at the pool or burn big heaps of tires; and having a reason aside from just a three day weekend that is more or less the de facto beginning of summer (and of course to somberly honor the memory of the men and women who died defending our freedom) makes it all the better.
This birthday was not particularly significant except in that it was the first birthday I've had as a father. Of course, yesterday was the first time I drank a margarita in a pool as a father and today was the first time I had peaches on my cereal as a father and tonight might be the first time I make meatloaf as a father. I could go on. But age-wise, there's nothing notable except insofar as it is quite amazing that a human being can live to be as old as me, which is amazing every year lately.
I was trying not to make a big fuss about my birthday this year, except for making all kinds of demands of my wife and refusing to do things I didn't feel like doing and dropping little hints to remind her that my birthday happened to coincide with a party we were already going to, and wouldn't it be nice if there was some kind of cake there that could be kind of a secret symbolic nod to my birthday--just something my wife and I could smile about without the other guests necessarily knowing because I didn't want to make a fuss or anything. I also happened to blurt out to the host, a couple weeks ago, that his party happened to fall on my birthday. Anyway, my wife and the host of the party completely misinterpreted my comments, and my wife snuck out and bought a cake and had it decorated and everything. So when we were about to leave the party (or so I thought), out comes the cake and the candles and the singing, and Cobra starts bawling her little eyes out because she's afraid of fire and noise and people and cake. But she settled down after a minute. It was a good birthday.
As long as I'm on the subject of birthdays, let me tell you about two significant ones for me.
I was working as a carpenter and living at my parents' house in Virginia, having vowed to never go to stupid college because I had hated stupid high school so much and anyway I was going to be a rock star. We were on a job where we tore the entire roof--rafters, joists, shingles and all--off of a convenience store and replaced it. The store was about to get shut down because of building code violations, and the owner was going to pay us a lot if we could do the whole job over the long weekend. So we chainsawed the roof into sections, pulled or cut all the nails and fasteners that held the roof to the wall, and yanked the roof off using a crane. The owner was very generous with his merchandise, so I mostly subsisted on Slim Jims, chocolate milk, and 7oz bottles of Miller beer, which he had in great abundance for some reason. Because the job was pretty far from where everyone lived, we all camped out on the floor of the roofless convenience store on the first night.
After the second fourteen hour day of work, we had the roof framed and ready for plywood. I had gotten my friend from high school, who was by that time in his second year of college (sucker!), a job for the summer, and this was his second day working with us. We sat on the roof and my friend pointed out that it was fitting I should spend my 20th birthday busting my ass, since that was what I had to look forward to for the rest of my life. He said it kind of wistfully, like he wished he didn't have to go to stupid college and get some stupid desk job. At least that's how I interpreted it. But he also urged me to go home instead of spending the night at the store. I resisted, but he kept on bugging me and then finally let me know that my girlfriend had planned a surprise party for me.
So my buddy and I headed back to my parents' place where my girlfriend, the guys from my band, my parents, and a couple other friends were all milling around in the back yard, sick and tired of waiting for me, and ready to eat some cake and go home. I guess my mom didn't let them eat before I got there, because the sausages had been on the grill for a few hours. Everyone was annoyed and I just wanted to crawl up next to a freezer on some linoleum tiles and go to sleep.
I was working as a carpenter and going to grad school because I hated teaching stupid high school so much and I wanted to teach college instead. We had planned to go away for a few days to Sonoma County (where we had lived previously) and do Wine Country stuff to celebrate my decrepitude. But first, we decided to have a party at our friends' house. We had a keg, a full service barbecue courtesy of my wife and her sister, a cooler full of potent punch, a professional karaoke system that we set up on the stage that is a feature of my friends' weird old house, and about fifty guests. Oh yeah, and my friend and I played some duets on classical guitar. So I was a rock star after all.
Then we went to Sonoma to get my mid-life crisis over with. We rented a red Mustang convertible and drove all over Sonoma and Napa stuffing our faces, guzzling wine, and never putting the top up, no matter how much our backseat passengers (my sis-in-law and her husband) begged us to. The highlight of the trip was our meal at The French Laundry in Yountville. Yeah--that The French Laundry. And it lived up to the hype. It was even better than Slim Jims and Miller beer.
My point is that the more things change, the more they remain the same. But totally different.