"Nothing Like a December Birthday"
My birthday is December 2. Yea Me! The circus animals that you see above are the closest I could find to the little plastic animals that my mom put on every birthday cake. It's funny to think of it now - but I don't think we EVER got a cake from a bakery. I'm not sure they had bakeries back then! Every year mom would ask what kind of cake I wanted and what kind of frosting. She'd whip it up and next thing you know - she was opening that kitchen cabinet. On the top shelf were the circus animals for the birthday cake along with the cake candles which had been reused since Moses' 13th birthday. Small little nubs of candles - but we'd blow 'em out quick and use them for the next birthday....
When I was a bit older, I remember going to Laria's shop and buying trick candles that I put on my dad's birthday cake. You know - the candles that light themselves right back up after you blew them out.. The only way to actually put them out was to dunk them in water....
I've got to talk about Phil Laria's shop for just a second. He had the coolest shop on the corner of Main and Water streets in Torrington. His shop was "eclectic", and had the kinds of things that a pre-teen kid would LOVE! He had jokes and gags and magic tricks and model cars and planes. I got my Estes Rocket kits from Phil as well. He had all the little paints and glues for all kinds of crafts. Every October, his shop had rubber masks for Halloween that were - spectacular! And in the back of the shop was an "adult only" section that had REALLY GREAT STUFF. Four or five of us would go into his shop. One of us would keep him busy at one end of the shop while the rest of us took turns sneaking into the back to see the stuff behind the curtain. OH MY GOODNESS!!!!!
Having a December or January birthday (for those of you that have birthdays the other 10 months of the year and don't know...) is terrible. Since Christmas is within 30 days, there is NO WAY you get the same amount of stuff that "normal" kids would get in - say June! My wife's birthday is January 2nd and she said that she was always robbed of good birthday presents because "WELL, YOU JUST HAD CHRISTMAS". My parents played it the other way and said things like: "Well, if you get your big present now, you won't have anything under the tree - and you don't want that, do you?"
There would usually be one game or a toy and don't forget the clothes. Just what a kid wants - a new sweater... Ugh... But my favorite gift would always be a book. I was a voracious reader as a kid, and my mom always encouraged that. I think one of the best things I ever got was a subscription to THE HARDY BOYS books. Every month, a new Hardy Boys Mystery would show up at the house. I would grab that thing and read it cover to cover within a day. On the two days each week that our town library was open, I'd max out my library card (5 books was all that Mrs. Tingley would let us have at a time). Those five books turned over about every week or so.
There was something magical on your birthday when you finished dinner, and begged for the cake. Everyone would turn out all the lights and my mom would lite the birthday cake candles in the back room. Everyone would sing as that cake was carried out like a trophy. At the end of THE BIRTHDAY SONG - you were encouraged to make a wish - and not tell ANYONE what it was. If you blew out the candles on the first try - then your wish would come true.
I'm sure that as a kid, I wished for.... stuff. Toys and books and bikes and more stuff. Now that I'm all grown up (yes - this happened within the past year)... I don't wish for anything. I already have everything that I could ever want - an amazing wife, a great family that loves each other, friends that would accompany me to the ends of the earth if I needed them to...
Two months ago - Maria bought me the one thing that I had always wanted since I was a kid reading the comic strips - a wrist radio / TV like Dick Tracy had. It's now called an Apple Watch. Who woulda thunk! OK. Truth be told - I always wanted a jetpack as well.... but we can wait on that!
Thanks for being part of my gang... I love writing this little snippets every week of an amazing life.