Lake Effect essayist Elaine Maly's birthday is tomorrow. But as she looks ahead to the next one, she also looks back at a notorious one from her past:
My birthday is January 8th. Two weeks after Christmas and one week after New Years, in the dead of Wisconsin’s winter. It’s usually not much of a celebration. I’ve had a birthday gathering that was canceled due to a six foot snowfall. A birthday when no one, not even my mother, remembered to send a card. Oh, and then there was the year I turned 40. I had an emergency tonsillectomy. Yep, at best, my birthday has been just another day for my entire adulthood.
Except for last year. I was turning 59, the last year of a big decade, and I had just quit a job that paid well but sucked the joy out of life. It was time to get out of the god forsaken freezer we live in and let our friends, California Dave and his wife, Misao, show us a good time. Dave and Misao live in San Jose and are wonderful hosts. My husband, Tom, and I had visited them many times before and they knew exactly what I would like. The morning of January 8th we set out for a long hike in the red woods of Henry Cowell Park and had a picnic lunch. Then on to wine tasting at Beauregard Winery. Late afternoon we headed to Bonny Doon beach to watch what promised to be a glorious sunset.
As we started our slightly tipsy descent down the sand dunes with a blanket to find a comfortable viewing spot, something besides the setting sun caught our attention. A paunchy middle aged naked guy with shoulder length white hair, who had a remarkable resemblance to my husband from a distance, was running laps between dunes.
“Hey, that guy could be Tom’s stunt double,” said Dave. A humorous observation. There were distinct similarities. But seeing a naked guy wasn’t a big deal. We’d been to this beach before and been exposed to similar situations. This is a nude friendly beach but we’re not the type to indulge.
We had just settled down on our blanket to watch the sunset when Misao inexplicably got up and took off after Naked Guy. Most of the time, Misao is pretty quiet and reserved but every once in a while, she surprises us. Like the time she yelled “Heat it up, heat it up” at the craps table at Potawatomi. Or the time she leaned over the balcony to blow kisses to the cast of Jersey Boys. Or the time she scolded me for being impatient with my husband. She later apologized for “going all Japanese on me.”
We could see that Misao and Naked Guy were exchanging a few words and then they turned and ran back to the blanket together.
“Oh, no she didn’t,” I said and had serious thoughts about running the other way.
“I hear it’s your birthday,” said Naked Guy.
“Yes it is,” I said trying to avert my gaze.
“Well, happy birthday,” said Naked Guy with a shrug and returned to his jiggly lap running.
“Nope,” said Tom who had the same close up view I did. “No way that guy could be my stunt double.”
I laughed so hard I snorted merlot out of my nose. “If I was going to see a naked guy on my birthday, couldn’t it have been Antonio Banderas?”
Essayist Elaine Maly is the 2015 winner of the Wisconsin Writers Association’s humor writing contest. She writes about her life as a native Milwaukeean at her website.
Lake Effect essayist Elaine Maly reads "A Memorable Birthday"
How I Celebrated My Birthday
Last Sunday was my birthday. Thought I usually burn the mid-night oil and wake late in the morning. But I got up very early last Sunday. I observe a special programme on my birthday every year. The day was full of engagements and merry-making.
I have a number of friends. I believe in the increase of the member of friends. I believe in the increase of the member of friends. Last Sunday it was my fourteenth birthday. So I invited only fourteen friends to my birthday celebrations. I resolved to bring a change for the better in the past years. I therefore, resolved to do my best this year to better myself.
With the new resolve I made a daily routine for myself. I decided to follow it throughout the year. I am glad to say that I have not missed a single item so far. I hope not to miss any item of the plan in this year.
Soon after I entered the drawing room. My friends were waiting for me. The room was full. There was noise everywhere. The scene was quite pleasant. It presented a festive look.
First to all I bowed before my parents. I touched their feet. They blessed me. Then I received the blessing of elderly people who were present on the occasion. After this all my friends congratulated me on my birthday. Their kind words gave me much pleasure. I thanked God, the maker of this world. Then I went to the temple in my sweet. I prayed to Shivji our family deity.
There was great pleasure, feasting and music all day long. Like a bee I moved from one little group of friends to another receiving gifts. At 2 p.m. the postman brought bundles of gift presents. He got his bakshis. My mother was all smiles. She opened the parcels my sister clapped out of joy.
Now it was evening. At the request of my friends, I went with them to the cinema hall. There we enjoyed the picture ‘Dhoom’. I was deeply moved by the pictured.
I returned home. I slept peacefully. I do not know who awakened me next morning. Thus I spent the last Sunday.
Essay No. 02
My Best Birthday
I believe that my birthday, is a special day. What is today ? I said to myself while looking at my phone. Its March 12th! Tomorrow is my birthday! I can’t believe that I forgot my own birthday! I think it’s because for the past three days I have been busy packing my stuff. I will be 11 years old tomorrow and I think this year is the last year that I will have my birthday party here in India. I always have a birthday party, but I think I’m not going to have one this year, it’s because my birthday is tomorrow that we don’t have time to get everything ready for the party. I went to the dining room to eat; when I got there everyone was eating like they didn’t know what tomorrow was! I got a little sad. I started to think to myself “do they remember my birthday?” I went outside to play with my friends still, no one said anything. I was going to tell my friends but we were playing and having too much fun. I got home and realized that I forgot to tell them, but today everyone was acting so weird to me. Today is March 13th, when I woke up I saw a very pretty dress, it was pink, and had a big bow on the back. The bow was white and the dress went down to my knees. I looked around and I saw a note on my table, it was from my mom. The note said to get the dress and after I got dress I had a very good feeling at that moment. After I opened the door, I saw all my friends and my family standing there with a cake, everyone said happy birthday to me it just made me so happy. I thought they had forgotten my birthday. But no they didn’t. They are the best family and friends I have ever had.