Friday, March 14, 2014
The first time I helped Jim celebrate his birthday he turned 20. We’d been dating for three months and I gathered our friends for a pot luck celebration in the party room on my college campus, just across the highway from his. Unbelievably, to me, that was six decades ago. Before that Indiana get-together, he’d been blowing out his yearly candles mostly in his Augusta, Georgia, hometown. After that college party, locales went viral.
This is thanks to the Air Force’s penchant for transferring fighter crews around the world every couple of years. I’ve bought candles in Texas, California, Cape Cod and other parts of New England, up and down our east coast, in Hawaii, throughout Europe, including Dublin, London, Paris and Rome. And best of all, Summerville.
Our plans are to celebrate his birthday all year. (Hey! You don’t reach this special number but once!) Our extended family doesn’t’ know this yet, but we want to be sure to meet up with each and every one of the Hill family relatives – all the way down to the “great-greats” – from now till March 2015. This means we’ll be connecting with them right here as well as in Columbia, Myrtle Beach and in Georgia, both Savannah and Augusta.
We’ll probably do a little private celebrating with at least a twist of the auld sod included. We share a rich Irish heritage from both sets of grandparents who emigrated from places like Galway and Cork. In April of 2000 our family celebrated Jim’s belated birthday touring across Ireland. As Jim shares his special month with St Patrick, I’m sure there will be a leprechaun or two in attendance, as well as perhaps a bit of the creature.
His most famous inter-family birthday quirk is his cake. It’s chocolate. When I say that, don’t you picture the cake part of the cake as being a nice rich brown chocolate? Not Jim. His definition has always been a yellow cake with chocolate icing. We haven’t been able to convert him. Besides, you ought to be able to pick out your own birthday desert, right? I asked him the other day if he could name one of his favorite birthday celebrations. The clever devil assured me that one which came to mind immediately was the time we spent a romantic weekend on Kiawah. It was also filled with humor as we still laugh about all the wardrobe preparations I made to have just the right outfit for anything and left those special clothes hanging in the front hall in Summerville .I wore the same denim skirt with a different top from my suitcase for everything. And the only person who noticed was me.
Every time Jim thinks about this birthday number, he shakes his head in disbelief, and says he can hardly say it, much less write it down. So I won’t do it either. But I think he’s secretly proud of it. And I am too. I can’t tell you how much it means to have shared so many natal days with him. That special one we celebrated on that beautiful island was his 50th, a mere 30 years ago.
“I never thought I’d be this age,” he tells me. And I never thought I’d one day be kissing an octogenarian. To your health, honey. Or as the Irish say: Slainte!