hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA


April 18, 2013

Letting a birthday cat out of the bag


“No more than yesterday,’’ she retorts.

“You want a cake?’’

“Not unless you want to play with fire.’’

I presume that last remark meant the number of candles you put on a cake. My mother could have blown out 98 candles — one for each year. That’s how long she lived.

But she was extremely sensitive about her age and never let on. She hid it well and would just as soon have forgotten all that attention. We reminded her.

It was always a good reason to take her out to her favorite restaurant. She refused to let us pay.

“Our treat,’’ we maintained. “It’s your birthday.’’

The nursing home she inhabited had the right idea. Birthday months. Whoever was born in June got to celebrate together, enjoying cake and punch. When someone reached 100, a special moment was observed. The mayor would attend and there would be press coverage.

I remember the year I turned 70 and didn’t want anything special. Just a family dinner. That’s all.

The children had other ideas and concocted an all-out party with friends, relatives, former newspaper colleagues. They opted to choose a country club venue.

As a snoopy reporter, I sniffed it out. It wasn’t CIA. Phone calls were suddenly moved to the basement and closet. No telltale signs that such party plans were in progress.

Until, that is, I ran across an invitation buried under the Z’s in the telephone directory. Had I not bothered to call an acquaintance named Zelewski, I never would have known.

How many of these invitations were sent anyway? It wasn’t until later that I learned 150 guests were coming to party at my expense.

The plan became more gregarious with time. We were going to the country club for dinner as a family, then back to the house for some gifts. Six grandchildren were in the mix.

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