So I had a great 26th birthday. It even lasted two days. Maybe it wasn’t a Block birthday like when I was growing up, but it proved that California birthdays can be pretty awesome too. (And, no matter what Keaton says, it wasn’t gay lol.)
The day began with a call from Mom…a little earlier than I wanted to get up. Melanie Kate called while I was having breakfast (I had some catching up to do with her – she didn’t even know about the haunted house), and Cordelia and Portia called while I was at work. Sumter sent me a cool text. He always remembers my birthday. I reckon that makes sense, since he was my birthday present one year. Slater, the kid who I taught about ice cream back in Hickory, texted me too. And so did my sister Elizabeth. Usually we call in the Block family, but, since me and her never have anything to say to each other, it was just as well she just texted.
We’ve got a tradition at work – at lunch time, someone goes across the street to get frozen yogurt and we stick a candle in it and sing Happy Birthday in the back. So Svetlana, Tatiana, Olga and Larissa did that. It was super nice of them, but could someone please explain frozen yogurt to me? Was it like someone thought that they could improve on ice cream or something?
Meemaw and Dad waited to call until I was back from work. I had packages from both of them sitting by the front door since the day before, but the tradition is that I open them while we’re on the phone.
Meemaw called first. She sent a big box with my two favorite kinds of cookies (peanut butter and snickerdoodles), plus a couple boxes of Publix ice cream cones. She knows they’re my favorites, and she knows you can’t get them here. That’s why she also sent two bottles of Blackberry Patch strawberry topping, which is also something you can only get in the South.
It’s amazing stuff.
Then Dad called. His and Mom’s present was a cool new razor.
Being in the army taught Dad to shave every day…so y’all can imagine what he thinks of how it’s now cool to be lazy about shaving. He’s accepted that I’m as bad about shaving as everyone else my age, but he said that, when I did shave, I ought to be doing it right. (I didn’t try and explain that my girlfriend says she likes how I look when I don’t shave for a few days.) I know a fancy razor might sound gay, but Dad said that someone he works with recommended it, and now all the men in the office have one. So he got me one too.
Then it was time to get dressed (but not shave lol) to go meet Joyce for my birthday dinner. She told me to dress up some, so I put on a jacket and tie. After Halloween and the ice cold ghost guts, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got to her house, but it looked normal enough. Joyce came out and we got in the Tesla. She gave me directions, since she wanted it to be a surprise when we got to wherever we were going. (I gotta admit that taking directions while I’m driving is not my favorite thing.)
Turned out it was a short drive, as we were going to a steakhouse in Pasadena, R***’s C****. It’s actually the nearest steakhouse to where we live, but she said she was saving it for my birthday. While birthday dinner at home always meant Mom’s fried chicken, a great steak is almost as good, and this place has great steaks. I had shrimp cocktail first, then the T-bone (rare), since the waiter made it sound amazing when I was trying to decide between that and the cowboy rib eye. (Joyce had a salad and the filet.) Plus a baked potato which came plenty loaded. It was my birthday so we didn’t bother with vegetables – might as well fill up on the good stuff without forcing broccoli down my throat lol. Joyce also ordered the lobster mac and cheese, saying we should split it. It was so good that we ordered a second one after I’d put away the last of my steak and baked potato.
For dessert I was going to have ice cream, but Joyce said I might want to wait on that. I guessed that meant that she had ice cream at home for me, so I ordered a combination chocolate cake/mousse thing that was ok. But they did put a candle in it (nobody sang.)
The whole dinner was dope…and the waiter didn’t even give me a snooty what do you expect from an ignorant redneck look when I ordered a beer and handed him back the wine list. I was glad Joyce had saved this place for a special occasion.
Then we drove back to her house, where, as usual, she went in first to put Moomoo and Numnums in the other bedroom. Then she said it was okay for me to come in. She’d done a big job decorating for my birthday, all in a baseball theme, and with a ton of red balloons, since she knows red is my favorite color. I think I’ve told y’all that Joyce is good at crafty stuff (she has a whole room for her crafting supplies.) She’s dang good at it, and the place looked amazing. There was even a “Happy Birthday Hunter” banner hanging from the ceiling.
So I took off my jacket and loosened my tie, Joyce brought me a beer, and we sat down on the couch. At least I did. I could tell that she had another surprise up her sleeve, but that she was waiting on it. I told her about getting ice cream cones and a razor for my birthday, she told me about how she’s handling her new responsibilities at work (she got promoted and got put in charge of some people she didn’t want to be in charge of)…and wouldn’t sit still. I put my arm around her and even that didn’t help. I figured she was nervous about what I’d think about my present. Don’t forget how the Apple Watch turned out.
So finally she said she had to do something in the kitchen. Then she turned out the lights, and came in carrying a cake with 26 candles (I guess Joyce’s family doesn’t know about the “one to grow on” thing we always did at home) and sang Happy Birthday. I didn’t know it, but she’s got a nice voice. She used to sing with some kind of classical music group here in Pasadena. Now I could tell why.
So I made a wish and blew out my candles and got a look at my cake. (No, I’m not gonna tell y’all what my wish was. Then it won’t come true.)
“I ordered it before the World Series was over,” Joyce said when I saw it was a Dodgers ice cream cake.
“It’s still baseball. And I miss baseball already. What flavors are inside?”
“Strawberry and vanilla. They don’t have pistachio in November.”
Good enough for me.
Joyce had a tiny piece, I had a big one…and she asked how I could eat anything after the dinner I’d put away. I wasn’t exactly hungry, but I can always find room for ice cream.
She was still acting kinda nervous, but it wasn’t like I could say “give me my present so you can stop worrying about it”.
She eventually did.