Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmastime birthday

Today marks the 36th time the earth has been in about this same position in its orbit around the sun since the time of my birth. That is, today’s my birthday. Well, technically you could argue that it was last night, since I was born in Japan (my dad was in the Air Force at the time). Funny: he called my granddad where it was Sunday night in the US (it was Monday morning in Japan) and said, “Tomorrow at such-and-such time your grandson will be born; he’ll weight 6 pounds and 6 ounces and be 21 inches long.” But no one seems to want to let me celebrate two birthdays (it was the 19th in the states, where I am now, but the 20th in Japan, where I was born), so I just celebrate on the 20th (after all, that’s what my birth certificate, driver license, etc. all say).

People have asked or commented about being born so close to Christmas. When you’re a kid, though, those last 5 days leading up to Christmas seem to take 3 or 4 weeks, so it has never been a big deal. Sometimes, though, there are advantages (or disadvantages, depending on your point of view). On my 16th birthday, my parents gave me a set of luggage (which I still have, at least some of it; at the time, I though, “great, luggage…” but, you know, it’s been exceptionally useful over the last 20 years – my parents are pretty good about that – giving gifts that at first you think, “What in the world?” but after having it for a while you think, “How did I ever get along without this?”) and a set of keys to all the vehicles in the household (I didn’t get my own car until later; but it was worth the wait: my first vehicle was a 1978 Alfa Romeo Sport Sedan – it was cream in color, had the same basic driveline as the Alfa Spider, and was exceptionally fun to drive – if you’ve ever seen “Ferris Beuller’s Day Off”, if you remember Ferris’ friend’s “junky” car at the beginning of the movie, the brown sedan in which he goes to pick up Ferris, then you have seen an Alfa Romeo Sport Sedan, or something very close to it; I’m still a huge Alfa fan, by the way). I immediately went to “try out” all the keys, which included the trunk key for my dad’s Ford Taurus. In the trunk were all our Christmas presents for that year; I immediately closed the trunk, but I had seen them: a pair of Sears “Super Lobo” remote control cars for my brother and me (I still have mine, although the battery no longer charges) - this guy's page has a picture of the Super Lobo - it's about the 3rd picture on the page; it was fun to chase cats at my grandmom's house with the RC cars. Anyway, sorry, mom & dad; I don’t think I’ve ever admitted that, but I knew what our “big gifts” that year were.

One of my cousins happens to have been born on the 21st, but two years earlier than I. However, I won’t let him say he’s two years older than me: he’s only 1 year and 364 days older (ok, 365 days on a leap year, but that’s still not a year since a leap year is 366 days).

One year I (and my wife) managed to forget my birthday. I graduated from Naval Nuclear Prototype Training in December, and knew I was next headed to Newport News, Virginia (I was part of the pre-commissioning crew for a Nuclear Aircraft Carrier). We thought, we’ll pack up our stuff for the movers to take, get the things we’ll need to live until our stuff is delivered, head up to Virginia, get an apartment, dump our stuff there, then continue our two weeks’ leave to have Christmas with the families in Atlanta and Pensacola and Birmingham. Well, we were frantically trying to find and lease an apartment in a three-day visit to Newport News, and finally we had decided on a place. As I was writing out the check for the deposit on the apartment, I wrote the date, laughed, and said, “It’s my birthday!” I’d forgotten in all the rush of finding an apartment. So had my wife. She was mortified, having forgotten my birthday, but I thought it was hilarious. I think we went to dinner at Red Lobster that night or something, but the memorable part was simply the forgetting. How many people can say, “I forgot my birthday one year”? (On a side note, I suppose it would be sad if you didn’t know your birthday; probably doesn’t happen in the US, but in other places of the world, you simply might not know, for instance if you were orphaned at a young age and they don’t have documents about your birth.)

I guess, besides my 16th (when I got my driver license on the first try; I took the test in my mom’s 1987 Mazda 626 GT (turbo, five-speed), a car which also was tremendous fun to drive and which I unfortunately totaled a couple of years later in a one-car accident – my mom still hasn’t quite forgiven me for that, I think), my 30th birthday has been my most memorable (besides the one I forgot, and the current one, which is of course fresh on my mind). That year I had a “surprise” party which I helped to plan (heh-heh), and my uncle Brad gave me his 1967 Mustang GT (which he’d bought new off the showroom floor in late 1966) – I still have the card which says, “I think it’s time for the Mustang to come live with you” (written by my aunt). But those weren’t the most memorable parts… the most memorable part was the week leading up to my birthday. Every day that week I got a call from the front desk and had to walk down from the second floor, and there was something little, special, just for me, that my wife had dropped off sometime that morning. One day it was beef jerky (yum, yum!). One day it was a six-pack of IBC root beer, with the label that says “Still the best!” on the box underlined and “Tony’s” written above it (I still have that label sitting on my desk here at work, right under my monitor where I can see it every day). That was the most memorable part of a wonderful birthday “season.”

Tonight we’re going to look at Christmas lights, a tradition that my grandfather (the one who unfortunately was a victim of Alzheimer’s Disease) and grandmother started with my brother and me a long time ago. We’d go looking at Christmas lights and then stop for Krispy Kreme donuts and coffee. One year, after I was married and had my daughter, when we could still get him out of his nursing home, we took him (with my grandmother) to look at Christmas lights, and drove through Dairy Queen soft-serve ice-cream (easier for him to eat at the time) on the way back. (Now there’s a memory!) Anyway, now we take our kids out to look at Christmas lights every Christmas, and this year we’re doing it on my birthday (heading out of town tomorrow). We usually get Chick-Fil-A nuggets on the way, but tonight we might do McDonald’s or something. Note: I think Chick-Fil-A and Gateway should have co-sponsored a NASCAR team - I can see the cow-spot-painted car now!

Unfortunately, I have to get back to work. If anyone wants to make birthday donations, let me know and I’ll give you my pay-pal account number so you can contribute there. But, rather than that, consider donating to the Tori Wilhoit account at Redstone Federal Credit Union (she’s the premature baby who’s currently at Vanderbilt and, while not out of the woods, is faring better these days; her parents could use the donated money for medical and other expenses). And, if I don’t post before then, have a very merry Christmas! After all, that’s the only birthday really worth celebrating this time of year!

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