My wife has a strange sense of humour, and she likes old things, which is very reassuring, since I also enjoy a joke and I’m also becoming an old thing…
She likes to brag about being younger than me; something that will never change; like when I woke one New Year’s morning – nine months before turning twenty-nine – and hearing her greeting: “Good morning. You’ll be thirty next year!”
This brief declaration must have kicked off secret plans for a special celebration.
Perhaps I should explain that the wordplay in the title is not to ‘pun’ish anyone. “B’earthday” is a new word, or neologism (from Greek neo/new and logos/word) or contraction ‘to be on earth,’ indicating the length of our tenure on this planet.
With that fun-filled but vitally-unimportant point clarified, I admit that b’earthdays can be fun to celebrate. However, too many of them can prove fatal or they can create unhealthy anticipation; as an elderly uncle of mine found after attending a burial and being asked his age by a cemetery worker. “I’m ninety-five!” he replied.
“Wow!” said the worker. “Do you think it’s worth your while going home?”
Nothing more transpired about my impending Big Three – Ohh! Until, a month out, came a casual suggestion: “Let’s invite Dave and Ellen down for your birthday.”
From within my fully-disengaged male normality I agreed. After all, Dave and I have been best friends since we started school; he is (still!) only five days younger than me; we were best man at each other’s weddings; and several months had elapsed since we’d last caught up.
The weekend arrived, and so did Dave and Ellen. He and I talked over all life’s big issues: like recalling our teenage eating contests; how our cars were running and how our football teams were going… To be fair, I’ve always had a soft spot for Dave’s football team. They are actually my ‘second’ team – since that’s where they usually are as each game ends.
Our wives enjoyed swapping babies talk and recipes, though they were also forced to endure what you could only describe as a fairly shopping experience!
Came time for the party, and the meal was memorable for the quality of the food and the fun we had swapping stories and gifts. But there was no cake to be seen.
After dessert the ladies left us at the table; returning with a tray covered by a large upturned bowl.
When they lifted the bowl away we saw the cake. But no ordinary cake! It was a rich chocolate mud cake encased in dark fudge, with whipped cream.
A box of matches and a toy fire engine at the base offered a sense of what was to come, for on top we counted not thirty, but sixty candles! The hidden scheme was now fully-revealed: a joint sixtieth b’earthday party for Dave and me together!
Dave and I set the matches to work in the middle of that waxen forest, soon discovering the truth behind that old line: “I won’t say he’s old, but at his last birthday the heat from the candles drove him back from the cake four times!”
The heat was truly amazing; as we watched all those candles morph into a ten-inch-high conflagration that stripped the wax from all the inner wicks and relaxed it into a pale overlay that engulfed the fudge!
It wasn’t only the heat that provided the challenge to blowing out the fire; it was hard for us to catch our breath because we were laughing too much!
All four of us were required to quench that furnace; before we proceeded to demolish the cake.
Dave and I agreed not to compete about how much cake to eat; lest a testosterone-driven dare might also reincarnate a contest to see how much wax-flavoured fudge we could each polish off. And, dear reader, “wax” and “polish” are not an accidental choice of words.
We overcame that challenge, but we have grown selfish enough to accumulate enough b’earthdays to each celebrate a sixtieth without extra help. But advancing years have since made two best friends smart enough to avoid any challenge of trying to blow out the candles for a shared one-hundred-and-twentieth - and a one-hundred-and-fortieth has no chance at all!
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