Happy Birthday To Me

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I’m neither a.) one of those people who hates birthdays and tries to ignore/forget them, nor b.) one who insists on a major celebration in my honor every 525,600 minutes. Tomorrow happens to be my birthday. This is simply a statement, a fact. It is not, I assure you, a cry for attention, a hint that I would like to be showered with knacks, trifles, nosegays and sweetmeats. (That said, if we happen to be Facebook friends, feel free to post your kind wishes on my wall. I’m only human.)

I’ve been very fortunate to spend each of my birthdays thus far surrounded by family and/or friends. I can still vividly recall my Winnie the Pooh themed birthday party when I turned 5. My teenage sisters stayed home from school to help with the party. That was a good one.

My 18th birthday fell on a Wednesday. The necessity to register for the draft at my local post office was offset by the fact that 18 was the legal drinking age for (3.2% alcohol) beer in Kansas. I was a senior in high school and the day after my birthday randomly happened to be a teacher in-service day so we didn’t have to go to school. I threw a party at my brother Clint’s apartment. My high school chums are still talking about the legendary bash, while my brother still talks about how I left his apartment in a cleaner state than how I found it. I believe I even cleaned the oven, which we hadn’t used.

One of my most memorable — and most romantic — birthdays was my 24th. It was so surreal that it felt like something that could only happen in the movies. I hope you’ll appreciate its cinematic qualities.

My Chicago friends had organized a Thursday night bowling celebration at Diversey River Bowl in Chicago. It was a rainy night and the bowling alley was outside the bounds of our typical social geography at the time, but everyone rallied. “Everyone” included Jeannie, a girl I had just started dating at the time.

Merriment ensued and a good time was had by all. Jeannie and I were the last two to leave. We were clearly overserved, as we forgot to retrieve our real footwear and left wearing our rented bowling shoes. The rain was really coming down and we couldn’t find a taxi to save our souls, so we hopped on a Chicago Transit Authority bus heading east on Diversey. Besides the driver, we were the only two on the bus, so Jeannie and I sat next to each other in those seats that run along the sides of the bus (not the ones that face forward.) There we were, soaking wet, wearing bowling shoes, carrying a bag full of recently bestowed birthday presents which included a bottle of champagne.

At the next stop, an older gentleman came aboard carrying a violin case. He sat down across from us. Jeannie told him it was my birthday, and the man pulled out his violin and started playing “Happy Birthday to You” on it. We could see the bus driver smile in his rear view mirror. Jeannie and I popped open the champagne and passed it back and forth between us, drinking straight from the bottle, while the violinist continued to serenade us with “O Sole Mio.” The driver blew off the other stops along his route and took us on a private drive through Lincoln Park. On a city bus.

It may sound far fetched, but it really happened and it was absolutely enchanting. That was a half life ago. I’ve had plenty of wonderful birthday celebrations since and I hope to have many more to come, but I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for that magical night.

TODAY’S POLL

Which movie character’s birthday scene is your favorite?

Bilbo’s birthday in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Harry’s birthday in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Samantha’s birthday in Sixteen Candles

Miles’s birthday in Uncle Buck

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