Inevitable Birthdays

January 4th, 2009

Today is my birthday.  They just keep coming, year after year; there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it.  But, I guess that’s better than the alternative.

As a kid, I felt cursed because my birthday was so close to Christmas.  I’d get presents on Christmas, then a few days later I’d get more for my birthday.  A very long year followed, with no special occasion requiring people to give me things–or money.  I usually preferred money in lieu of an actual gift, except in cases where the gift was something I really wanted.  Even as a kid, I knew that money talks.

One Christmas–or was it a birthday?–I got a set of toy pistols, with a gunbelt and holsters.  I must have been five or six, but I remember it vividly.  I had made my preference for this particular gift quite clear.  What I had in mind was something a playmate had–realistic looking pistols with a leather gunbelt and holsters.  Looked just like the cool stuff that movie cowboys like Johnny Mack Brown and Lash LaRue had.  What I got were obviously toy pistols and a plastic gunbelt with holsters.  Worst of all, this set had two left holsters and no right holster!  I was sorely disappointed, to say the least.  For all I know, this trauma determined the future course of my life.  But let’s not go there.

And for all you purists out there, I don’t need to hear that Johnny Mack Brown wore only one holster, on his right side.  I know that.  My real hero was the one and only Lash LaRue, the triple-threat of the West who always won the day by defeating the bad guys with his blazing guns and cracking whip, while he won over the ladies with his devastating smile.  I think I liked the last part best, even as a young kid.  I actually met Lash LaRue once, when he came to our little one-horse town to perform on stage between two of his movies.  From what I remember, it was mainly snapping the top off a coke bottle with his whip.  I wondered how you got the honor of holding the coke bottle.  Later, I got to meet him one-on-one, in the theater owner’s office.  I guess he did all the normal stuff a big star does with a kid, but I don’t remember it–all I know is it was awesome.  In later years, I had to wonder how times had gotten so tough that he was there in the first place. 

It’s interesting how your attitude toward birthdays changes as you get older.  When you’re a kid, you wait eagerly for the next one so you can be a year older and more grown-up.  And get gifts.  In the middle years, birthdays are OK because you get more attention from friends and relatives, cool parties, and some gifts.  Maybe even money.  Later on, birthdays are mostly a nuisance, an inconvenient reminder that time is slipping away.  Personally, I’d be just as happy if no one remembered so I could pretend to forget, too.  I think that’s called “denial.”

I hope you don’t think I’m weird for saying this, but I’m always kind of happy to see the Christmas-birthday period over with.  There are some things I like about it, especially decorations in cities and fireworks.  I love fireworks!  (Don’t say anything about the pistols-and-holsters trauma.)  I guess it’s just that once this time ends, life gets back to normal.  The hoopla is over, I can shop in stores without being suffocated in crowds, and I don’t have to think about my birthday for another year.  Maybe that’s the best part.

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9 Responses to “Inevitable Birthdays”

  1. Andrea |

    Happy birthday!

  2. Joseph Durnal |

    My birthday is on the 15th. Still pretty close to Christmas. I used to get off of school on my birthday every year, but then they started observing Martin Luther King Jr. Day on a Monday

    Joseph Durnal’s blog

  3. doris |

    Hmmmm, your Mom’s name, and your hero. Well, a psychaitrist would have fun with that one. Plus, two left holsters, maybe reason you love liberal leftists? Happy Birthday a day late, you older than me old guy! Let’s never mention b-days again, deal?

  4. Kevin |

    Happy birthday, Tom!

    I can relate even though I’m a bit younger. Birthdays lost their magic for me several decades ago. Fortunately I’m not yet a grandparent… So it’s still a wee bit easier to rationalize away the slipping away of time.

    Being somewhat younger I idolized the Matt Dillon character who was the star of Gun Smoke. And while I’m sure I had a capgun at some point, I don’t remember it. What I remember was soaking the rolls of caps in gasoline and setting them off with a hammer blow on the concrete slab of our home’s garage. My parents weren’t yet very concerned, but I imagine they thought back in later years and wished that they had been more concerned. In the current climate I think it’s probably best left at that… 😉

    Again, happy birthday!

  5. Andrea |

    Happy Birthday!

    I totally know how you feel. I never really look forward to my birthday.

  6. Lillie |

    Happy Birthday over the phone with the kids was fun, but I wanted to reply to your article with the exclamation that I LOVE that you were born, “big brother,” and will cherish that day. I have lived my life knowing all was well because I had my older brother to look out for me and come to the rescue always!! I will never forget the bully that couldn’t take my bike away when you showed up on the spot to save the day!! I won’t relate all the incidents, but the latest was when there was crisis in my family about three years ago. You made me get out of bed when I had given up and didn’t want to go on. You told me the family needed me, in a very stern “commander” or “colonel’s orders” tone. I will never forget you nor my sister at that time. Thanks for always being there for me!!

  7. Jan |

    Happy birthday, Tom. I was hoping I could, um, overlook the one, uh, I have coming up, er, too soon.

  8. Tom |

    Jan, I reflected on the fact that you’re a mere three weeks younger than me while I was writing this. I considered taking note of that fact, but in the end decided to be a gentleman. And besides, I figured you might not be a Lash LaRue fan, anyway. Happy Birthday!

    Thanks to all for your kind birthday wishes!

  9. Lisa |

    Happy Birthday Tom!! Mine is coming up, too. I used to look at the calendar to await my birthday. Now I only have to look into the mirror!!!

    Best wishes fellow Capricorn!

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