Tag: birthday

The Birthdays Girl

My wife loves birthdays, and she’s very good at them.  Fortunately, it doesn’t need to be her birthday for her to get excited.  This past week has been a bonanza for her.  First she had my 60th.  Then she had Farley’s First.  Oh, yeah, there was Thanksgiving in the middle.  This will be a layered slice.

Yup, the big six-oh.  We didn’t go out, of course, and this saved me some embarrassment.  On my big four-oh, Nancy threw me a party at a restaurant.  Wanting to be accurate and extravagant at the same time, she had the restaurant folks bring out a birthday cake with exactly forty candles.  Not a 4 and an O, which would have shown moderation, but 40 actual candles.  A funny thing happened when the birthday boy blew out the candles.  There was a lot of smoke.  Now, I’ve always really liked the smell of newly-extinguished candles, that delicious blend of carbon and paraffin, but in this case, the cloud of smoke was too much for the restaurant’s smoke detectors to take.  They began to blare.  

Fortunately, the restaurant did not have a sprinkler system.  That would have made for a soggy birthday cake.  UNfortunately, they also didn’t have the ability to turn off the smoke alarm.  It was hardwired, loud, and persistent.  Everyone had to evacuate.  

When the three fire trucks and crews arrived to make sure that my cake candles had, in fact, been fully extinguished, the firefighters also determined that the alarm’s shut-off was in the insurance office next door to the restaurant.  Unfortunately, it was after hours for the insurance office, and their doors were locked.  There were a lot of disgruntled restaurant patrons on the sidewalk.  They glared at me, disgusted by my advanced age.  

But that was Y2K.  This is 2020. The global pandemic meant I would not be clearing any restaurants this year.  Nancy was undaunted, however.  She could not bear a party-less birthday.  She procured the requisite gigantic mylar balloons, prepared a birthday brunch (see artist’s rendering below),  presented several amazing gifts, and this was all BEFORE the birthday dinner. She baked an extravagant chocolate-on-chocolate birthday cake, which she wisely adorned with two simple and safe candles.  Ahh the feng shui of the placeholder digit.  After dinner, right on schedule, our Portal chimed and virtual guests began to arrive.  We crammed as many family members as we could safely fit into one Zoom call.  It was fabulous for everyone…except our dog Farley.  

Frittata for Brunch

It had been a rough day for the pampered pooch.  I don’t think it was just that it was the first time in his entire life that he had to share the spotlight.  No, he’s not like that.  First, he had been mightily spooked by the arrival of the terrifying balloons.  Normally unflappable, Farley had cowered in the living room, refusing to enter the dining room, even when a bonanza of beg-worthy birthday bounty beckoned.  Nope.  Don’t care how good the food is. Not goin’ near the floating monsters.

It turned out he was not just spooked, he was also sick.  Because it’s 2020, we really couldn’t call it an event without a health issue, so Nancy and Sarah ended up taking Farley on his first visit to the Emergency vet (our dogs have historically preferred to get sick on weekends and holidays). The doctor informed them that Farley had scored the Daily Double, both a bacterial infection and a parasite.  Yay!  This might have had some causal connection with Farley’s affinity for what one of my old students referred to as “yard meatballs.”  Yeah, it turns out they’re not good for you.

Anyway, Farley didn’t enjoy my birthday, but everyone else did, and just one week of chicken and rice later, it was his turn.  Farley, the pandemic pup, turned the big Oh-One, and Nancy, the birthday girl, went back to work.  She had, of course, noted each of Farley’s month birthdays with a treat, an “I’m ___months-old” sign and a photo op, but this was bigger.  She ordered a tiny cone-shaped hat with a slim elastic tie, a handsome “It’s My Birthday” scarf, and several indestructible chew toys that he promptly destroyed.  

My contribution?  I removed the evil balloons from the dining room.  Oh, and I didn’t eat anything I found in the yard. 

We paraded the birthday boy around the neighborhood, where most of the neighbors now know Farley’s name but have no idea who we are.  That’s a pandemic phenomenon in our parts.  We know Quinn, Barkley, Rosie, Freddi, and Lucy, but we have no idea of the names of the humans at the other end of the leash.  It goes both ways. To many of our neighbors, we are merely Farley’s parents, or quite possibly Farley’s weird parents.  

Never before have we had a dog who enjoys dressing up.  Farley actually likes wearing clothes and accessories.  He wore his bow tie to Thanksgiving, and then on his birthday, he gladly sported the party hat and scarf.  Nancy was mightily pleased.  She could stand giving up balloons as long as she could keep acquiring new outfits for the boy.  When we returned from our second walk, she got to work on his birthday dinner.  No kibble tonight. Heck, no chicken and rice.   Instead, a turkey meatloaf cupcake with orange mashed potato icing.  Hold the candles.

This may not have been the best dining option for a dog who recently recovered from digestive issues, but hey, you’re only one once.  

As Farley sprawled on the couch, head in Nancy’s lap, gnawing the remains of his indestructible toy and perfuming the air with his contented flatulence, I sat squeezed between that “other end” and the armrest. He sighed.  I sighed.  And, for a brief moment, our eyes met .  In that tiny space of time, I’m quite sure we shared the same unspoken thought: “Yup, she’s my girl, she loves me, and she loves her a birthday bash.”

Being Here, Not There

Thursday evening we convened in the living room… of ten different families. It was a social gathering, corona style.  We were supposed to be having an actual party in Bethesda to celebrate my mom’s 90th birthday…or as she would say it, “my privileged ability to survive for 90 years with great health insurance and then Medicare paying for everything I need.  Big deal.” As an aside, she has also informed me that she thinks that should she get the dreaded virus, she does not believe it would be a worthwhile use of Medicare funds or medical resources to provide her with any life sustaining treatments or equipment. Suffice to say, she doesn’t like being fussed over.  She reluctantly agreed to the real party. We didn’t even inform her that the virtual party would happen. I had merely told her that my sister and I would love to be able to talk to her and see her on her birthday.

The previous weekend’s lead-up had been frustrating as we took several phone calls and attempted meetings to determine that in fact my mom’s computer didn’t have a camera or a microphone.   Those are kind of important. Still, she had a monitor, so she could see us. She had a phone, so we could hear each other. We, meaning I, decided it was worth a shot.

In our living room, Nancy, Sarah and I wedged into a love seat and logged in.  I spoke to my mom on the phone, trying to get her to install the grid view so she could see everyone on the screen…and by everyone, I added, “I mean just  my family and Barbara’s.” My mother declined. She had endured enough of my tech support. Five minutes before the meeting, she informed me that she was heading down to check the mail.

This surprised me, since the hallway from my mom’s apartment to the elevator is approximately seven miles long.  On top of that, there is often a 2-week wait before the elevator arrives. My mom also no longer walks at the brisk pace that used to be her trademark.  Going to check the mail is definitely not a 5-minute task. I sighed.

My Aunt Peggy was first to log on.  She is not as old as my mom or my mom’s brother, her late husband, but still, she did exhibit the lack of social distancing from her camera and microphone that sometimes betray an age gap from younger generations.  No offense, Aunt Peg. We were very glad you made it…and with no tech support! She was followed by my sister and brother-in-law. Slowly the other guests logged in. I informed them all that Mom would be back sometime within the next two or three days.  She just needed to check the mail. I might have detected an eye roll or two had the resolution been better.  

Once the meeting began, our obvious inexperience with virtual meeting etiquette became clear.  Very little voluntary muting occurred. My mother, having returned from her trek, needed to be informed that her phone and the speaker phone that she had turned on for my father’s benefit, may have been the reason that everyone else in the meeting was recoiling, grimacing, and holding their hands over their ears.  She finally turned off the speaker, and the air raid siren subsided. To compound the awkwardness, many in my family would fall into the introvert category. This was evidenced by the fact that my sister chose not to speak until spoken to, and one of my cousin’s children positioned herself to the side of her computer for the entire conversation, allowing us a fine view of the fence in her backyard.  We are not a showy bunch.  

Fortunately, this allowed my mother, who may have had a glass of wine with dinner, to take on the role of emcee.  We turned on captions, ostensibly so that my father could follow the conversation, but it turned out to be more for our reading pleasure.  My mother let out a guffaw each time the transcriber referred to Peggy as Piggy. There were other blunders, but I can’t recall them. Then, as we serenaded her from all corners of the continent, my mom’s appreciation was, shall we say, a bit muted:  “I didn’t hear the altos.” Perhaps a mild dig at two grandchildren, who actually have singing talent but had demurred when asked to perform a duet. There was a moment when each of us had to invite our canine friends to send their best wishes. Farley had to be roused from his bed to sniff the screen, but Homer, now the elder statesman at nearly two years of age, allowed as how he would prefer to continue his nap.  “I think we just might have to let the sleeping dog…you know…stay sleeping,” my nephew said.


“He said, ‘He’ll just have to let sleeping dogs lie.”

“Oh, yes, very original. Haw haw.”  That from the birthday girl. Oh snap!

“Well,”  my cousin suggested. “Let’s hope we can get together for a real party in October.  I was thinking maybe the 17th.”

“Or maybe, how about October 7th,” my mom suggested, a date she chose because it happens to be my sister’s birthday.

“Okay, but I was just looking at weekends, figuring that some people might find that an easier day to travel.”

“What did she say?”

“I thought people might prefer a Saturday.  The 7th is a Wednesday.”

“Oh are you going to be in Timbuktu?”  My cousin’s work calls for lots of travel.

“I don’t know.   I just thought a Wednesday would be kind of challenging .”

“Oh, yeah.  Good point.”

“Well, I don’t have a calendar in front of me.

Slight pause.

Then, my niece’s husband, not to be left out, chimes in from his left wing position at left couch on the left coast with this gentle non-conformist interjection, “Uh, we would prefer a Wednesday.” 

It was funny.  Trust me.

I guess these days, you don’t say, “You had to be there.”  

Because we can’t.