My family thinks that birthdays are special. We have always tried to make them so for the children, and I have strived to achieve this with my wife. Each one required a hand-painted sign for them to find each morning with their presents, and I designed and made invitations for kid’s birthdays, which I’m sure their young friends failed to appreciate. The day always started with Stevie Wonder blasting “Happy Birthday” through the house. Many years, I produced a 12-egg angel food cake. For me, my birthday is usually just another day...
I have few memories of childhood celebrations. I recall only two. The earliest was a birthday party at our house on Willow Road (a reference meaningful only to siblings), so I was rather young. Of it, I recall only playing a game called pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey in the living room of that house: nothing else. The second memory is aided by a photo of me holding a cake in a Cub Scout uniform, and I vaguely recall the house of a fellow scout in the same neighborhood. After that, I have no memories of a single birthday celebration until recently. I remember my 21st birthday, not because there was a celebration, but because I visited Neuschwanstein in the rain. I wanted to have trout (Forelle) for dinner, but could not remember the word and no one spoke English. (I had goulash: the only thing I recognized). I do recall my birthday in Vietnam, but that was no party: I spent the day in a helicopter doing the same things I did every day.
My wife and children try to make my birthday special for me and have managed to do so on several occasions, but I still do not retain many memories. It must be the way my brain works. This year, we are driving to France for lunch at our favorite restaurant. It sounds like a big deal—the distance, not the restaurant—but it is only three hours away. And, by the way, the restaurant is a big deal: it is one of the best in the France and the world. The restaurant has maintained its three-star status (in my opinion, only Michelin stars mean anything) for decades, and we have been making regular pilgrimages since the 70’s. It is a special place, for us and anyone lucky enough to enjoy the magic within the confines of its dining rooms and garden. In contrast to the demands of my sign, I do not expect something for nothing: it is worth every penny. And, as the Michelin Guide says of three-star establishments: it is always worth the trip.
This will be a special birthday, which I will surely remember....
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.