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Birthday Parties

Written by Bud Sisson, Storytellers Committee
April 15, 2010

I have watched my step-daughter-in-law, Jocelyn Leiser Herndon, creating birthday parties for her daughter, Gwendolyn Emma Herndon. Gwen’s third birthday party included a major landscaping project in the back yard so the party could be out of doors. It had a carnival motif, and I helped Jocelyn make a board which she painted with carnival figures and an assortment of holes for a bean bag toss. It’s really fun for me to work with Jocelyn. She’s so appreciative and enthusiastic.

I remember Marge’s 35th birthday, a party for two at Salishan Lodge in 1979 on the Oregon Coast and the day that followed when we made the decision to be married.

I have some very memorable birthdays, the most favorable one being my 70th birthday where the cake was my favorite Devil’s Food. The invitations stipulated that I did not want gifts but asked my friends to bring 70 coins, pennies, nickels, dines, or quarters and that the collection would go to the Million Mom’s March for gun control. The gifts totaled over $200.

My birthday is December 29th, which in my opinion, is not a good time to have a birthday. In general, our society is winding down from the Christmas rush and has not yet begun to wind up for New Year’s Eve. One dear friend even moved my birthday to January 29th, which is actually a much better time.

As a child, I don’t remember having birthday parties, so I have to say that I appreciate and take pride in the parties Jocelyn creates for Gwen. Since my birthday always came during Christmas Vacation, parties at school were not possible, plus the fact I don’t remember celebrating any birthdays at school.

One year, probably about my 11th birthday, I went swimming in the Gulf of Mexico.

Another disadvantage of a December 29th birthday is that parents, grandparents, etc., frequently give you one gift that says “Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday.” I hated that, but one year, my first father-in-law, H.J. Craig, gave me a present that was wrapped half in Christmas paper and half in birthday paper. Inside was a “board,” which I finally discovered had been carefully split in half, and between the halves was a birthday check.

My tenth birthday was on moving day, and I remember waiting in a cold house for my father, pulling his own trailer to arrive and unload furniture.

The worst birthday? My 17th birthday! I wanted it to be a couple’s party, so I had invited two other couples. I had a date with a girl I’d never dated before, and when I went to pick her up, the party took on disastrous dimensions. Somehow she had learned that her former boyfriend would be there with his new steady. She would not come to the party. While my mother and father entertained my guests, I went to the Saturday night dance at the YMCA seeking a date. No luck! I drove by bus stops hoping there would be a girl I knew who would accept a ride home and an invitation to my party. Finally, at 11 PM I arrived at my party. My father took me to the basement to inquire on what had happened. I broke down in tears and collapsed in his arms. When we went upstairs, my guests were leaving.

I never asked the date who stood me up for another date.

Now I am nearing my 80th birthday and if there’s a party, count on me. I’ll be there for sure, and I’ll be there on time.