I recently accepted a challenge to write about a special birthday. I’m guessing the challenger pictured a big childhood party of some kind, but the challenger didn’t know Mama. Making a big to-do over birthdays was so foreign to Mama that the only one of her four girls to have a birthday party was the one who invited her friends and told Mama afterwards that they were coming. She could hardly uninvite them! Her standard celebration was a cake with candles and a new dress while the family sang “Happy Birthday.”
However, my tenth birthday was pretty spectacular for her because she bought into the idea of the decade. She made a special dress she designed herself from fabric bought at the fabric store. (Most often she sewed from the printed feed sacks saved for her by our dairy farmer neighbor’s wife.) The yoke and band at the dress bottom were deep pink with a tab going down on the top and a tab coming up on the opposite side bottom that had three pearly pink buttons each. The body of the dress was a plaid of that same pink and a deep forest green. It was the prettiest dress of my childhood. She went all out on the cake with my favorite butter cream icing and actually decorated the white cake with turquoise icing and turquoise candles. She had no fancy tips for decorating, but just cut the corner off an envelope and squirted through the hole it made. I’ll bet you can guess what my favorite color was at the time.
Maybe being a math teacher gave her some insight, and Mama may have been right about those tens. Each decade seems to have marked a significant point in my life, often with a twist into a new adventure. Twenty came with the early days of our marriage, thirty marked the birth of our last child, forty found us in Germany in our last overseas tour, and so it has gone. As I finish yet another decade this year, I look back and think Mama may have been onto something. Family members who esteem birthdays more than Mama are traveling to Hattiesburg and have planned a celebration that will make the birthday for this decade qualify as another special one. Al will make the cake of my choice (the hardest part since he makes a bunch of good ones). And there will be much anticipation as I look forward to the adventures that a new decade will bring.