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Texas | Columns | "Quips and Salsa"

Happy birthday cake to me


by Jase Graves
Jase Graves

Depending on when you're reading this, my 52nd birthday is/was on April 20th, which, as my dad still loves to remind me, is the same day as Adolf Hitler's. As a child, I remember thinking that 52 was an age that might be reached by an elderly Galapagos tortoise or a giant redwood tree — certainly not a human.

My age really hits me when I'm watching a sporting event and realize that I'm now older than practically all professional athletes (other than a few bowlers). I guess I can cross that off my list of things to worry about. No more pressure there.

Birthdays are weird things to celebrate. After all, the person receiving the benefits of the celebration didn't really do anything, other than put another human being through extreme discomfort for several months, culminating in a few hours of drug-induced agony — and not just for the father. And if we're all honest, we would admit that the actual delivery isn't pretty, either — lots of crying, moaning and sometimes cursing — also not just from the father
Apparently, I was almost born in the car on the way to the hospital, so any screaming probably had to do with my dad's driving.

One of my fondest memories from my early childhood in the 1970s is of an Easter-themed birthday party my parents organized. There were plastic eggs packed with jelly beans, miniature baskets full of candy, homemade bunny ears for the kids to wear, and lots of plaid polyester. It was a simpler time then — full of childhood innocence and questionable fashion choices.

These days, my birthdays prompt bouts of contemplation (especially from my wife) about what I'm going to do with the rest of my life. I'm really too old to drive a Harley or sports car without being held up to ridicule on someone's TikTok video. I'm not interested in the pain or expense required for an array of tattoos. And a new obsession with golfing, fishing, hunting or any other physical activity just sounds exhausting. Besides, I recently threw out my back tying my shoe, so I'm thinking mixed martial arts is probably out of the question, too.

Maybe I'll really lean into my favorite hobbies of marathon snoozing or competitive eating. (I'm not actually a competitive eater, but I sometimes pretend I am, especially when cake is involved.)

And speaking of cake, the highlight of most of my birthdays has been a special multi-layered strawberry cake that my sweet mother makes for me. The cake is large enough to share with the entire family, but I always warn my three daughters that the cake is held together with dangerously sharp toothpicks — and they may or may not be used.

And then there's the singing involved with birthdays. I don't mean to be a grouch, but doesn't "The Birthday Song" get a bit tiresome? "Happy Birthday to you" is repeated three times! It's as if it's intended for a person with short-term memory loss. If I make it to 90 years old, I'm sure I'll appreciate it more, but in the meantime . . .

What was I saying, again?

Once the singing is mercifully finished, then comes the pressure of blowing out the candles in one breath without sputumizing all over the dessert.

In the age of COVID, is blowing on cake even still a "thing"? Or has it gone by the wayside along with other forbidden activities — like shaking hands, kissing babies and enjoying life in general?

Seriously, though, I really am grateful that God has given me another year to annoy my wife, children, and pets. I also want to thank everyone who thinks enough of me to fill in that automated birthday greeting when the Facebook algorithm reminds you once a year that the weirdo from high school or the relative whose lineage you question is still alive.

I'll remember it always, or at least until I eat the last piece of strawberry cake and take off my bunny ears.


Jase Graves
"Quips and Salsa" 4-18-22 column



Jase Grave's "Quips and Salsa" columns
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