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Born On the 3rd of July

Happy Birthday to ME!!

Someone had a birthday this week. Can you guess who?

It’s me!

You were thinking, “It was July 4th, America’s birthday.”

True, but the day before the United States whooped it up, I rang in my mumble-mumble-ieth birthday (no need for the actual number here.) And you can’t celebrate America’s birthday without ME!

When I was a kid, this auspicious birth date was a bit of a burden. It’s not quite like having a Christmas birthday, but families go on summer vacations, and my friends weren’t always around.

It didn’t matter. I was limited to how many could fit in the car. My dad would strap two or three kids into each seatbelt in the backseat of his Chrysler New Yorker. I sat up front, between my parents, and we drove to Howard Johnson’s for hot dogs and chocolate cake and then to Hoffman’s Playland, a small amusement park.

Now that I think of it, too bad more kids couldn’t come. The yacht-sized Chrysler’s backseat could have fit ten children.

I always brought an eager/cry-if-I-want-to energy to my childhood parties. When I was 5, I was enthusiastically gathering my friends to load up the Chrysler when I tripped in the driveway and fell on my knee. I bawled all the way to HoJo’s. The bloody scrape took most of the summer to heal. I still have the scar.

On my 7th birthday, I burst into tears when Howard Johnson’s mistakenly served a coconut cake instead of chocolate. Both my mother and HoJo’s were unsympathetic to my claims that the fluffy white cake was inedible. The “coconut cake incident” has also scarred me for life.

Hoffman’s Playland was on a tiny lot and had a merry-go-round, and pewee rollercoaster. For older kids they had the Scrambler, which delightfully whipped us from side to side as it spun. Whenever I have one of my current bouts of benign positional vertigo, I feel like I felt when I climbed off the Scrambler. I love it.

Hoffman’s also had the Paratrooper. Kids had to be either 10 years-old or a certain height to ride. I’m still not tall enough to ride it today. On my 10th birthday, I had to get my friends to vouch for my age. I was so desperate to go on it, if I could have, I would’ve gotten a fake ID.

These days, my celebrations have fewer fireworks. I like to go to the beach or play golf. Then Mr. Hockey and whatever pucks are around make me a steak dinner, while I enjoy cocktails on the back porch.

To avoid the coconut cake incident, I decree what cake shall be served. For a while I was asking for chocolate cupcakes, with the amount corresponding to my age. This year, we’d need a bakery to store the mumble-mumble number of cupcakes.

Now I get a Carvel Fudgie the Whale ice cream cake. With extra crunchies.

Around mid-June, Mr. Hockey and the pucks start asking me what I want for my birthday. I usually ask for world peace, but jewelry is also nice.

In May, Mr. Hockey gave me a Nespresso as an early birthday present. I had been unsuccessfully making stove-top espresso with a knock-off Bialetti someone probably bought while in the checkout line at TJ Maxx. You know, from that impulse-buy maze on the way to the register, where they sell cheap, highly combustible phone chargers, off-brand caramel popcorn in decorative tins, and pulsating shower heads?

Anyway, my knock-off, stove-top, impulse-buy, TJ Maxx espresso maker wasn’t working, and it made me cranky. Mr. Hockey was tired of my complaints and bought me the Nespresso.

It was a very thoughtful gift. However. He gave it to me six weeks before my birthday.

I’m not a fan of early birthday presents. I want to open my gifts day-of, at the kitchen table with my non-coconut cake next to me. Having said that, I’ve had six additional weeks of decent espresso and Mr. Hockey got six additional weeks of me not complaining about bad espresso. Whom was this early gift really for?

To Mr. Hockey’s chagrin, I have plenty to complain about. For one thing – and remember numbers aren’t important here – I just turned mumble-mumble years old and my body is deteriorating. I can whine all day about my arthritic knees, failing memory, and weak bladder.

Unrelated to my decaying body, but equally as annoying: women’s clothes have fewer pockets than men’s and when they do, the women’s pockets are smaller. Once again illustrating that women do not have equal rights.

Have I mentioned that I was served a coconut birthday cake when I was 7?

Also, we still don’t have world peace, and I ask for it every year!

I have more than enough complaints to fill the void created by my new-found ability to make a drinkable cup of latte at home. There’s no peace for Mr. Hockey.

Was it a good birthday? I can’t complain.

(I don’t actually know. The deadline for this column was last week.)

As I write, my weather app is predicting 80 degrees on my birthday. A couple of the pucks and some friends will visit. Maybe I’ll play golf and go to the beach. We’ll have cocktails, steak, and a Fudgie the Whale cake with extra crunchies. There won’t be a coconut cake for miles.

Let’s assume it was a great birthday. After all, I don’t ask for much.

Published in The East Hampton Press on July 6, 2023

Photo by ME!!

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