I struggle to remember my husband’s birthday. It’s in November. I’m from the East Coast, so I know I’m safe til the trees turn orange. But we live in Southern California, trees stay green, and I never think it’s fall.
Late one summer (I thought it was summer – the leaves were green), Drew’s sister sent him a cutesy “Happy Belated Birthday” card.
Boy, she was late, I thought. His birthday’s in the fall and this is summer! Then I did a double take. Even though the leaves were green, this was November. We’d been married for only five months, and I was seventeen days late remembering his birthday.
I rushed to find Drew, grabbed him in a bear hug, and apologized for five endless minutes. He was sweet, but didn’t forgive me. He intended to work this one for brownie points. I knew what he was cooking up. I resolved to outdo all expectations and to even the score, pronto. I didn’t want him to use the situation to his advantage forever.
That night I worked til ten o’clock, teaching piano lessons in other people’s homes. As I drilled my students on their counting, I felt like a fake. Clearly, my counting was nothing to brag about.
Before starting my twenty-mile drive home, I called Drew on my cell phone to make sure he’d be awake when I returned.
“Can’t guarantee it,” he said. “I’ve had a pretty long day, and I’m wiped out.”
“But I want to do something for your birthday!”
“I’ve survived this long without a celebration, I’m sure I’ll be fine.”
I gunned it to the nearest grocery store, skittered to the bakery section, snatched up a raspberry mousse cake, picked out some neon birthday candles and a pack of matches. On impulse, I grabbed a can of pressurized whipped cream.
Back on the road, I urged my Ford Escort station wagon to pick up the pace. It tried its best to rush home, but the world worked against us — traffic lights, merges, cars stalled on the freeway. A lifetime later, we pulled into our driveway.
The house was dark.
I gathered my groceries, maneuvered out of the car, kicked the door closed, hurried to our back entrance, placed my purchases on the tile step, jammed a few candles on the cake, and fired them up with a match. I stripped to my birthday suit, grabbed the spray can of whipped cream, and lathered myself with fluffy goo. I opened the door with my right hand, balanced the cake on my left, and stepped inside.
“Drew! Happy Birthday!”
No answer. The guy had actually hit the sack.
My way illuminated by candles, my footsteps punctuated by dripping cream, I sashayed to the bedroom.
“Happy bi-rth-day tooo yooooo . . .” I yodeled.
“Mmmm, m’slpnnnng,” the lump in the bed lisped.
“Honey, look what I brought you!”
“Mmmm, too tired . . .”
My efforts to attract attention were not lost on our puppy. As I stood there, Minnow, our silly Portuguese Water Dog, launched into her evening snack. Whipped cream, delivered to the bedroom door . . . who would have thought?
As Minnow applied herself to my creamy costume, I wavered by the bed, disappointed I was losing the birthday war. Surely my husband would perk up and shoo Minnow away. Finally, I couldn’t take the canine clean-up any longer. I turned on my heel and high-tailed it toward the shower.
Licking and slurping, the puppy plunged after me as my husband started to snore.