One year my birthday fell on a Sunday and at the age of ten, I had no idea what trouble my mother went to to pull off what I asked for that year.
I wanted to eat Sunday dinner at home. I was tired at eating at Luby’s. I asked my mother to fry chicken and make mashed potatoes and cream gravy, English peas, and my favorite lime green jello salad that she made every Thanksgiving and Christmas just for me. Hardly anyone else liked it and that was just fine by me.
And I wanted Scotch chocolate cake with writing and scalloped frosting on the sides like every good birthday cake should have.
Friends came over to eat dinner with us in the dining room. She would’ve had to place the leaves in the table to accommodate everyone, set the specially made pads on the table to protect the wood, and then cover it with the green table cloth that I loved. The one that was only used for very special occasions.
I have no idea what time she had to get up that morning to fry all that chicken before we went to church, because it only took a matter of minutes to sit down to heaven on a plate after we got home. At a table set with her best silver, no less.
What took the most time was putting on the party hats.
It had already been a special day. I’d walked up to the song leader at church and informed him that it was my birthday and that I’d like to sing 304 – “Count Your Many Blessings,” 306 – “Trust & Obey,” and 261 – “Send the Light” that morning during the service. If it wasn’t too much trouble.
He led every one of those songs and winked at me before beginning each one.
And that was before any presents were opened. I believe that was the year I asked for a trench coat and a briefcase so that I could be a ‘spy.’
The presents that had been purchased and wrapped long before that afternoon.
All those birthday requests made a kid feel like the most important person in the world. And in that place, to those people, I was.
In the later years of my mom’s life we used to ask her what she wanted for her birthday.
“Peace and quiet and everybody to get along,” she’d say.
That’d be just fine with me, too. Along with some of her gravy.