Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: birthday (05/23/05)
TITLE: Tricky Days
By tanya boler
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I remember the birthday I celebrated at the park. The park was really a park/mini-zoo. My mother, my best friend Deborah, my brother, and Deborah’s brother picnicked on an old plastic tablecloth. I remember the cupcakes and the fountain, and the spitting llama. We had cupcakes with pale pink icing in place of a real cake. The fountain was a large stone circle with a stone cone rising from the middle. Out of the top of the cone spouted water that then splashed down to the pool. The pool was intended, I think, for gazing and wishing only. However, we refused to be relegated to gazing and wishing. We plunged into the tepid, stagnant water, wetting our non-swimming attire and our hair. My mother, usually embarrassed by anything less than proper public behavior, laughed and turned away. She did, however, make us walk around the park to dry off before we left. I could never quite understand why this rural Central Mississippi city park had bears, monkeys, peacocks, and a llama, but it did. They were quite exotic to us, as I imagine we four bedraggled humans were to them. My brother, the oldest of us, explained that if we walked very slowly by the llama’s pen, the llama would spit at us. We did, and it did. Sometimes, good salespeople can create a need for some totally useless product. I guess my brother was a good salesperson even then because we walked slowly by the llama’s pen just so we could know the extraordinary sensory experience of hot llama spit on the side of the face on a sticky June day. Pink cupcakes, warm water, llama spit and friends.
I also remember another sweltering June day, my thirteenth birthday. I went to church camp. For the first time, I was away from home on my birthday. My mother made sure that a cake was delivered, but I felt strangely awkward to be celebrating my birthday with people who didn’t really know that June 20th was such a special day. They had no idea that as a toddler I had climbed onto the old metal Coke box at my Pop’s store and pointed out this special day on Pop’s calendar. I always showed Pop’s customers my birth date right after I showed them my mother’s method for putting on her girdle and saying all of the nursery rhymes I could remember. Those strange people at camp didn’t know that every one of Pop’s calves was named Sweetie in honor of me. They had no idea that I hid in the shed with a bowl of ketchup and a good book so that my mother couldn’t find me and make me vacuum or garden. They also didn’t know about the stories that floated in my mind, some real and some realistic. How could I share my birthday with strangers? I felt an old tugging, nagging unnamed sadness that I always felt when we pulled out of the driveway to go on vacation, leaving my grandparents behind.
In days, I will celebrate my 40th birthday. I wish to celebrate this day in the hot June sun with those people who still will plunge into the pool with me, sometimes breaking rules, and those who are not too afraid or too smart to walk by the llama pen very slowly with me, and those who can still laugh off the lack of proper behavior, enjoying the day that I arrived.
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