We grew up poor for the most part – everything was second-hand and hand-me-downs, discounted to the final bin under the best of circumstances. Usually we “shopped” at the Salvation Army store. Raising nine kids on a professor’s salary in the 1960s was not a simple thing, and with so many mouths, dinners were certainly a simple fare. But there was one thing we all could count on every year: the birthday dinner. It was the definitive expression of the big day – to get exactly the meal we wanted. I embraced it wholeheartedly.
Birthdays are a momentous day for kids (and adults, succumbing to the kid inside us). I have many great birthday memories, but they are sketchy as to what birthday and year. But, the miracle of the birthday dinner still holds sway in my memory. Selecting exactly what I wanted was more than the perfect meal; it was the opportunity to make a momentous decision that impacted the whole family.
The ceremonial aspect was important, too; one week out we sat down to go over the menu, from potato chips and AE Dip for Hors D’oeuvres, to the inevitable chocolate birthday cake. A typical choice for me? Baked ham, mashed potatoes…sometimes lasagna (a seven or eight layered masterpiece, served in a huge oval pan as big as a Buick). And always chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. I knew what I liked.
What is your favorite birthday memory? Do you remember specific years or grand traditions of that special day when you were a kid, like a special birthday dinner? That perfect birthday gift? Chuck E. Cheese? Swimming parties? What was the crazy best birthday party you ever had?