My birthday is around the corner. For quite some time now, I have not had much interest in celebrating my birthday, I just don’t think that it is that important. Still with 56 of them behind me, they have supplied me with many smiles and special moments to remember.
Actually the first birthday memory I have is one that involved a friend’s birthday when I was just a little guy. It was one of those birthdays where mom would take me to K-mart or Eckards to pick out a toy as a gift for the party. I think I always wanted the gifts Mom got for my friends. This particular time I remember sitting in the front seat as Mom drove me in our station wagon to John Wilson’s birthday party. I was crying because she said I had to give the wrapped gift in my lap to John, that it was not for me. I don’t know why that memory or part of a memory is so vivid, but it is. Maybe I grew to be ashamed of my selfishness, maybe deep down I think all gifts should be mine, or maybe it is just one of those memories that you hold onto for no particular reason like the fact that Yule Gibbons (that once famous eater of pine trees) was the spokes person for Grape Nuts.
As for my birthdays, here are the top three in no particular order. They all concern adult Teever, and they all have their place in my heart for a reason.
The first one that comes to mind was when I was at Clemson. I did not have too many friends on campus. From the beginning, I fell in with a local group of runners. Great guys that I will never forget. Together we formed the Outta Control Track Club (OCTC) and to me our adventures will always be legendary. Anyway, I don’t remember which birthday it was – likely my 20th. I invited several of these friends to dinner down the road at the Swamp Guinea Restaurant in Hartwell, Georgia. I did not tell any of them it was my birthday. I just wanted to spend some of that birthday in the company of my friends and surprise them by paying for the dinner (my way of giving thanks for another year and the blessings it had brought). As it turned out, my friends knew it was my birthday and they surprised me. They surprised me with gifts and paying for my dinner – fried catfish and fries served family style. We all loved the Swamp Guinea. That fish camp is still there and is worth the price of admission, especially if you are short on making your grease quota – no kale allowed.
The second birthday in my top 3 would be my 30th birthday. At the beginning of 1992 was when I met Jean-Marie and began dating, followed by the dive off a steep cliff into love. That summer Jean-Marie said she wanted to throw my 30th birthday party for me. We had it in the back yard of her house. I vividly recall being surrounded by friends in the glow if the little white lights in the apple tree. It was very special to me that Jean-Marie would have that party, invite all my friends for a warm summer night of food, drink, and laughter. Few days have made me feel more special (with the obvious exception of our wedding day).
Finally, there was a particular birthday when I came home to celebrate with mom and to see my father who by that time was in a full time Alzheimer’s care unit. It must have been a birthday in my forties although I don’t recall which one. Jean-Marie was with me and we were staying with mom. It was a nice little party as some of my siblings were able to make it. Living out in Colorado the sightings of my South Carolina bound siblings is far too sparse. I know my little sister Ginny was there with her family at mom’s for cake (they only lived a mile away). I don’t know what if any gifts I got, but I won’t forget the cake. After I blew out the candles the cake disappeared back into the kitchen along with Jean-Marie, Mom, Ginny, and Ginny’s eldest Cameron. My niece Cameron’s birthday is just a week after mine, not that it bears any on this story but as long as I am allowed to babble – I’m going to take full advantage of it. In my family, the tradition is that the first slice of birthday cake goes to the birthday celebrant. This is critical. Because we didn’t cut the cake into wedges. The cake is first cut vertically through the middle. Then pieces are sliced perpendicular to that cut. You may ask why that should make any difference. Well it does, it makes a big difference. The first piece (and only 3 others in the cake) will have one full side covered with icing and not just two of the edges. In my family, that slice is the most coveted. So out of the kitchen comes little Cameron with my piece of cake and I can’t wait. She stopped just outside the kitchen and smiled holding the plate out in my direction. “Uncle Teever, Annie (her grandmother/my mom) told me to give this piece to you. Can I have it? I already licked it?” It is hard to stop smiling when I think of that – and yes I gave her the first piece.