Happy Birthday to Me!

Actually, I was born on January 9 but why should facts get in the way of a little fun?

Today was a special day at school and there were fools all over the place.  Take me, for instance.  I told the kids first thing that I had just been listening to Doug Ford on the radio.  He’s the Premier of Ontario.  “He said that starting on May 1, he’s extending the school day.  Instead of students going home at 3:30, it’ll be 4:00.”  I said this with a very straight face.  No sooner were the last words out of my mouth than I was met with a chorus of “April Fool’s!”  Kids are just so smart these days.

Around 10:00 am, one of the Grade 6 kids left the room, supposedly on the way to the washroom.  A few minutes later, a shorter and younger version of her, dressed exactly the same, came into the class and confidently sat in her sister’s chair.  For some of us it took seconds, but others didn’t notice for a minute or so.  Well done, girls!

The announcements started just before morning recess.  A teacher came on the PA with this message: “It’s Mr. Kerr’s birthday today.  If you see him in the halls or on the yard, wish him well.”  I was working with two kids at that moment, and my face jerked.  Huh?  Oh yeah … April 1.

Now, what would be the most fun?  Well, play along with it, of course.  Thank everyone for their good wishes and revel in my birthday celebration.  So that’s what I did.

No sooner was I on the asphalt than a girl rushed up with a birthday card.  How did she pull that off in ten minutes?  I smiled and said thank you.  “How old are you?”  >  “70”  >  “Oh.”  (unspoken, I believe, was “That’s really old.”)  As I walked around, maybe twenty kids came up to say “Happy Birthday!”  One girl said she had a present for me and plunked a quarter in my hand.  Naturally, staff members or volunteers don’t accept money from kids, but I made an executive decision: I picked up the coin with a flourish, opened the change pocket of my wallet and dropped it in.  The young lady was so very happy.

Feel free to congratulate me as well.  I’ll gladly receive all the good vibes that come my way.  January … April … they’re both marvelous.

Beyond Reason

Yesterday was my birthday.  I officially turned 48.  Of course I’m also a chronic liar, so my true age will appear inconspicuously somewhere in this post.  68!

When I was a kid, mom told me that I was born at 10:00 am.  So at 9:30 I walked out of my dear condo and headed down Main Street to the Belmont Diner.  I sat at the lunch counter and announced “When I was a kid, mom told me that I was born at 10:00 am.”  Chrystal (the owner, and a very sharp cookie), chimed in with “So it’s your birthday.”  She then proceeded to waltz over to the white menu board and add “Happy birthday, Bruce -72 years.”  Well, not quite.

I took out my phone and saw that it was 9:55.  One more countdown.  I’ve done this every year since I was knee high to somebody’s knee.  As 9:56 appeared in my universe, I started a slow chant: “67, 67, 67, …”.  My companions smiled.

The radio was playing a wee dittie.  I recognized one of my favourites:  Superman’s Song.

I’ve always related to the words.  I’m no Superman, but like him I’ve wanted to do good.  I could be a “hangin’-out-in-the-cave” Buddhist, but that’s not me.  Tarzan had his jungle but I’ve yearned to be like Supe:

Sometimes when Supe was stopping crimes
I’ll bet that he was tempted to just quit and turn his back on man
Join Tarzan in the forest
But he stayed in the city
And kept on changing clothes in dirty old phonebooths
Till his work was through
And nothing to do but go on home

Coffee to my lips, 9:59 became 10:00 and I was 68.  Superman sang on.  What are the chances that words I love would intersect with my birthday moment?

Time for the next song, another Brucio smiler:

I want to know what love is
I want you to show me
I want to feel what love is
I know you can show me

Well, I was 2 for 2.  Unknown forces were flowing around me.  Peace was there.  Wonder too.

Oh, what we tiny humans don’t know


Yesterday was my 67th birthday.  Mom told me decades ago that I was born at 10:00 am Eastern Time.  So there I sat in Wimpy’s Diner, my cell phone on the table, watching 9:57, and reflecting on 66.  Finally the number flipped to 10:00, and a little smile crossed my face.  “You’re young at heart, Bruce.”  Yes I am.

This may have been the first birthday where no one I’m in face-to-face contact with knows about it.  What a strange feeling.  I knew that I wouldn’t bring it up in conversation.  I’ll just have a quiet celebration … a Boy’s Day Out.  So I did.

I enjoyed being at Wimpy’s for the first time in six months.  And having a real bacon and eggs, homefries and coffee breakfast.  Plus talking to my waitress friend Angie.  And reading the sports and entertainment sections of The London Free Press.  In the realm of “Pleasant, unpleasant or neutral”, it was a pleasant time.

At one point, I heard singing from the next table.  An elderly gentleman was beaming to the strains of “Happy Birthday”.  I smiled at him, borrowing a bit of his celebration.

I was alone, a bit sad, but mostly enjoying the pleasure of my company.  I knew that around some corner of my future,  there’ll be a new loved one, a woman who will be happy to celebrate my birthdays.  But she hasn’t shown up yet, and that’s fine.  The timing of life is unknown.

I decided to go to a movie at my favourite little independent cinema.  It was a love story between a young mom and her five-year-old son.  So beautiful in the many moments of contact.  Both heartrending and ecstatic, vibrant and tender.  Pleasant.

After a quick bite to eat, and further consumption of the newspaper, I just had enough time to drive across London to a cinema complex.  I was off to see a blockbuster that came out while I was on the meditation retreat in Massachusetts.  It was a shoot ’em up and blow ’em up type film, the latest in a series.  Previously I had been engaged with the characters but not this time.  Hmm … unpleasant.  But underneath the surface evaluation was the sweetness of just being there.

In the evening, I went to a concert – about 50 of us in a comfy old home.  Two singer-songwriters were on the bill.  I wasn’t liking the music of the fellow who performed the first set.  I couldn’t locate a good melody and therefore I didn’t listen to the words.  That’s all right.  His family and friends were there, and they were cheering him on.  That was cool.

For set two, you can pretty much reread the paragraph above.  Another guy.  Another family.  Cool again.  Overall … unpleasant music.  But I did have a lovely conversation with the couple who shared my table.

So no fireworks on this 67th birthday.  I was with myself and we had a good time.  Just being out in the world is a privilege.  Someone will be smiling back at me on a birthday some day soon.  That will be fun too.