Birthday wows and woes

Since July is my birthday month, I guess I should write something about the past three-score and one anniversaries of the date. Actually, my very first memory is of my fourth birthday party. I have a vague recollection of playing “Drop the Handkerchief” and “London Bridge” and a birthday cake served on the front porch with presents. In 1947, we didn’t know about party themes, pizza/game parlors, or inflatable rentals for the lawn.

There was my 10th birthday in 1953 when my best friend Suzanne gave me the present that was probably the inception behind the story you are reading now. A most important gift I learned to treasure, it was a green five-year diary and I began writing in it that very night. Readers often ask how I remember so many details from long ago … well, it’s because I have kept a diary since I was 10. I have a “Diary Closet” containing stacks and stacks of them. My last journal entry — this one in a large loose-leaf binder — was last evening in which I told my diary we could expect a welcome cool front over the 4th of July holidays.

Another memorable birthday was my 17th. Gary, my boyfriend at the time, took me to Hot Springs for the day. We walked up and down Central Avenue, looked inside the famous bath houses and strolled along its famous promenade. He bought a picnic lunch which we enjoyed atop Hot Springs Mountain. This was the epitome of “romance” to me. Later in the afternoon, we drove out to Lake Hamilton where he rented a small peddle boat. We enjoyed the warm breezes and the beautiful sunshine, peddling around the lake. Once he kissed me, trying to mimic The Tune Weavers’ “Happy, Happy Birthday, Baby.” Suddenly a bump! We’d drifted into the side of a rock formation!

The day I turned 22, I went to the OB/GYN for my weekly check-up. He said he’d be surprised if I made it to my due date of August 1. He was right. Exactly one week later on July 20 at 9:10 a.m. I gave birth to our precious only child, Melissa Moran. A belated birthday present … and the most cherished one.

Birthday number 60. We were living in Texas. Usually, my husband would have a card and gift waiting for me on the breakfast table. That morning he did not. “Oh well,” I thought, “it will appear later.” After we finished eating, he asked, “Would you like to run up to Austin with me today?”

“Sure!” I responded. I got the picture. He had something special planned for us in the city. I hurriedly showered and dressed and walked back to the kitchen where he was still reading the paper.

We left mid-morning and pulled into DISCOUNT TIRES just before 11. What was THIS? Something to ‘throw me off?’

For two hours, I sat in a smelly tire store, burning up from the heat, inhaling rubber and cigarette smoke and listening to mechanics shouting obscenities from the garage. Not exactly a happy camper, was I. By the time we left, I peaked at about 11 on the “peeved-to-incensed” scale. No husband would put his wife through this unless he had a good reason.

Could there be a group of friends meeting us at a restaurant and he was giving them time to arrive? That was it!! A surprise party! After all, 60 was a pretty important milestone. I practiced acting surprised (in my thoughts) as we pulled out onto the freeway. But why put me through this awful tire-place thing?

“Are you hungry?” he asked. Ahhh … this is where the surprise comes! The party is at a fancy restaurant!

“A little,” I purred.

“How about stopping at Burger King on the way home. We’ve not had one in awhile.”

“NO THANK YOU!” My voice loud and very even, “I can wait!”

We returned home. By this time I was so angry that I went immediately to the office and slammed the door so hard the house shook. I began writing. Always a source of fending off irritation and disappointment.

Around 5, I saw the UPS truck drive up outside. Here it was! Bless his heart, he had not forgotten, after all. He was just waiting for the gift’s arrival. I watched the UPS man go to the door and I waited … and waited. No word after 15 minutes and I could stand it no longer. I swallowed my pride and slowly strolled into the living room.

“I saw the UPS truck pull up. What did he deliver?”

My husband bent down to pick up an open shoe box by his chair. “These! I ordered them from a catalogue. They are rubber thongs with spikes on the bottom. You wear them while walking around the yard to aerate it!” I quickly marched out of the room — puffs of smoke fuming from both ears — and began thinking divorce lawyer.

Later that night, Melissa called to wish me “Happy Birthday.” Her dad, on the other line, uttered an almost inaudible “Uh-Oh.”

He did try to make it up to me the next day … He went to Wal-Mart early and bought me … ready for this? … a fancy new toaster-oven he’d been wanting.

By the way, those ‘miracle aeration shoes’ were used only once on our steep lot before they were tossed — after he almost tumbled 300 feet down the bluff and into the Colorado River below!

So may I add some hints to husbands out there: (1) Always remember her birthday! (2) Never give her something that is really meant for YOU. And (3) never, EVER give her a gift with an electrical cord attached.

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Brenda Miles is a published author and columnist residing in Hot Springs Village. She may be reached with comments at