It was very different for me to write a serious article as most of what I write is the opposite of serious. So if you need a good laugh now, then I hope you will give my book "A Half Fast Memoir" a try.
To all of you who have left such kind comments, words of wisdom and shared your personal stories, Thank you.
The following is one of the stories from my book.
Is It Your Birthday Again?
With twelve of us in the family, birthdays came quite frequently. In fact, I think it was about once a year for each of us. For someone who enjoys shopping, buying birthday gifts may not seem like a daunting task, but for someone that loathes shopping it’s just that. Anytime we mention shopping to Mom we always get the same response, “Eww yuck! I hate shopping.”
Something that helped ease Mom’s dread of shopping was the dawning of the Internet. Years ago, our home phone and Internet shared the same line. When Mom discovered online shopping, the phone lost its share. So unless we were lucky enough to reach her during a potty break we were left to our own devices. This was especially awesome when one of us was stranded somewhere waiting for a ride. Mom spent hours on the Internet looking for bargains. She signed up for every “free” deal that came her way and she got what she paid for.
To put it nicely, we received some pretty unusual birthday presents, many of which were some of her Internet finds. These included Mary Kay samples, clothes that were three sizes too small, free trinkets or gadgets that we didn’t want and wouldn’t use and anything else that came as part of a free trial offer.
My nephew, Taylor, was given a “Captain Morgan” t-shirt from Mom for his sixteenth birthday. She got it on sale at a thrift store. Mom didn’t know Captain Morgan is an alcoholic drink. What she did know was that at one dollar, the price was right. That was bad for sure, but the most ridiculous part was that the shirt didn’t even match the fluorescent orange booty shorts that I gave him.
If Mom didn’t find gifts on the Internet, then she’d rummage through the cupboards or bookshelves trying to find something to re-gift. I’m sure my oldest brother, Bob, loved receiving prenatal vitamins for his 40th birthday.
And it still warms my heart to remember Angela’s face when she was re-gifted a book that she had given Mom years before. It had been signed to Mom by the author.
One birthday, Mom and Dad surprised me and visited my apartment while I was away at school. They brought dinner for my roommates and me. After we ate, it was time for me to open my present. This year’s gem and Internet freebie was a CD ROM cleaner. It was a cheap, little plastic box with a circular piece of foam the size of a CD inside, finished off with a little hand crank. It included a small spray bottle of cleaner. The idea was to spray the CD, place it in the box on top of the foam and crank the handle. I didn’t own a computer let alone any software CDs. At least I think that’s what a ROM is. After trying to wrap my brain around this enigma I had received, I heard Mom say that the only condition of my gift was that she and Dad be able to borrow it. It made sense to me that there would be a “condition” placed on such a valuable item and even more sense that she and Dad would want to borrow it. I think the greatest gift I really received that day was the gift of becoming a little more humble. I knew myself all too well. If I hadn’t agreed to let them borrow this high-end electronic mechanism, surely I would have become materialistic and worldly and they covetous.
The CD Rom cleaner was obviously priceless, but nothing beat the year I turned 15. Mom made my favorite lemon Jell-O cake for my birthday. Only she didn’t have a lemon Jell-O packet—a crucial ingredient in a “lemon” Jell-O cake. In true Mom fashion she went in search for a substitution and something she already had. Mom opened the cupboard and spotted a box of cherry Jell-O. She ignored the “cherry” part and was just glad that she had found some Jell-O to use.
Since I had learned my colors some years previously, Mom must have figured out that I might notice that something was amiss on account of the cake being red instead of yellow. A distraction became necessary.
Birthday candles would do the trick. Naturally, we didn’t have any. Unnaturally, Mom decided to use our emergency preparedness candles.
Going once again to the cupboard, Mom found the aged brown paper sack that housed our wide array of emergency preparedness candles. There were tea lights and aromatherapy candles, votive and two long-skinny candles suitable for a romantic dinner. Some were golden and ornate and one was simply a solitary Christmas countdown candle. It had previously been used and was melted down to day “12”. The colors of the candles varied and all of them had already been used many times in the different blackouts we had had over the years.
Laying the candles on the table, Mom set to work “decorating” my cake. The final result was a peaceful smelling, Christmas colored, romantically inclined cake that had huge craters in it where the candles had been crammed.
Surrounding the craters were seas of multi-colored wax. One candle stood out even more than the rest. The 18 inch spiral, puke green colored candle had long ago broken in half and now looked like a pair of nun-chucks, with the wick holding the two sides together. Mom had planted each end of the candle at opposite ends of the cake, the wick between them creating a magnificent arch. My eyes wandered from this Salvador Dali scene she had made to the lone Christmas candle in one corner. At first glance I had thought the Christmas candle to be completely out of place, but when I saw how the puke green arch dripped onto the blood red cake, I thought, “I get that.”
When the time for opening presents arrived, I could hardly contain my excitement. There inside the beautiful layers of grocery sack wrapping paper held together with a single piece of scotch tape lay a new outfit. Although, who these clothes were purchased for I did not know. It seemed difficult to believe that they were purchased for me. I tried on the shirt first. It exposed a good portion of my midriff. I then tried on the pants. The pants didn’t get past my knees. As I modeled this outfit for my family, everyone, including me thought it was hilarious. Well almost everyone. Mom began to cry, until Dad pointed at the cake and said, “Seriously Connie. Look at that monstrosity. You aren’t the one that should be crying right now.” This time we all laughed.
I recently commented on this story to Dad. I asked him why in the world we didn’t take a picture of that cake.
He laughed and replied, “Because it wasn’t unusual.”
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