March is my favorite month. My birthday is in March, the winter is almost over and the clocks spring forward. What’s not to like?
I was born on my dad’s birthday. Probably not his first choice of a good birthday present but that’s the way it worked out. Even though we shared a birthday, I always remember having my own birthday party with my name on the birthday cake. I still have a photo of my first birthday celebration: Sitting in my highchair with a chocolate cupcake in front of me. Cheeks smeared with chocolate frosting, I appeared very pleased to be the center of attention.
My mom made big celebrations for our birthdays. I remember a few times over those grade school years when my party or my brother’s party had to be cancelled due to snowstorms. The ice-skating party or other special outing had to be postponed. We still received lots of presents and birthday cake.
My Sweet Sixteen birthday stands out because that is the year that my hair caught on fire when I leaned in to blow out the candles. I had planned a low-key birthday party at my house with seven friends from high school. We played records, opened presents (I distinctly remember requesting fun clothes for spring), and put together a “memory” glass souvenir.
But the unplanned highlight of this Sweet Sixteen party was when my parents brought out my birthday cake with candles blazing. My friends and I all gathered around the edge of the dining room table. I leaned over to make a wish and blow out the candles. The next thing I knew, my dad was swatting at my head with a kitchen towel.
Luckily, from where Dad had been standing off to the right side, he saw my long curly brown hair catch on fire from the candle flames. I was startled but not burned. A lock of frizzy hair and the tip of my right eyelashes got singed. My mom was not happy when the acrid smell of burnt hair filled the dining room. We cut the cake and went on with the party, no big deal.
The only birthday celebration that I remember sharing a birthday cake with my dad was the year that Dad turned fifty and I turned twenty-one. We had a big party with lots of guests including my parents’ friends, neighbors, and my group of friends.
Later that evening, I remember sitting in my boyfriend’s lap in a 1960s plastic desk chair. My brother snapped a photograph of us at the exact moment that the chair broke. That photograph captured the surprise on our faces as we fell to the floor.
As an adult living in Manhattan and later residing in Northern Westchester, I usually celebrated my birthday with friends by going out for lunch or dinner. One year, I celebrated my birthday on a trip to Mexico, another year in Vermont.
This is the first birthday in my entire life that my dad is not here for us to wish each other “Happy Birthday.” I miss that life-long connection.
I don’t mind not having a birthday party at a restaurant or a friend’s house this year. We are all being careful and staying healthy. I am celebrating a milestone birthday and I try not to think about the actual number. On a TV commercial, a woman says, “Age is just a number and mine is unlisted!” I like that attitude!
Kim Kovach will be celebrating with chocolate, good books to read and greetings from friends by phone, email and on Zoom! kimkovachwrites.com