It was shaping up to be an ordinary birthday.
Not that all birthdays aren’t extraordinary, by some measure, but this one was No. 54 — well past the hoopla of 50 and not quite the “double nickels” milestone I’m dreading.
I don’t know why, but 55 seems eons older than 54, doesn’t it? And the “senior” discount at restaurants and movie theaters kicks in at 55. Ack! Who’d have thought a tightwad like me would relish another year of paying full price?
(Note to food servers and ticket takers: When the time comes next year, I refuse — REFUSE — to ask for the “senior” discount. I want the price cut, yes, but please come up with a different word. And don’t make it “silver,” “golden” or “mature,” either. That’s not me; that’s my grandmother. On the plus side, there’s an extra tip in if for you if you ask for my I.D.)
I’d decided to take the day off and made plans to have coffee with friends. After that, I was blissfully unbooked. I would go where the birthday breeze took me, doing nothing or everything, whatever and whenever my whims dictated.
I would keep my expectations low. Birthdays tend to disappoint if anticipation is too great. (December birthdays, especially. After all, who can compete with the birth of Christ? No baby — no matter how adorable — wins a popularity contest over baby Jesus.)
For the rest of the day, I putzed around the house, did some light shopping and enjoyed a deliciously long massage (thanks, Melanie).
Nothing extraordinary, but pleasant enough.
That evening, I opened presents before dinner, in the living room.
Surrounded by my husband and children, I ooh’ed and ahh’ed at their generous tokens of love and appreciation purchased with their own money.
Then it was time to leave for the restaurant of my choice.
“Don’t forget to record the game before we go,” my husband said.
“But, tonight’s ‘Glee’ and ‘Modern Family!’” my daughter replied, sounding anxious. “You can only record two shows at once!”
(We spoke, of course, about the DVR — digital video recorder — technological marvel and saver of marriages.)
“Wait a minute,” I interjected. “What time is tip-off?”
“Seven,” my husband responded. “But, that’s OK. We don’t have to watch the game.”
“WHAT?” my son piped up, as if someone had goosed him with a red-hot poker.
“It’s mom’s birthday,” my spouse of 30 years declared. “We’ll watch what she wants to watch.”
Now, this WAS extraordinary.
Not that my husband hadn’t made huge sacrifices, sports-viewing-wise, since my daughter moved back into the nest. His estrogen-influenced repertoire now includes “Project Runway,” “International Househunters,” “Paula Deen,” “Big Love,” the aforementioned two shows (one about a high school show choir, for heaven’s sake), “Ellen,” and the occasional “Oprah” replay. Oh sure, he’ll steal away into the family room for the occasional football game, but his ESPN quotient is way down, lately.
But, when there’s a KU basketball game on, we watch it. You don’t deprive a fan of his caliber — a fan of a No. 1 team, mind you — of “the game.”
“No, no, no,” I insisted. “I can’t carry that kind of guilt around with me for another year. We’ll choose one show to record, and then we’ll have room for the game. It’s the finale of ‘Glee.’ Let’s record that. I’ll catch ‘Modern Family’ in reruns.”
My daughter heaved the sigh heard ‘round the world.
“Absolutely not,” my husband countered. “This is YOUR birthday. And you should be able to do whatever you want to do. Right, kids?
Birthdays come around only once a year. ‘Glee’ and ‘Modern Family’ it is.”
My son slapped his forehead in frustration.
“Oh, no,” I rebutted. “You haven’t missed a game since, when, 1987?
“That would be like asking you to miss a meal or skip your daily sauna. I appreciate the gesture, but I can’t be held responsible.”
(Was my argument genuine, or was I simply testing his resolve?)
“Discussion over,” he said. “Let’s go to dinner. We’ll come back and watch your shows, as a family. There will be other games…”
As I put on my coat and gathered my gloves, I tried not to notice as my son pulled his father around the corner, ostensibly out of earshot.
“Replay on at 10:30?” the son asked the father.
“Yep,” the father answered. “And there are two TVs at the restaurant.”
An ordinary day, after all.
— Cathy Hamilton is a 53-year-old empty nester, wife, mother and author. She can be reached at can be reached at 832-6319.