LARRY PENKAVA COLUMN: It’s my birthday

Published 2:34 pm Thursday, March 2, 2023

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I don’t anticipate the arrival of birthdays quite the same as when I was a boy.

Larry Penkava

In fact, nowadays my birthday is secondary to the day of the month when my Social Security check is scheduled to arrive. Uncle Sam sends me a present on those days.

But there was a time when I had no idea what Social Security was and Medicare hadn’t even been invented. Those were the days when my birthday took its place almost equal to Christmas.

The first birthday I can remember was when I turned 5. For weeks, it seemed, I was reminded that my fifth birthday would be on March 2.

Then the big day finally arrived with much fanfare, a cake with five candles and presents to keep my attention for at least 30 minutes. It was a great day.

A day or so after, I was in the backseat of our car with my two older brothers and Mama and Daddy up front. Looking to the future, I asked, in anticipation, “Mama, when will my next birthday be?”

That brought loud guffaws from my big brothers and Daddy was trying to stifle a chuckle. Mama just said, “You’re birthday will always be on March 2.”

I’ve always thought the humiliation of that moment was a big reason I became shy and soft-spoken. I didn’t enjoy being laughed at when I was being quite serious.

By the time I was approaching double figures, my apprehension had dissipated. I invited all my friends at school to my 10th birthday party the next Saturday.

Then I remembered to let Mama know a couple of days before the big event. “Hey Mama, can you bake me a birthday cake? I expect about a dozen friends.”

Despite having to rush planning, Mama pulled off a great party for me. She also let me know that she should be the first to hear of my birthday plans.

Thirteen is supposed to be unlucky, but it turned out to be one of my best birthdays ever.

Wednesday, March 2, 1960, started out as a cold, overcast school day. I was sitting in Mr. Whatley’s seventh grade class focused on math or science or English.

Then somebody sitting near the windows said, “Hey, it’s snowing!” We all looked out and saw snowflakes falling from the clouds.

Mr. Whatley told us not to get too excited. “It won’t accumulate,” he said.

Then about 30 minutes later, as the snow began covering the grass outside, a voice on the public address system made an announcement: “Everyone get ready to go home. The snow is accumulating on the roads.”

Hey, it was snowing on my birthday! What a present from nature on my first day as a teenager.

That turned out to be the longest birthday party ever for me. The snow did accumulate and we school kids enjoyed sledding, snowball fights and just being out of class.

Then, before school had a chance to get us back into a rhythm, it snowed again on Wednesday, March 9. That snow was covered by ice, making it even better for sledding, even on a big piece of cardboard.

The second snow, of course, meant more days out of school.

Then, as school tried once more to regain control, it snowed again on Wednesday, March 16. Wow! No school for most of the month of March. What did we do to deserve such luck?

Then the ice and snow finally melted and we were back in school for the long haul. And we had to make up for the lost days by going to school on Saturdays well into June.

Mr. Whatley was having his revenge.

Since then, I’ve wondered what others born on March 2 were thinking back in 1960. Was Mikhail Gorbechev considering perestroika? Was Dr. Seuss actually writing “Green Eggs and Ham?”

Jon Bon Jovi wasn’t born for two more years.

I can imagine Desi Arnaz celebrating with his band, playing “Babalú.” Karen Carpenter could have discovered that she enjoyed beating drums, and maybe she liked to sing a bit.

As for Sam Houston, well, he’d been gone for nearly a century.

As for this year, maybe somebody will play “Seventy-Six Trombones.”

Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189,