Rural Living

Happy Birthdays

Reflections on a Winter's Day


by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Writer

Margo Oxendine

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 about him.

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 teenager.

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.


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