As a child, the school holiday break robbed me of the opportunity to hear my classmates sing “Happy Birthday” prior to devouring a huge birthday cake hypothetically hand-delivered to the classroom by my mother. For the most part, family and friends have been too pre-occupied with the countdown to Christmas to put much energy into my little old birthday. Though, I will say that my most loyal friends, and my sweet sister, consistently went out of their way over the years to help me feel as special as possible.
But let’s face it. I was born on the day of the Winter Solstice. It’s the shortest and often dreariest day of the year. Most people are in a bad mood because they aren’t ready for the 25th, they are already tired of out-of-town company, or they are just plain worn out from the holiday hoopla.
Thus, I found ways over the years to celebrate my birthday alone. I learned to actually enjoy my birthdays in solitude. Who doesn’t appreciate some down time?
My favorite birthday ritual is to drive around town soliciting free birthday gifts from local shops and restaurants. After years of practice, my technique is enviable. And the older I get, the harder it I for merchants to say no. I’m that pitiful.
Here is a sample from today’s rounds:
I started at the local car wash, which usually isn’t much of a challenge because they traditionally offer a free wash for birthday guys and gals. But the car wash bay was closed today due to the dang rain. Undeterred, I drove right up to the front door and told the oil change guy I needed to speak to the manager. I was polite but determined. A twenty-something with rhinestone earrings appeared and I explained to him, in my best syrup-of the-South voice, that the highlight of my birthday each year was my free car wash at his establishment. Surely he could give me a rain check? He was new to the business, and a bit stumped because they no longer offer birthday freebies, but I got out of there with coupons in hand for several discounts to be used throughout 2012.
My friend Ashley joined me for my next stop – the nail salon. My last pedicure was probably July, so the toenails were beginning to curl under and my heels could reduce diamonds to dust. I informed the salon owner, a patient man named Tu who has put up with me for years, that it was my birthday and I expected gifts. He offered free floral designs on my big toes. My facial expression prompted him to sweeten the pot. Double stamps on my Frequent Customer Card. Deal closed.
Next stop? Kroger for groceries. My checkout clerk asked me if I wanted to use my senior discount, since it was Wednesday. I asked her how old I had to be to get the senior discount.
“Sixty,” she replied.
I smiled ever so sweetly and told her that today was my birthday and I just turned 54. Did I, by any chance, earn a birthday discount?
You bet I did, because no one in my 'hood gets away with mistaking a 54 year old of being 60. Of course, the entire transaction involved the sweetest of smiles on both sides of the aisle. And that's what I love about the South.
Kill them with kindness and you inherit the world. Or maybe it's merely about getting old enough for people to feel really sorry for you.
Either way, I feel like an extreme birthday coupon queen tonight. Yes, I qualified for a free meal at a local Italian restaurant, and tons of desserts at other eateries. But those freebies always involve servers hovering over you, singing horribly at the top of their lungs, and generally embarrassing everyone.
Besides, my sweet husband-who-happens-to-have-cancer awaited me at home. Surely the ideal birthday begins and ends with his company.