on a Winter's Day
It’s February and — heads up, fellas
— many minds are on Valentines.
I tried to write about love, I really
did. But instead, I decided on a positive column about which I do know a
little something: birthdays.
I was born in the dead of winter,
I fondly recall several birthdays. The
first was my sixth. Mom cheerily informed me I was going to the Ice Capades.
I had no idea what ice capades were, but I was excited to be getting dressed
up and going somewhere.
I need to digress a bit. When I was six,
I was terrified of just one thing: The Big Bad Wolf. I was certain he was
out there behind the backyard garbage cans, lurking. I was afraid he’d be
waiting around the corner when I walked to school. I had frequent nightmares
Back to the Ice Capades. Somehow, they
knew it was my birthday, and we were seated in the front row. I discovered
the Ice Capades involved beautiful women skating around in glittery
costumes. I loved it. I loved it until the Disney production number. It was
then that a gigantic Big Bad Wolf skated right up to me and attempted to
hand me a balloon. I screamed in terror and had to be given pink cotton
candy before I calmed down.
By my ninth birthday, we had moved to
Bath County. I was in the third grade, and having trouble making friends
because I was considered an outsider. It was almost Valentine’s Day, but I
was not the least bit hopeful. The teacher told us to put our heads down on
our desks, and demanded absolutely no peeking.
Of course, I peeked. And there were my
mother and father, hurrying into the classroom laden with pink, fluffy
cupcakes for everyone. I became the toast of the classroom that day.
Subsequent birthdays are an unremarkable
blur. I did not get a car at 16, or a trip to Europe at 21. I vaguely recall
a 20-something birthday when my parents and sister drove 75 miles, intent on
fixing a nice meal for my roommate and me. Little did they know, we had just
two knives, two forks and two spoons. Thankfully, fried chicken can be eaten
with the fingers, and mashed potatoes fit nicely on a spoon. Sadly, my
sister had mistaken my cake for a footstool in the back seat throughout the
drive. Even smashed and eaten with a spoon, coconut cake is yummy!
I don’t particularly remember another
birthday until my 50th. Most women may dread this birthday. I did not.
During that year, I’d fought and beaten cancer. My 50th birthday was
reason to rejoice, considering the alternative.
Two dear friends — fellows from
Richmond — and I gathered in West Virginia (America’s best-kept travel
secret, in my opinion). It was snowing. The morning of the 12th, they showed
up at my door singing “Happy Birthday,” bearing two dozen roses, a fancy
cake, and presents. We shopped all day, and then got dressed in our
glittering finest for a Mardi Gras party at The Greenbrier. We had dinner in
the hotel dining room, and then gambled with fake money. This was a good
thing, as I am surely no lucky gambler. I danced the night away with two
handsome gentlemen in tuxedos. Ah. At last, life as I’d pictured it as a
I threw myself a secret birthday party
two years ago. I invited 16 women to lunch at The Main Street Shoppe in
Covington. Despite a lack of cocktails, we laughed and whooped it up and had
a marvelous time. Although I told no one it was my birthday, there was a
perfect gift, nonetheless: A fancy box with a pair of lime-green pajamas,
festooned with pink flamingos. Do these women know me, or what?
This year, I’m taking myself to
Roanoke, to see the road show version of Hairspray. I can imagine no better
celebration. I’m hoping the weather might be threatening; I can leave a
day early and stay at the Hotel Roanoke. My only fear is that, should I
order room service (and I will), I might open the door and discover the Big
Bad Wolf lurking there.