Believe it or not, my birthday kinda snuck up on me this year. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t tell people it was coming up. I was at the Rite Aid with Keaton on October 8 getting some ice cream, and I made sure to tell the dude behind the counter “oh, wow, it’s going to be my birthday in a month.” I did it for Keaton’s benefit, so he could tell me how gayass I was being lol, although it’s something I mention it to people even when he isn’t around. But somehow, maybe because I’ve been so busy with Joyce’s crafting room, I barely noticed it was Halloween (Joyce had nothing planned this year for the holiday, partly because of the hijacked crafting room)…and it’s Halloween that always reminds me that it’s 9 days to my birthday.
So I was totally surprised when Josh called me last Wednesday and told me the whole team was going to get together to celebrate my birthday on Saturday, since they figured I’d be spending Friday (which was the 8th, my actual birthday) with Joyce. I was all “oh shit…it’s this weekend already?!” – which got a laugh out of Keaton when he found out. He texted me that most of Pasadena knew when my birthday was and I forgot…and that that was even more gayass than telling people when my birthday was in the first place.
Birthdays are a big deal for us Blocks. If I make a big deal out of my birthday today it’s because we always made a big deal out of them when I was growing up. The birthday kid always got to choose the dinner menu and sit at the head of the table, while Meemaw always baked your favorite cake (mine was coconut; Melanie Kate and Cordelia liked caramel cake best, and Portia always asked for Lady Baltimore.) Why shouldn’t you get excited about your day every year? Mom always says that it’s a day to celebrate you and what makes you special. I like that. And I can’t see why Keaton should have a problem with it.
(On the other hand, Keaton’s giving me shit about my birthday is a perfect excuse to give him plenty of shit come January 25 lol.)
So my 27th birthday began with a call from Mom while I was still asleep. I was a little vague at first, then I remembered it was my birthday and why she was singing to me on the phone. All four of my sisters called while I was having breakfast and getting ready for work. (Calling doesn’t mean we don’t like to send cards too. The best card I got this year was one my nephews made “to uncle Hunter.” They’re still at the age where it’s okay for boys to use glitter, although the card did make a mess when I took it out of the envelope lol.) Even Elizabeth called, which was weird, since she usually just texts. We didn’t have a lot to say to each other (I only ever hear from her on my birthday and Christmas), but I guess it was nice that she took the trouble to pick up the phone.
Then I went to work, and my coworkers got me a cup of frozen yogurt from across the street with a candle in it, like we always do on people’s birthdays. I’d prefer ice cream, of course, but the frozen yogurt place is super convenient…and there’s no decent ice cream to be had on our part of Colorado Boulevard.
When I got home from work, there were two boxes in front of the door. Dad and Meemaw used to make sure their presents arrived before my birthday, but I reckon they’ve started trusting that 2nd day shipping really does get there on the 2nd day. Our tradition is that I open my presents while I’m on the phone with them. I called Dad first. He and Mom sent me something that’s gonna be incredibly useful for work on Joyce’s crafting room. It’s a small-gauge drill. I told him when I started working on the crafting room that I wished I had one so I could get really small dividers in the drawers for the small supplies, and he was clearly listening. It’s really something I need now…and it’ll be a good thing to have in the tool box going forward. It may not sound like the most exciting birthday present, but the best presents are things you both need and want…and the drill was exactly that.
(There’s just one small problem with Dad’s present: now that I have the drill, I can get more ambitious with the crafting room drawers, which means I’m going to need more time to finish up. So I broke it to Joyce that the crafting room is gonna have to wait and be her Christmas present instead of being done by Thanksgiving. She wasn’t pleased at first – she’s got all her crafting stuff in the dining room and let’s just say it’s not making her happy – but I convinced her that it would be worth waiting for. (I also smoothed things over by getting her better light to work with in the dining room, now that it’s her temporary crafting office.)
Meemaw always sends me cookies for my birthday (she sent oatmeal raisin and snickerdoodles this year) and a couple boxes of Publix ice cream cones, since she knows I can’t get them here. Like last year, she also sent a couple bottles of a strawberry topping you can only get in the South. She put in something extra this year: what’s supposed to be the best ice cream scoop ever made. Meemaw said on the phone that she wasn’t sure that it necessarily was…but it was hard to pass up buying it for me.
This year, Joyce decided we’d stay in on my birthday. She made us dinner, only, since the dining room is now the temporary crafting room, she made us a picnic to eat on the floor in the den. She decorated the room for my birthday, going for what she said was a French picnic theme. It was certainly the most elegant picnic I’ve ever seen, but it looked awesome. And, as Joyce said, she wasn’t just going to put a blanket down on the floor and get some ants in from the yard lol. There was a ton of balloons in soft pinks and greens and colors like that, tied into bouquets that lined two sides of the room. It’s hard to describe, but it really did look great, and, all things considered, not too gay lol.
Joyce later told me that her original plan had been a World Series Champions birthday theme, but, when the Dodgers fell apart in the NLDS, she had plenty of time to plan something different. She said she always wanted to do something like the French artist Fragonard, and decided that this was her chance. I looked up some of his paintings and saw the connection. It wasn’t the usual sports décor, but I thought it was a lot of fun having my birthday picnic in the middle of what Joyce called her ‘Balloon Grove à la Fragonard’.
The picnic menu had a lot of French touches in keeping with the decorations, starting with sparkling cider where the champagne would probably be. Then there was great crusty bread that made a lot of crumbs on the floor lol with three different kinds of pate, and then the most amazing stuffed celery I’ve ever had, done with cream cheese and gorgonzola. Joyce didn’t forget that I was a good ole Southern boy when it came to the main course, and she made very good cold fried chicken, potato salad and amazing creamy cole slaw. This was the first time Joyce made me fried chicken and she was very nervous about it. She was even going to call Mom for advice. (Mom’s the fried chicken expert in the family, not Meemaw.) She didn’t need to worry: the chicken was great and I had 4 pieces. I bet it would have been great hot, too.
Dessert was obviously a Baskin Robbins cake with “Happy 27th Birthday Hunter” written on it. I just started worrying that the heat from the 27 candles would melt the ice cream lol.
(Y’all read that right: 27 candles for my 27th birthday. We’d of had 28 at home – ‘one to grow on’ we say – but Joyce said she never heard of the extra candle. She probably thinks it’s some weirdass Southern thing I made up lol.)
After the cake, she went and got my present, which, like all her presents, was wrapped like a work of art. She was a lot less nervous about her present this year than she was last year: we’ve been together for a whole year more and we’re more comfortable with each other obviously. She also didn’t go for a super spectacular present this year, not that she could have done anything to top last year’s black diamond necklace. (I still wear it almost every day, even if Bellinger did switch from it this season to a boringass gold chain.) My present was still pretty impressive: it was a wallet in the most incredibly soft leather I’d ever felt.
“It’s awesome…but isn’t it too nice for a back pocket?,” I asked.
“The man who made it assured me that it would be fine. It will show a few marks, but he says it should develop a lovely patina too.”
“You know someone who can make wallets like this?”
“I have my connections,” she said with a smile. “The crafting community isn’t that big, and I know someone who knows someone who knows this man who specializes in small men’s leather goods like this. He only makes a few pieces a year, so I was lucky to get this one for you. It really is gorgeous…if I say so myself.”
“Nicest wallet I’ve ever had,” I said. I would of taken out my current wallet, but, I’m afraid my current wallet’s one of those overstuffed falling apart clichés. I haven’t had a new one since Meemaw gave me that one when I graduated from college, so it’s seen plenty of action.
Finally Joyce talked me into taking it out.
“You’re gonna have to get rid of some of that stuff,” she said.
“I don’t know what the heck most of it is. It just builds up.”
“It’s all not money, then?”
So we spent the next half hour going through my wallet and deciding what was important enough for me to keep in the new one. Turns out there was a brand new dollar bill in the new wallet as well.
“That’s for luck,” Joyce explained. “Never give an empty wallet.”
That kinda made sense.
By the time we were done with my wallet I was hungry again, or at least hungry enough for another piece of ice cream cake. So Joyce got me that and then we moved into the bedroom to check out TCM. The movie that was on looked totally lameass; I talked Joyce into turning it off pretty dang quickly.
That was only half my birthday celebrations. The next night was time for the Parrots to take their shortstop out.