Oh, my God, how wonderful that Jesus loved people, and they loved Him. He was and is a party Person. OMG, I’m glad, because we’re going to celebrate His birthday at four — count them, four — different parties this week alone!
I do see her point, however. August boasts no holidays — not even a fake holiday like St. Patrick’s Day. Nobody throws big parties on the eve of August 1, as they do in January.
The hotter the weather, the more we chill. Dressing up is wearing matched right and left flip-flops. Days pass before we turn the calendar page.
When we do, though, a tiny tadpole of awareness wiggles into our days.
It’s August. Something’s different.
August presents an end-of-summer reality check. I purchased a “miracle” swimsuit in May. Now I realize the only miracle is that I paid big bucks for it.
August affects mothers in peculiar ways. They buy pencil boxes, though no one in human history has ever proved pencil boxes serve a useful purpose. Kids talk Mom into buying cool new backpacks, though 23 uncool backpacks languish at home.
Mothers also obsess about imminent changes in schedules: “Go to bed now so you’ll be ready when school starts.” My mother, who had five kids, did this. As of August 1, we went to bed at 4:00 p.m.
Even the sun listens to Mom and retires earlier in August. Yet during daytime, it unfurls golden rays as if leading an everlasting summer, ticker-tape parade. While eating home-grown, ice-cold watermelon in the backyard, we experience a different kind of reality check:
It’s been a great summer.
By August, every able-bodied person in the Midwest has ridden a Ferris wheel and consumed a warm, crisp elephant ear.
While still recovering from that gathering of DNA-related strangers known as a family reunion, we rendezvoused with cousins who long ago sneaked into drive-ins with us. We kissed sweet baby kin’s brand-new cheeks and gave grandmas and grandpas a smile.
In August, homeowners stop vying for the Yard of the Year. Instead, we concede the grand champion ribbon to God for His spectacular pastures of goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace and Sweet Williams.
He treats us to evening concerts by cicada choirs that sing their best in August. Fireflies, now veteran presenters, perform spectacular light shows at dusk with few technical glitches.
Whether we own farms or only farmers’ tans, the ripe cornucopia of gardens, tasseled cornfields and leafy rows of soybeans reassure us: After harvest, we will celebrate with plenty of food on our tables.
All during August — the not-so-special month.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What do you like best about August?
Though I never would have told him, my eight-year-old grandson resembled a cherub, with blond, adorably mussed hair and big blue eyes.
Instead of wings and a halo, however, a choir T-shirt, jeans and tennis shoes betrayed terrestrial origins. Fifty other similarly-clad choir “angels” appeared equally earthbound.
A couple possessed wild hair that defied mom-smeared pomades. Some faces betrayed streaks of hastily gulped suppers.
All had practiced at 7:15 a.m. for weeks. They weren’t even paid overtime.
Weary, yet eager parents awaited the first song. Sleeping babies hung around necks like 15-pound ornaments. Surrounded by tantrum-throwing toddlers and texting teens, these mothers and fathers still showed up to support their kids.
With the first tuneful voices, quiet spread like a sweet epidemic.
Grandparents sucked in the children’s fresh melodies, a Fountain of Youth elixir. We wouldn’t trade these seats for any in Carnegie Hall.
People behind me might have preferred that, too.
So whispered my daughter as she yanked me down.
“But those grandmas do it.” I pointed toward other seniors, poking up through the crowd like prairie dogs.
She hissed, “If you don’t sit, no ice cream.”
Gasp! I obeyed.
An older choir, wearing favorite team hats, sang a spirited rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
They even sang harmony. If only someone would send these kids to Chicago to do the seventh-inning stretch.
When the third-grade choir strutted their vocal stuff, they sang a memorized song in German. On key, even — unlike many restaurant servers who attempt “Happy Birthday.”
But my grandson’s choir gave me fresh hope that good singing won’t become a lost art.
So did his director, who with gentle, iron words and sweeping gestures, inspired beauty in a hundred kids. Plus, she kept them from killing each other.
Thank God for my little choir boy, who patiently endured a photo op afterward. His great-grandparents sang as they worked, played and prayed. Ditto for grandmas and grandpas, who grew up harmonizing with their families in the car and singing in school and church choirs. So did his golden-voiced daddy and mama.
Maybe, as I did in the past, this little guy will strike deals with fellow servers, earning extra tips when he solos on “Happy Birthday” to diners.
Surely, more applause will await him in his musical future as he shares the song in his heart —helping other hearts sing, too.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What were your favorite grade-school songs?
Birthday cakes boast a long, illustrious history. According to the Huffington Post, Greeks and Romans commemorated births of gods and men with candle-lit cakes. As wine flowed freely at birthday feasts, the honoree occasionally set his robe/toga on fire.
Birthday cake traditions still are regarded as sacred. Abstainers offend the family/office/church Cake Queen. (Watch your back, or she may stuff you into her oven.)
So, for survival reasons, I eat birthday cake. Thankfully, lighted candles suck out all calories.
On my upcoming birthday, however, I will indulge in raspberry pie. À la mode? Of course, à la mode. Do you think I’m an idiot?
Don’t answer that. You, either, Hubby.
Obviously, this crucial subject demands discussion. Though my sweet tooth welcomes sugar, regardless of origin or creed, I have always liked pie best, especially my mother’s — fruit-plump, with ambrosial juices bubbling through golden, flaky crusts.
As a child, I even loved reading about pie. Almanzo Wilder, in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy, reverently scanned hundreds at a county fair: “When he began to eat pie, he wished he had eaten nothing else.”
Mom would have made me birthday pies, if I’d dared request them. But tradition ruled. I blew candles out on cakes.
Pie Heaven does exist on this earth. My brother not only married a woman who bakes the world’s best peanut butter pie, he practices optometry where Amish patients gift him with luscious offerings. Amazingly, he once shared his birthday shoofly pie with me … which made me suspicious. Had he stuck bananas up my Ford’s tailpipe? Informed the IRS I never had the three children I claimed? Volunteered me for a ten-year mission in the Sahara? I still wonder. …
Some opponents caution that deviating from the cake custom opens the door to chaos. Only at one’s wedding does one deal with cake-in-the-face. But birthday pie increases pie-in-the-face risks exponentially.
And their point is?
When globs of luscious pie are within licking distance, who cares about my hair? Some people should get their priorities straight.
Did you hear that, Almanzo? I know you’d bravely take a pie in the face. And choose birthday pie, too.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Which would you choose? Birthday pie or cake? Which kind?
O my God, Thank You for my dad, who starts each day with a booming, bass chorus of “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Yet this past week, when I traveled to celebrate his 90th birthday, he extended his usual greeting: “So . . . how much weight have you gained this time?”
Thank You that this Monday morning, I’m back home, a thousand miles away. But OMG, how I miss my reverent, rascally dad!
O my God, To me, this Texas rental car’s console resembles that of a Star Wars fighter ship. So nice when Hubby handles these things. But he is safe and sound at home — unlike the interstate drivers around me. OMG, may your guardian angels and insurance angels watch over us all.
I know exactly where to find ice cream in my hometown. So do thousands of academics, farmers, ball teams, Bible study ladies and motorcycle gangs.
Ivanhoe’s has served area ice cream addicts for decades.
So that evening I forced myself to leave Hubby and the others — hoisting a piano above their heads — to seek a grocery.
Consulting his phone, Hubby gave me directions, then bowed his head and prayed. “At least, we’ll see each other in heaven.”
Okay, so I needed 13 tries to navigate endless roundabouts. By time I found the address, I had viewed the outskirts of Louisville, Chicago and Japan.
I finally found Hubby’s designated grocery store.
It had not yet opened for business.
Sitting in the store’s soon-to-be-blacktopped parking lot, I realized my family could have moved the White House’s contents since I left.
I reached for my cell phone … that I’d left at home.
A vision of my grandson, stuck-out lip quivering with disappointment, gave me courage to try again.
I would accomplish my mission the old-fashioned way, like my father before me.
His method? Pick a direction and trust God to lead to a store/motel/gas station/restrooms.
I found auto repair shops, upscale tattoo parlors, and … marinas. In Indianapolis?
Like Dad, I tried one more road … that led to a health food store.
Desperate, I entered and found ice cream!
Soy cranberry and papaya bark.
In despair, I sank to the floor.
Then spotted it on the bottom shelf:
Not carob. Not tofu. Not even yogurt.
I bought it and arrived as the last piece of furniture was moved into place. Not even Hubby possessed the energy to roll his eyes.
Smiles that reigned as our grandson blew out candles morphed into frowns as I plopped ice cream on pieces of cake.
“It’s not healthy,” I promised. “Honest.”
“Yes, it is.” My other grandson pointed to the label. “It says this ice cream came from healthy cows.”
“Taste it,” I pleaded. “Real chocolate chips, see?”
My family is nothing, if not broadminded — especially when starved.
Smiles returned. Birthday Boy ate two big helpings.
Everyone needs character-building tests, challenges that demand their all.
But I’m glad my usual ice cream quest requires only a three-block walk to Ivanhoe’s — without a single roundabout — to choose from 100 sundaes.
Now, there’s a challenge. …
Where does your favorite ice cream quest lead you?
Today, my birthday eyes me from the calendar like a big dog craving a cheeseburger.
When did the magic disappear?
When I was little, February dragged in slow-mo. But TV’s Captain Kangaroo always sang and dedicated a candle-laden cake on my special day. (That he serenaded thousands of kids born in March didn’t occur to me.)
Mom asked what I would like for dinner. No washing dishes! I received gifts, including my first bicycle at age 11.
Hiking the distance to my magical 16th birthday took forever. Not only would I drive then, but pimples would vanish, and long-overdue curves would appear.
The next day, still cursed with a negative bust measurement, I suffered the first inklings of cynicism.
Five years later, even with girlfriends celebrating and 21 roses arriving from my long-distance fiancé, a cold, adult realization icicled the hoopla.
Birthdays wouldn’t stop.
When I turned 30, Hubby tried to soften the blow with a pretty plant — cheaper than roses. Our baby refrained from puking on me that day, though she refused to skip diaper changes.
Three children steered birthdays toward a new frontier of McDonald’s parties, giggly sleepovers and laser-tag wars. Years before, I didn’t think I’d live until my birthday. Now I hoped I would survive theirs.
The year my husband and I turned 40, birthday carolers wearing pajamas serenaded us. They brought a beautifully decorated cemetery cake, complete with a figure crawling out of a grave.
Hubby served on a board that accidentally established a unique birthday tradition. During a meeting, someone arranged for a cake to celebrate a new member’s birthday. The guy’s surprise was even bigger than we anticipated, as his birthday would not arrive for months. We had so much fun that wrong-day bashes for new members became a yearly ritual.
Years sprinted past, and my birthdays faded in favor of grandchildren’s head-splitting, joyous celebrations.
Not long ago, I changed decades. Immersed in a writing project, I barely looked up from my desk. A birthday only meant I was growing older, fatter and weirder.
Upon arrival, we didn’t see his car. I kidded, “Hope they remember they asked us.”
Hubby smiled as he opened the door. Our children and their spouses hugged me. All the grandkids. And dear friends, gifts unmatched by any they could bring.
Birthday magic was back. Better than ever.
Has growing older proved magical for you lately?