I’m sharing another installment of a humor series from my friend Pam Goldman, centering on a woman named Ramona, who tries to help… in her own way. If you’re new to this series: Here’s the previous installment.
Prince Philip and I had little in common, what with him being royalty squared (i.e., a blue blood on two sides, German and Danish and me being, well…a commoner from New Jersey). Who could have predicted our disparate worlds would collide last Saturday, April 17th, the day of his funeral and my birthday.
I don’t mean to imply in any way that the Prince stole my thunder. In fact, I was honored to share the day and I did not resent one bit that millions were watching the proceedings on tv as his life was celebrated. Many were, I’m sure, also hoping to catch a glimpse of the Queen and possibly witness a rapprochement between Prince William and Harry. (Such a shame).
My birthday celebration centered on a long weekend with my family. Heaven on earth. We hadn’t all been together since before the pandemic began so it was my dream come true. Our first morning….Well, here’s what happened.
SCENE: 6:00 a.m. Interior. Hotel room. Room-darkening drapes are drawn open. Sunlight floods the room. RAMONA, a woman of a certain age, sleeps soundly in a Queen-size bed. K., her husband, approaches.
K.: (giving Ramona’s shoulder a little nudge and speaking in a whisper)
Ramona, honey. Happy birthday. I have a surprise for your birthday and I know it’s early but you have to get up now. You have to take a shower now because I hired a hair and makeup person who’s coming at 7 a.m. to do you for a family photo shoot with a professional photographer who’s meeting us at a park at 8 o’clock.
R: (mumbles, eyes closed) What?
K: I know you’d rather sleep in on your birthday but the early morning has the best light, the photographer said. Especially if you’re older.
R: (eyes wide open) Are you serious??!!
K: You need help getting up?
K: Sweetie. Get up!
Actually, it all worked out. I asked the makeup artist to put lots of concealer and glow stick on me so some people might mistake me for J.Lo. Truth to tell, I had no problem whatsoever getting through the morning crowd in the hotel lobby. Not one fan harassed me for an autograph.
Here is my birthday philosophy. Be your own best friend, especially when your birthday rolls around. In addition, be grateful it does roll around because if it doesn’t…well…it would be sad…for everyone but you who would not be cognizant of the fact because…well….you know. Worse than having a birthday is not having a birthday if you get my drift.
Getting undue attention is your due on your birthday so what could be bad? If you like a lot of attention and gifts and praise, trust me, you should embrace your birthday. It only comes once a year so milk it for all it’s worth.
In the good young days when we were kids, birthdays meant parties with your playmates and classmates who flanked you as you reigned at the head of a long rectangular folding table unfolded by your father once a year. You were given a pointy conical cardboard hat which a grownup locked you into with an elastic band under your chin that was too tight and left a mark.
A paper Happy Birthday-themed tablecloth (Cinderella, Minnie Mouse, Howdy Doody) was set with matching paper plates, cups, napkins, and plastic forks. Just north of the plates were little plastic “baskets” with handles, filled with Tootsie Rolls, Hershey’s Kisses, M&Ms, a dry, orange thing shaped like a swollen banana (I hated those), Jujubes and Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy.
My father twisted and intertwined rolls of pink and white crepe paper and hung them on a diagonal from one corner of the ceiling to the other, secured by Scotch tape. He broke down cardboard rolls of multi-colored strips of paper which he unraveled and tossed over the crepe paper to adorn it with festive hanging curlicues.
We played Pin-the-Tail on the Donkey, a game I never understood. Why blindfold small children, arm them with sharp stick pins, spin them round and round until they’re dizzy, then send them off in the direction of other small children? Musical chairs, benign in comparison, sent alpha males careening around empty chairs until the music stopped, at which point they knocked over any diminutive female blocking their seat to victory.
When we were a little older we played Pass the Grapefruit. We were given a grapefruit to grip under our chins and without dropping it, pass it from neck to neck. We carried this game on well into our teens but switched to an orange which inherently presented better conditions for getting closer to the opposite sex.
All of this was the build-up for the main event…the presents!! When it was finally time to unwrap them we ripped off the paper in a frenzy, reducing the beautiful presentations into a pile of rubbish in seconds. In the ‘80s, it became de rigueur to give everyone a Goody bag upon their departure. Could this be where transactional behavior had its roots? When we give we expect to receive? Hmmmmm…
I am still floating on memories made last week with my family in person and at times, with all of the adults vaccinated, unmasked! Favorites among them include simple things, always the best……walking with the whole family to the playground, having a mother/daughters brunch out with my two favorite women, digging in the sandbox with my granddaughters, baking chocolate cupcakes with them (from scratch), painting their collection of rocks on the kitchen floor, reading “The Water Protectors” to the older one who was happy to sign and date The Water Protector’s Pledge on the last page, chasing after them on their pink and purple scooters, seeing what delightful little human beings they are thanks to their wonderful parents.
Ordinary miracles make me glow.
So now I’ve been ___years old for a week. I’m trying it on for size. Not a perfect fit yet. Unlike new jeans that have to s-t-r-e-t-c-h to feel comfy, I guess it’s me who’ll have to do the stretching to feel comfy with this because this is not returnable.
I think I’ll just be grateful.
The above essay was written before the verdict was announced convicting the police officer who “kneed” the life out of George Floyd. I am more hopeful for a future where those who fight for racial justice and economic and educational equity for all people far outnumber those who oppose what is just and right and fair.