by Janet Gilmore
I was so depressed last month when I woke up on my birthday. I lay in bed trying to figure out why. The weather people had been yelling about snow for days, and it was due on Dec. 14, which happens to be my birthday.
My sadness went way down deep beyond the gray skies outside. I wanted to stay in bed and sleep until it was the next day and no longer my birthday. You know, to wake up and feel better. Why?
I knew why. I realized several years ago that the most important part of a birthday, in fact the only important part to me, is having people sing “Happy Birthday.” My parents, though, are no longer around to sing to me. And that’s an ongoing problem.
I like cake and ice cream, of course, but at my age I sort of have all the possessions I need, so presents are unnecessary. I mean it. If you’re nice to me all year, then I don’t need a present, and if you’re not, then a present won’t help. Period.
I keep an old cassette recorder to record people singing “Happy Birthday,” the best song ever written. I record the date and then tape my family singing to me or to anyone else whose birthday it is. I listen to the tape once in a while. I figure when I’m VERY old, and everyone else is gone, I’ll listen to the tape often to remember how much fun we had at birthday parties.
When I finally got out of bed, my husband Hugh came upstairs to wish me Happy Birthday. He knows how much I usually love my birthday. He didn’t know that this particular birthday wasn’t very happy yet.
Hugh had the breakfast table set and was brewing coffee for me.
“Is it snowing yet?” I asked, too bummed to look outside for myself.
“Not yet,” he said.
Perfect, I thought. I had cancelled a few appointments because of the coming snow, but there wasn’t any snow yet.
“You seem tired today. Do you want to go back to bed?”
“No, I don’t,” I said. “I want to stay awake and do anything I want today.”
“And what do you want to do?”
“Laundry. Then vacuum. Then shop around on the Internet.”
“But you do that every day. Don’t you want to do something special today?”
“No. It’s my birthday, and I can do whatever I want for 24 hours, and I want to do laundry!”
I didn’t really, of course, but I thought being snowed in was a good excuse to reduce the chaos in the house, birthday or not.
“We’re going out to dinner; right?” I asked.
The snow started in earnest about 4 p.m. If snow were a person, she’d be a girl with a pretty-girl personality, assuming all she had to do was show up, and everyone would be glad to see her just because she’s pretty.
I wondered about going out.
At 5:45, though, we put on our snowsuits and walked up to Tavern on the Hill for dinner. I’d started thinking about their delicious crab cake Caesar salad four days earlier, and since I could have anything I wanted for 24 hours …
I started to feel better when I stepped out of my house into the fresh air of the snowstorm.
Proprietor John Egan greeted us when we arrived at the tavern. Only a few tables were occupied, and Egan directed us to a table for two. We relaxed; the black cloud over my head began to lift. My crab cake salad was exactly what I wanted. Delish, salty, perfect.
Suddenly the lights in the tavern dimmed; not a great sign in a snowstorm. I was sure we’d be spending the night at a motel that still had electricity.
Someone tapped a spoon against a glass to get everyone’s attention. “Here comes some dire announcement,” I thought.
But no! Our waitress approached our table, dessert in her hand, a lit candle in the dessert. And everyone in the tavern sang “Happy Birthday” to me! Hugh filled in my name just in time.
They sounded so sincere, maybe because we all felt snowed in together, even though we weren’t really. Snow worked its magic. It was cold and wet outside; we were warm, quenched and fed on the inside.
I didn’t have my tape recorder with me, but that was okay.
I made a wish that my beloved dead friends and parents would come back to life, and I blew out the candle. People applauded. John Egan kissed my hand.
“How did they know?”
Hugh smiled and winked at me.
I was a happy woman walking home in the snow with my sweetheart.
Our son, Andrew, greeted us at the door, devoured the piece of cake we brought home for him, gave me a sticky kiss on the cheek, said, “Happy birthday, mom,” and went back to his room. Having a kid to call me “mom” was a gift in itself.
We watched a French movie that had love in it on TV.
The day turned out much better than it began.
Snow fell outside in all its beauty.