I'll proudly punctuate the end of this week with another birthday. Grammy taught me that you celebrate the week or even the entire month of your birthday if you think you can get away with it. I've always thought I could get away with it -- so much so that I start celebrating when the expiration date on the milk hits March.
I know some folks who don't acknowledge their birthdays at all, as though this will keep them younger. Not me. You say I've made it above ground and around the sun again? Honey, give me a medal!
Every birthday is special in its own right, but when I'm asked if I have a favorite, there's always one that comes to the front of the line. And it started out about as badly as a birthday can get.
I was turning 6 years old -- a fact that seemed lost on my parental units. They were still married to one another at the time, and they were big into bowling. I mean BIG. Whatever you're thinking, double it. You'd have thought they were on the Pro Bowlers Tour the way they rosined their hands, polished their bowling balls and never missed league night.
Balls raced down the lanes. Pins dropped to thunderous applause. Everyone was in high spirits. Well, almost everyone.
My parents' only child sat alone in a booth behind a half-wall that separated the lockers from the lanes. A 10-year-old boy -- whose parents had also left to him to his own devices -- sat down occasionally when he ran out of quarters for playing pinball. I didn't have a quarter, and I couldn't see over the pinball table anyway. We'd stare at our parents, then stare into space. If we were in a contest to see who looked more pitiful, I was not about to let him win.
Working the concession stand was a stunningly beautiful 16-year-old girl with a name that suited her: Darla Birdsong. Her eyes were aquamarine, and her long black hair bounced as she walked. She looked like my Wonder Woman doll.
Darla came to my booth. "Why the sad face, little one?"
"It's my birthday," I sighed.
"Well, happy birthday!" she said. "Did you have a party today?"
She looked up to see my parents and their teammates competitively entranced.
"Mmm, I see..." she said, and she walked away.
An eternity passed as I contemplated my situation. Even Wonder Woman didn't care. The alley grew louder as the last frames were about to be bowled. Then the lights went out. Every lane was dark.
A voice came over the loudspeaker.
"Sorry to interrupt, y'all, but we have a birthday girl in the house tonight."
Darla scooped me up and sat me atop the concession counter. She lit a candle, stuck it in a Twinkie, and made everyone sing "Happy Birthday."
I grinned. She grinned. Wonder Woman hushed the world and made it sing. She also probably got grounded, but I'll never forget her.
Kindness changes everything. And Twinkies help.
NAN Our Town on 03/12/2020