My husband turned 40 recently. Forty is one of those milestone birthdays that shouldn’t pass by unremarked. I started planning back in June. I commissioned a very talented wood worker to make a custom box to hold my husband’s playing card collection. I asked for 10 drawers that could each hold 10 decks each. It turned out beautiful! And also much bigger than I expected. So the Saturday before his birthday, I took him to the gentleman’s shop to pick it up. To my relief (the price tag was not trivial and thanks to Dave Ramsey, I couldn’t hide the price tag), he loved it. Success!
But getting an awesome gift a few days before your birthday does not mean that you are ok with your birthday just passing by like any other day. Unfortunately, I was sick all week. Already prone to be self-centered, when I get sick, I become completely engrossed in me and only me. Pitiful me. Sick me. ‘Please pamper me’ me.
So even though we had discussed birthday dinner plans the day before, when I woke up the day of, it was just another miserable, I-wish-I-didn’t-have-to-get-out-of-bed drag toward the end of the week. We did our usual routines. He took the kids to school. Since I was still dragging, I was home when he got home. I hugged him before I left. He seemed unhappy about something. I didn’t know what.
I was at the end of our street when I remembered our evening plans, which reminded me that I had just left my husband without wishing him a happy birthday. And, worse, I had failed to remind our children so they could give him a hearty Happy Birthday before they went to school. I was late to work but I U-turned at the intersection.
Back home, I hung my head and said I was so sorry. Since he was on the couch, I knelt down in front of him to give him a hug and wish him a Happy Birthday. He smiled and said, “Well, I almost made it to 8:00 without anyone wishing me a Happy Birthday!”
He proceeded to have a rotten, too-busy, non-satisfying kind of day. When he called me late in the afternoon, it was obvious he was overwhelmed. I thought about how he made a cake for my birthday. I had no plans for him. No cake. No card. He had told me that morning that we weren’t going to go out to eat after all because we really needed to fix the pork chops that had been marinating for several days. No favorite restaurant.
Help! I begged a friend via email. I need to do something special for his birthday but I can’t think of anything that’s not food! He’s not eating chocolate and he’s on a health kick, so I don’t want to necessarily do any dessert but what can I do?!
She suggested a fruit parfait, which sounded great. I stopped at the dollar store to purchase some cheap glasses to hold the individual servings. I went to the grocery store for the fruit and yogurt. While there, I picked out two Mylar balloons and a bouquet of brightly colored flowers with glitter sprinkled over them. One of the balloons had a phrase making it clear the recipient was getting on in the years. The other had Phineus and Ferb on it. I smiled at the thought of the confusing signals I was sending anyone trying to decipher my purchases.
When I got to the car, I thought to myself, I need to tie down these balloons somehow so they don’t blow away when I open the hatch at home. Spying the car seat L.A.T.C.H. system on the back of the seat, I threaded the ribbons through it and then wrapped it around the plastic cover a few times. Perfect, I thought.
I left the kids at another friend’s house and hurried home to assemble the parfait. When I opened the hatch on the back of the car, I noticed that the bag with the food and flowers had fallen over. I wondered whether I should pick that up first or grab the balloons. Better safe than sorry, I thought and reached for the balloon ribbons. As I began to pull them loose, I thought to myself, Wow. They are really securely wrapped around there. I think I can go ahead and grab the bag first instead.
At that point, I let go of the now-loosened ribbons to gather up the bag. I had the dollar store bag in my right hand and almost had the grocery store bag secure in my left when I noticed that the ribbons were very quickly snaking out of their hold.
“No! No! No!” I called out as I grabbed for the ribbons with the already occupied right hand. I succeeded in catching one ribbon, but the other continued to slither away. I reached high with my left hand, grocery tote bag hampering the movement. I just barely missed it. Fearful of breaking the glasses or accidentally losing the secured balloon if I attempted to drop the bags, I ran around the side of the car toward the floating balloon, clutching the two bags and one balloon.
I jumped and jumped, reaching with my left hand, but barely missed the tail of the ribbon as the balloon gained altitude and floated over the house. I stood still for a moment and watched its progress, hoping that maybe, just maybe, it’d get snagged in the tree behind the house. No luck.
With a sigh and a shrug and some paranoia about possibly losing the other balloon while digging for my house keys, I entered the house. At least I still had the Phineus and Ferb balloon.
The parfait assembly was uneventful, and then I remembered that I wanted to put candles in his. Digging through my box of birthday “stuff”, I found a 4, a couple of 1’s, a 6, and a broken 9. No zero. Well, I thought, the broken 9 looks like a 0 now, so… ok. Done. I’ll use the 4 and broken 9 for 40.
After secretly assembling everything, I left the house just as he pulled into the driveway. I hustled him into the car and took him and the kids out to eat at his favorite restaurant. Pork chops, be damned. This was the third time to eat out that week though, which means we’ll have to not eat out anymore this month to keep our budget, but hey, he’d had a bad day.
Of course, he had somewhere to be shortly after dinner, so we ran home with just enough time for him to see the balloon, hear the story, blow the candles out of his parfait, listen to Hal throw a fit about not blowing out candles, relight the candles, watch Hal blow them out, and then head out again. The kids ate their parfait while finishing up homework. Hal spirited the balloon away to his bedroom. I waited for my husband to return so we could eat our parfaits together. But neither were hungry enough to finish it.
Before long, we adjourned to the bedroom where we played some Words With Friends before turning out the lights. I guess I didn’t totally botch the birthday, but I certainly made a valiant effort.