Happy forty-first birthday to me! Competing with the savior of humanity on the last week of the year has never been easy. Most years, there’s been no contest between the observed celebration of Jesus’ birth and the date of my actual birth. But the second half of my growing up years were the worst in terms of how I saw my birthday. From ’78 to ’87, there were two Happy Birthdays for me: one in ’79, and one in ’85. The one that occurred twenty-five years ago, I’d rather forget.
My sixteenth birthday, the twenty-seventh of December, was the first time since I turned nine that anyone bothered to give me a cake. This was a spontaneous decision, as I sat around 616 all day with little to do but watch after my younger siblings. Mom and Maurice agreed to buy me a birthday cake. Since it was my abusive stepfather’s money, I didn’t want any cake. I especially didn’t want the Carvel ice cream cake he thought I should have. I mean, it was a cold last Friday in December day, and all he could come up with was ice cream cake?
The kicker was that I had to go get the cake. It was my birthday, but I had to leave 616, catch the 7 bus to Prospect, get off at Waldbaum’s and walk over to the empty Carvel store to buy a chocolate ice cream cake with a huge vanilla ice cream coating. I bought it and brought it home so we could celebrate me turning sixteen.
I wasn’t thankful for this assignment, and it showed. I had two bites before my older brother Darren and my younger siblings devoured the rock-hard dessert. I wished that Maurice would just go somewhere and die. Not a violent death or one that I had to be the cause of. Just a death that he deserved, like a massive coronary blockage due to a diet rich in saturated fats.
About a week ago, I told my seven-year-old son this story. Or at least, an exaggerated, funny and much less painful fictionalized version of it. I made my ex-stepfather into Jabba the Hutt, and my Carvel ice cream cake into a small square boulder that was painted white. At one point in the story, I told Noah that I hit my stepfather in the head with a piece of the cake, “knocking him out cold.” I made it so that my siblings ate the cake like Shaggy and Scooby ate Scooby Snacks after solving a case, with tongues circling their faces and licking off the excess to boot.
Noah just laughed and laughed throughout. I just hope that he finds something to laugh about when he finally hears the real story.