July was always my husband’s birthday season. I realize most people have one birthday per year, and usually that’s quite enough. But my husband seemed to have at least a week’s worth of birthdays annually.
It’s probably because we have a large family, and they think taking Dad out to eat is an ideal birthday gift. Actually it is. We don’t have to find a place to put it, dust it, or figure how to use it. In addition, it provides real quality time with the gift giver.
It all started several years ago when we visited Bill’s sister and her husband in Florida over Bill’s birthday. They took us out to eat at a really nice restaurant on the big day. I noticed she was carrying a little brown bag along with her. When I asked her why she said, “You’ll see.”
As we were seated she was talking quietly with the waiter. When he walked away from our table he had the brown bag, and I knew something was going to happen because of the look of barely contained excitement on her face.
After dinner we were looking at the dessert menu when we heard the now familiar sounds of the birthday parade. The wait staff of the restaurant was approaching our table with our waiter in the lead bearing one little cupcake with a birthday candle on top.
The whole group surrounded Bill, and our waiter announced, “Sir, in honor of your birthday we will now sing Happy Birthday to you backwards.” Then they all turned their backs to him and sang the birthday song.
My husband is a low profile sort of guy, so all of this attention produced a look that clearly said, “How could you so this to me?” His sister sat there and beamed. I was glad she did because her beaming left no doubt as to who set the whole scene up.
After they finished singing, my sister-in-law, who was much more innocent then, smiled happily at our waiter and said confidently, “You can keep the other cupcake in the bag as your tip.” Her husband looked a little pained as he dug deeper in his pocket to produce a more generous tip for the waiter.
One memorable year we went out to eat three different times for Bill’s birthday. Each time he was presented with a complimentary dessert and song. He had learned to accept the tribute with minimum embarrassment. But after the third time one of his co-workers asked, “How many times a year do you celebrate your birthday publicly?” Seems that guy had been at the same restaurant we were each time.
Bill’s birthday parade has already started this year. Last weekend we went out to eat with two of our daughters and their families. They both noticed a note on the menu about notifying the waiter if we were celebrating a special occasion. It didn’t take them long to figure out that their Dad’s birthday was coming up soon.
When we finished eating, we heard the clapping hands and the pounding feet of the birthday parade approaching. I could tell by the look on Bill’s face he was fervently hoping it was for somebody else. He made a move to escape, but it was too late. They surrounded him and began the song.
But this time Bill saw salvation across the table. There was the two-year-old grandson staring at the singers in wide eyed excitement. With a huge smile he was clapping happily and thoroughly enjoying the show which he was sure was all for him.
We thanked the singers, and Bill grinned smugly as they walked away a lot more quietly than they came.
“Ha, they thought it was all for him!” Bill said as he pointed to the grandson.
“Yeah, except for the fact that your face was beet red,” was the reply of an unsympathetic son-in-law as he enjoyed his father-in-law’s embarrassment.
Ah well, as I said before, it’s Bill’s birthday season. So if you are in a restaurant, and you hear the sounds of the birthday parade approaching, and you don’t see someone obviously enjoying it, it’s probably all for the red-faced guy who’s trying to look like he’s really not there.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate July 13, 2005.
Kathleen Floyd is a volunteer citizen columnist, who serves The Daily Advocate readers weekly with her column Back Around the House II. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.