Archive for the ‘Birthdays’ Category

In this post I described the birthday cake that was inflicted upon me this past week. As I was writing that, I remembered the only other birthday on which I was truly and totally grossed out.

It was about eleven years ago. We were in the dining room of Mom and Virgil’s old place near Harrison. Diamondqueen was there with her new husband, That Poor Man. There were no Hooligans yet, although there WAS Bailey the beagle and little Ginger, Mom’s dachshund mix.

We’d had dinner, and I was opening gifts before we got to the cake. It was our usual cake from Servatii’s, our favorite Cincinnati bakery (luscious cake with frosting to die for). I picked up a small wrapped gift and tore it open to discover a little photo album with “My Family” emblazoned on the front. “Aw,” I said, and flipped to the first picture — then screamed in horror and dropped the album to the table.

I have this thing about people with stuff on their mouths. It makes me ill. It has for as long as I can remember. In first grade, a boy in my class came up to me at lunchtime and said something with flakes of glaze and spots of jam from a danish all over his mouth. I took one look at him and threw up in my hand. I couldn’t help it. And I can’t help it now. I don’t know where this reaction comes from. I no longer throw up, but I do get nauseous.

Consequently, there have been commercials that I simply couldn’t watch, especially if I was eating. There was one for a steakhouse (I can’t remember which), but it had a cowboy with his mouth covered in barbecue sauce. I hate the commercial for Campbell’s soup where the guy’s gone orgasmic over his little microwave cup of tomato, the remnants of which surround his lips. I’ve never understood why advertisers think it’s appealing to show kids with food smeared all over their mouths. It’s not. And don’t get me started on the “Got Milk” campaign where celebrities were photographed with a milk moustache. Agggh! It was even worse when I found out it wasn’t milk, but some other concoction they had to whip up so the milk would really show up on the photo subject’s upper lip.

I think it might have been my reaction to the “Got Milk” moustache campaign that inspired Diamondqueen to create her special birthday gift for me. For inside that little album entitled “My Family” were snapshots of my loved ones, each with Cool Whip smeared across his or her upper lip.

Mom, Virgil, Diamondqueen; my brother and my young niece and nephew; That Poor Man, even the dogs (Virgil was posed with Ginger, who had Cool Whip under her nose, while Bailey with That Poor Man didn’t have much cream left because she kept licking it off).

I was horrified and green around the gills, which was exactly the reaction Diamondqueen had worked so hard to achieve. My stomach rumbling, I didn’t really enjoy my birthday cake that year. It didn’t help that Diamondqueen kept generously smearing that miraculous frosting on her upper lip and leering at me.

In fact, Diamondqueen continues to do that stunt at just about every meal, regardless of the occasion: mayonnaise, pudding, sour cream, you name it. She has to do it on the sly and not bring too much attention to it because J.Hooligan’s stomach is about as weak as mine regarding such things. Diamondqueen used to have to put a cereal box between J. and S.Hooligan when the latter was a baby because the sight of S. and her messy eating put J. off his feed. Since it’s a battle to get J. to eat period (except for chocolate and ice cream), Diamondqueen doesn’t need anything else to upset him. One time when she overtly tried to sicken me with the upper lip hijinks, J.Hooligan spotted her, gagged, and set up a wail.

That’s not enough to keep me safe, but at least Diamondqueen’s stunts aren’t prolonged. And she does it so much, I’ve become a little conditioned and a little more in control of my stomach. As long as I don’t think about that first grade classmate wearing his danish around his lips…


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I had a very nice birthday today. I arrived at work to find a signed card from my editorial teammates and a Busken donut, a great way to start the day. The drive to work was gorgeous; the rain had let up but the wetness gave everything a watercolor effect in the soft morning light (misty green, lavender against a royal blue sky — heavenly). I had several e-cards and wishes in my e-mail in box from friends and co-workers. Mom had carry-out Phad Thai waiting in the warming oven when I arrived for my weekend at her house. There were two gifts to mark my official birthday: one of those wand-like mini craft/sewing irons from Mom; and from Diamondqueen, a certain book to remain unnamed here that we keep re-gifting to each other just to be annoying, plus a CD Diamondqueen burned from a playlist I posted through her account at Rhapsody. (Of course, Mom says there’s no printed copy of the songs on the CD because Diamondqueen likely threw in some ringers that she knows will set me screaming. If I know her, that enormously annoying “keep on, keep on, keep on…” travesty from The Brady Bunch is probably among them.)

I say these gifts were for my official birthday because I’ve already been celebrating all week, and my real celebration (if you count cake and gifts as the real celebration) will be on Sunday.

However, I’ve even had a birthday cake already this week. Rather, I shared one with J.Hooligan. We always get together with my father at Diamondqueen’s house for birthdays and Christmas. Since Dad insists on paying for dinner, even when he’s the guest of honor, we try sly ways of cutting down on expenses, like combining birthdays whenever we can. Since J.Hooligan’s birthday is on May 6, Diamondqueen simply grafted our birthdays together for our celebration on Tuesday night.

The problem is, the choice of the cake got commandeered by J.Hooligan. Dad likes us to get the cakes for our dinners from Meier’s. They lean a little heavily on the food coloring in their frosting, but the cakes are pretty tasty, so I can manage. However, J. took it totally over the top.

J.Hooligan is going through an intense Star Wars obsession right now. His birthday, as I mentioned in this post, is going to have a Star Wars theme. Why that had to carry over into our combined celebration, I do not know. What I do know is that I got stuck with a Star Wars cake for the Tuesday night festivities.

Not just any Star Wars cake. This was an unbelievable creation featuring Darth Vader and what seemed like pints and pints of frosting in black, blue, and orange. Oh, dear Lord. I’m not sure how the blue entered into it, but the orange was supposed to represent flames or something. The black was more of a spray-on effect (to match Darth Vader’s plastic head on top of the cake, or to represent the galaxy far, far away, or come up with your own explanation).

I don’t object to this highly colored frosting because it tastes bad. It’s okay. But I really get bothered by the blue frosting because it turns everyone’s teeth and lips and tongue blue. It’s thoroughly disgusting. There’s a vague corpse-like effect that I find appalling, plus there are certain people that tend to talk with their mouths open and don’t wipe the frosting off their lips (and I’m not referring only to the two Hooligans).

If I found the effect of blue frosting nauseating, it was nothing compared to the freakish marbleized patina created by black, blue, and orange frosting after mastication. To really 86 the whole thing for me, the black frosting had a faint licorice flavor. I don’t like licorice. I especially don’t like it mixed on my palate with fluorescent blue and orange frosting. (AND J.Hooligan insisted on chocolate cake. I’m not that crazy about chocolate cake any time; it’s especially unappealing when spackled with black, blue, and orange frosting.)

So OUR cake was one I preferred not to touch with a ten-foot light sabre. I ate a piece to be polite (believe me, Dad would have noticed otherwise), but it was literally hard to swallow (and it tasted like chocolate cake and licorice combined — next time just shoot me, okay?). At least S.Hooligan and I had fun with the Darth Vader head, which was also a voice converter. Granted, I sound more like Darth Vader when I have a frog in my throat, but it was fun to play with. J.Hooligan was indifferent. I guess he wanted something more authentic, maybe with labored breathing as part of the conversion. You can’t have everything, bub. You got a Star Wars cake. I got stuck with black, blue, and orange frosting.

That’s okay. MY cake on Sunday will be from a premiere local bakery, yellow cake with white frosting and decorated with spring flowers. Any blue will be lighter than that pristine sky this morning. And without so much as a hint of licorice.

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I had only two birthday parties that were open to kids outside of the family when I was a child. This was my own choice; I wasn’t entirely comfortable being the center of attention, and I was even less comfortable playing hostess.

One of those parties, though, was the year I turned eight. I don’t know what made me decide we should have a party. Maybe Mom suggested it, or maybe I just had a whim. Every kid in the neighborhood was invited, even the ones way younger than me. This might have been Mom’s doing; she might have worried about the younger siblings of some of my friends feeling left out because they weren’t invited, so she just invited everybody.

There must have been about 15 children of varying sizes squeezed in around our dining room table. The first guest to arrive was the rapscallion boy up the street, Ricky. He was known for being racuous and mouthy, but he could be slick and flirty as well — even though he was maybe a year younger than me. (He’d already tricked me into kissing him, but that’s another story.) He came knocking at our back door long before the other guests arrived, and I stepped out on the porch to greet him. He was looking snazzy in slacks and a colorful two-tone shirt. He had something cupped in his hand and said he had a present for me. It could have been a dead mouse for all I knew, but he opened his palm to reveal a small flower-shaped brooch with a rhinestone center. It was pretty, and I was impressed. Later Mom fretted whether Ricky had swiped it out of his mother’s jewelry box to give to me.

We always enjoyed the home movie of this party because of our big dance after the games and cake and ice cream. Mom turned on the stereo turntable for us; we probably danced to Alvin and the Chipmunks albums since there wasn’t much popular music in our house yet (at least nothing that a group of children under ten would want to dance to).

The dancing got wilder and wilder, perhaps from a group sugar high from the ice cream and cake. Although the home movie shows a couple of mopes slumped on the couch, the rest of the guests are kicking up their heels in the middle of the living room floor. At one point Diane, one of my livelier friends, climbed up on the solid footstool and started calling “Change your partner!” There was plenty of screeching and collisions and laughter in the mayhem. The last shot on the home movie of that party is of Diane bent completely over, dancing in a circle with her dress up over her back and her petticoat and underpants showing.

The second party took place the year I turned eleven, and it was a much more “mature” social function. That party must have been my idea, because I remember contributing suggestions for the table decorations, possibly including the spray of plastic flowers that each guest found at her seat at the table. It was girls only, and there was no dancing. Everyone wore nice dresses, and I think part of the point was to be very lady-like. I don’t know what possessed me or where I came up with such a notion, because being lady-like was never much of a pursuit for me. However, I have a dim impression of wanting things to be elegant, although I don’t think that was actually the word in the back of my head. I did want it to be “nice.” Perhaps we played some games that weren’t too rambunctious. All I really remember is having cake and ice cream, everyone with their plastic flower sprays at their places, and opening gifts. I wish I could remember more of the gifts. I’m pretty sure Rosie or someone gave me one or two volumes of Nancy Drew. I was a devoted Trixie Belden reader, and possibly Rosie was trying to influence my reading habits. Maybe that was the year I also received a copy or two of Donna Parker. Eventually I did get into Donna Parker somewhat, but I just never could connect with Nancy Drew. Too ladylike or something.

I attended way more parties than I gave, and maybe that wasn’t the best reciprocal behavior. No one ever said anything snide about it. I always took nice gifts to my friends’ parties, so I wasn’t a total moocher. I didn’t often take home any prizes — I just wasn’t very competitive, or very competent, at party games.

At one birthday party, though, I got a stunning prize simply for being bad at games. My friend Nancy, who’s birthday was also in April, had a party with all the trimmings. At game time, I never even came close to winning, or placing or showing, in a single contest. While we were having our cake, Nancy’s mother asked, “Is there anyone here who didn’t win a prize?”

“I didn’t,” I said a little louder than I should have; I was feeling very disgruntled. To my delight, Nancy’s mother handed me a small wrapped box. I opened it to discover a true treasure: a ring with a cameo of Barbie in base relief gold-tone metal, the head surrounded by rhinestones. I thought it was the prettiest ring I’d ever seen (even though I’d never been able to get into Barbie any more than Nancy Drew), and I could tell by the oohing and ahhing of the other girls that some of them were envious of my prize.

I loved that ring and wore it constantly. Eventually the cheap metal corroded from hand-washing and bathing, and Barbie’s head with its corona of rhinestones simply broke off. I kept the fingernail-sized cameo tucked away somewhere for a long time, until it finally vanished into that mysterious black hole that swallows childhood treasures without a trace.

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I asked my mother if she remembered when Grandma Martha first bought the nursery rhyme party hats and plastic nut cups we used for every kid’s birthday for years when I was little. Mom wasn’t sure; we both knew the tradition had started by 1960, when my youngest brother was born. We both remembered how his hat was always Humpty-Dumpty.

Grandma rented the upstairs of the little East End house to our family, which meant we had the privilege of running downstairs to see her just about any time she was home or awake. Of course, by day Grandma worked in the Sign Shop at Shillito’s department store, and she was in bed by nine, so our opportunities to descend on her weren’t unlimited. (Grandpa lived there too, of course, but he spent his days at the barns with his horses; and during a harness racing meet at one of the local tracks, he sometimes bunked in the tack room at the barn.)

Grandma welcomed all her grandchildren whenever she could, including my aunt’s two young boys, so there were many festive occasions in the dining room/bedroom or front room downstairs. At some point Grandma purchased cardboard birthday hats, one for each child, and plastic nut cups she filled with candy (most likely M&Ms). Being the thrifty sort, Grandma recycled those favors for each birthday.

I have a vague memory of the first time she produced the hats and nut cups, and of being quite impressed by them. Our family celebrations were never overdone. There might be balloons, but we never had crepe paper streamers and bakery cakes. To have Grandma suddenly provide party hats and nut cups seemed extravagant and indulgent, and terribly exciting.

In among my keepsakes I have one of those original hats, squashed flat and very worn after nearly 50 years. It might actually be MY hat, which was Little Bo Beep. I was the only girl, so that designation was a given, but I’m not sure how the three boys decided on their hats, or if they even did. If Grandma said, “Here, you get Little Jack Horner” or whatever, then that’s what you got, no arguments.

Besides Little Bo Beep (or was it Mary Had a Little Lamb?) and Humpty Dumpty, I don’t really recall what nursery rhyme the other hats depicted. I do remember their shiny finish, lots of silver plus shades of blue and pink, maybe purple. The nut cups were the kind of beautifully detailed plastic trinkets manufactured in the 1950s, small baskets with incised sides and scrolled handles, festooned with leaves and flowers, all in a shell pink plastic. I’ve seen these same nut baskets in antique malls, an indication of their durability. No wonder they wore well for so many of our birthdays.

Set in our ways, we wouldn’t have allowed any kind of party without our hats. The boys probably didn’t care so much about the nut cups, but I did. Maybe the fact that they vanished after the celebration and didn’t appear again until the next made them that much more anticipated.

I don’t know when we drifted away from the tradition of party hats and nut cups. Maybe we older kids simply outgrew them by six or seven. Maybe when we moved out of the upstairs flat to our house in Oakley, the regular birthday parties happened less frequently. It wasn’t long before Grandma and Grandpa (whether he wanted to or not) followed us out to Oakley, moving into a big gray house just around the corner. Grandma certainly continued to have get-togethers, but I don’t have a visual image of us wearing our accustomed hats in Grandma’s new dining room (a real dining room; the house had three real bedrooms upstairs, so no more sleeping on a sofa bed for Grandma and Grandpa).

Those hats and nut cups, though, are an indelible image of my earliest birthdays in the tiny house on Eastern Avenue.

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For several years back in the 1990s, Diamondqueen insisted that our birthday celebrations have “themes.” Fortunately this only applied to me, Mom, and Diamondqueen, not the entire family. We had some creative themes, though. And those celebrations took a lot of work and planning.

I celebrated some really interesting themed birthdays during those years. There was the English-themed birthday (the country, not the language) with gifts that included a volume of James Herriot, a video of A Fish Called Wanda, and two handpainted treasures from Mom. One was a spoon rack she built herself and painted with bagpipers and dancers doing the Highland Fling. I loved it on sight, and it still hangs on my wall, holding spoons I picked up in England and Ireland, naturally. The other was a small cedar box she painted with flowers; on top was a small picture of Big Ben and Parliament done in a reverse painting on glass.

I was so stoked by that birthday I turned to Diamondqueen and said, “I’ve been thinking maybe we should try to go to London again next year.” I’d taken her to London the year before, and we’d had a blast. When I mentioned a return trip, Diamondqueen pumped her fist and shouted “Yes!” (and possibly “It worked” — leading me to suspect that influencing my decision was part of her strategy for picking that theme in first place).

Another year I’d recently completed a children’s novel (as yet unpublished), and that novel was the theme of the celebration. It was staged as if it was a launch party for my book, with glitzy decorations and champagne. My gifts reflected various aspects of the book, a Medieval-style fantasy. There was a silver chalice with the title of the novel and the year engraved on the side. There was a tiny crystal castle to represent the castle in the book. I’d asked for a bobbin lace pillow, which my mother made; a family friend fashioned a wooden stand for it, and Mom painted this with scenes from my novel.

There was also an illustrated version of my book, printed out and enclosed in a special binder. Mom had created watercolored line drawings to accompany the text. There was also a painted box, with key items inside that related to the book’s plot and characters. It was all wonderful.

Another year was a kind of “poor man’s celebration” theme, with really economical, plain decorations, cut lilacs from the yard instead of the flowers Diamondqueen preferred to buy, and other calculated cost-cutting effects. All this was because Mom and Diamondqueen had gone in together on a new CD player/turntable/tape deck/radio unit that had far exceeded their budgets. They let the gift provide the glamour and excitement to the celebration, which was fine with me. It was my first CD player, and the unit overall was an extremely nice Sony (which I’m still using).

I guess my favorite was the big 40th birthday mystery trip. I got a special “hint” package, with a long rhyme explaining that I’d need to pack a bag and leave work early; and there was a reference to seeing “Curly, Larry, and Lo.” I was ecstatic when I discovered on the way to the airport that Diamondqueen and Mom had planned out a special trip to Gettysburg for the weekend.

This probably doesn’t sound like a trip that would put a twinkle in most women’s eyes. When I told friends and co-workers what this exciting mystery trip turned out to be, I could see their faces freeze into polite smiles while their eyes said, “What? Why in the world…” I was longing to go back to Gettysburg, though. Mom and I had made our first trip there the preceding September, and we’d had to work hard to salvage the trip from a number of unfortunate events. For one thing, it poured rain until the evening before we went home. Worst of all, though, we had serious car trouble that started in Chambersburg and tormented us (and at times terrified us) the entire trip. Seeing Gettysburg had been extremely important to me; the first trip had felt dampened and incomplete, and I dreamed of returning.

Mom and Diamondqueen had planned it all out: We flew to Harrisburg to save time and picked up a rental car. I think it was midnight when we actually entered Gettysburg, but I insisted on driving out past Little Round Top in the moonlight.

I’d said one of my dreams was to have breakfast on Little Round Top on the site where Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain had made his stand with the 22nd Maine. Saturday morning we bought pastries, juice, and coffee and drove up to the site on Little Round Top, making an informal breakfast on one of the big boulders.

Unfortunately, Mom developed one of her terrible migraines by mid-morning, but she insisted Diamondqueen and I make the most of the visit, so we did. We toured all over the battlefield and stops and snapped pictures. When Diamondqueen decided she wanted to go back to the room for awhile, I headed back to the business district and had myself photographed in Civil War dress. I bought two copies of Chamberlain’s account Little Round Top, and took all this back to the room as thank you gifts for the wondrous birthday surprise. Mom didn’t feel well enough for the evening’s entertainment, so Shannon and I attended the “ghost evening” in a local haunted tavern as planned.

Mom felt well enough next morning to participate in some more battlefield touring, we had lunch at a little restaurant near the base of the cemetery, then drove back to Harrisburg for our return flight. Except for Mom’s migraine, it was a magical weekend and one of my favorite gifts (and birthdays) of all time.

(What was that “Curly, Larry, and Lo” hint all about? “Curly” was George Pickett; “Larry” was Joshua “Don’t Call Me Lawrence” Chamberlain; and “Lo” was Confederate General Lo Armistead. Okay, guess you have to be a Gettysburg fanatic to appreciate the wit.)

Our themed birthdays trend kind of petered out over time, especially after Diamondqueen got married and had the Hooligans. Of course, THEY have themed birthdays (J.Hooligan is counting the days until his Star Wars-themed birthday), but we adults have settled in to more traditional celebrations centered on cake and presents. But those theme-driven extravaganzas of the 90s were great while they lasted.

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Since this is my birthday week, the gift I’m giving myself is reminiscing here about birthdays past, now through next Sunday.

My earliest birthday memory is my mother giving me a gift to open the morning of the big day. I don’t know how old I was, but I have a lot of clear memories from about the age of four on, so it may have been earlier than that. The gift was tubular in shape; when I tried to open it, the ribbon on the end wouldn’t come undone and I had trouble getting paper to come off. What emerged was something about Snow White, I think — a coloring book, probably. I understood it was my birthday, and I understood we were celebrating that evening, but I think I was a little confused about the surprise gift so early in the day. (This would have been 1958 or earlier; if it was something to do with Snow White, it must have been connected to a re-release of the original movie. Songs from Snow White turned up on Uncle Al, our local kids show, and I have memories of seeing a presentation of Snow White as part of the Ice Capades when I was little.)

I don’t know if that was the same birthday of the shopping disaster my mother had downtown. I’ve never been completely sure if I was along or not. Here’s what happened: Mom had gone downtown to pick up gifts and party items, including a special paper kit used to decorate a homemade cake like a merry-go-round. At some point she set the bag down and walked off without it, and when she returned, it wasn’t there. We didn’t have a lot of money, so this was a big loss. I do remember a merry-go-round cake, but I’m not sure if it was from that year or later.

Another early childhood memory is of a shopping trip where I DID go along. Downtown Cincinnati wasn’t that far on the bus from East End, while there were few shopping centers (i.e., malls) and they weren’t conveniently located. In those days, downtown included as many dime stores and variety stores as it did bigger department stores. We usually stopped in one or more of the big stores, like Shillito’s or Mabley & Carew, but for less important, everyday things, Woolworth’s and Kresge’s were major destinations.

On this birthday shopping trip, I remember selecting various kitchen toy items in one of the dimestore toy departments. I recall the small, shiny aluminum sauce pan with the red wooden knob on its lid (there may have been a frying pan as well). I think I may have selected a toy canister set, tin, painted pink with black flower sprays. Even as a child, I was enchanted with miniature versions of the adult world’s trappings; that canister set made my heart beat faster. I’m sure there were a couple of other items, too. I don’t recall many other particulars, but my overall sense of that excursion was that Mom and I had a wonderful time.

That may have been the same year of the big surprise gift in Grandma and Grandpa’s front room in their flat downstairs: This big rocking contraption that safety standards probably wouldn’t allow to be produced and sold today. It consisted of powder-coated tubing that formed two long rockers on the bottom and looped up into short ladders at either end, with something like curving parallel bars cross the middle. At the base of each ladder was a wooden step. The idea was a child could stand at each end and make the thing rock up and down like a standing see-saw. When it wasn’t in motion, the piece served as a kind of jungle-gym.

I’d never seen one before. It took up the whole end of the tiny front room. Grandma, who worked as a type setter and sign maker at Shillito’s, had printed a small sign that said “Happy Birthday, Nancy.” The sign was tied to the parallel bars with ribbon.

We played with that huge toy right there in the front room, my brother and my cousin and I. I don’t know how we managed not to throw each other through the front room windows onto Eastern Avenue, or how we avoided killing ourselves generally when the toy moved outside. The big rocking toy wasn’t all that sturdy and tipped over easily, whether we were rocking too hard or simply climbing on it while it was sitting still. We played with it a lot, though. Despite its lightweight construction (we could move it around easily, and sometimes tipped it on its side for one make-believe use or another), it survived long after we had moved to Oakley in 1961. In fact, we pretty much destroyed the meager lawn in the shady backyard on Maple Drive with it, and I can still hear the snap of twigs and the crunch of acorns and beechnuts as the tubes rocked back and forth, up and down.

Eventually it must have fallen apart; or else my mother got sick of it one day, dismantled it, and put it out for the trash without our realizing it. By then we’d probably all outgrown it, since it vanished from our lives with so little notice. It was a terrific gift, though, and a challenge to surviving childhood perils that we mastered heartily.


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As I said in this post, April is my birthday month. April often is also Easter month, so there are two big celebrations right there.

At various times over the years, other celebrations have added layers to the party atmosphere of April for me. And, frankly, sometimes keeping up with all the parties and commemorations made me very busy.

I don’t know what they’re calling it now, but years ago there was a National Secretary’s Day. Although I worked as an actual secretary only a couple of times, support staff of all kinds were included in the festivities. There might be gifts and a treat day sponsored by the immediate department, and/or lunch out besides. An executive might take support staff directly under his direction to lunch as well. Once we were given a combined breakfast and a seminar on time management — well meaning but very pragmatic (although the bagels and pastries were tasty).

Secretary’s Day was so close to my birthday that the celebrations often overlapped.  I had to plan carefully not to bring in my birthday treats the same day that Secretary Day treat spreads were being offered in nearby departments. (For 20 years I worked for companies where the tradition was the birthday person brought in treats for everyone else.) Because of that proximity, however, Secretary’s Day kind of got grafted onto my birthday celebration, expanding it into a longer period of high spirits and out-of-the-ordinary activities. When I became a greeting card writer, it hit me between the eyes the following April that there would be no more gifts, no more lunches, no more attention on Secretary’s Day. I might have to write a card now and then for the day of honor, but I wouldn’t be partaking of that attention myself. It was disconcerting and stripped a thin layer of gloss off my usual birthday “season.”

April is also National Poetry Month. Being a poet, this mattered to me, although I tended to have more private celebrations. Every year I chose a certain poetry volume I wanted as my NPM “book” to purchase. I tried to kick up my poetry writing a notch, which often meant simply producing one acceptable poem, given my growing lackluster production.

Once I became editor of Poet’s Market, I frequently was called upon to do presentations on poetry publishing at bookstores and the library. I was very pleased to do my part to promote poetry during National Poetry Month; however, the first year I was over-enthusiastic and did several presentations over a couple of weeks, trying to work in Easter and my birthday and the height of the Poet’s Market production cycle all at the same time. Still, it was unusual not to have at least one poetry-related gig during April, whether it was speaking to 20 people as part of the NPM program at the main branch of the public library, or discussing poetry with the three people who were kind enough to show up at Barnes & Noble one night. (It became less a presentation than an everyone-gather-around-and-let’s-talk session.)

Now I’m not a secretary OR a support person OR the editor of Poet’s Market. This year, Easter wasn’t even in April. There’s still my birthday ahead, though. And the older I get, the more I celebrate the little things, the simple joys, and the fact that I have treasured people in my life to mark occasions with. And believe me, I don’t wait until the month of April to celebrate the latter. I try to do that every day.

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