An invite to a cake and ice cream party… that’s all it took for me to finally make the connection on why I absolutely love birthdays!!! I always just thought it was the way God made me… which I am sure in many ways it is… I mean I don’t know of anyone who holds on to memories the way that I do and makes them into something entirely different according to the current situation… not to say that my memory changes it’s more like I adapt a past memory into something that allows me to find the good in it… I hope that makes sense… so anyway back to my memory…
Cake and Ice Cream Parties looking back on them were the equivalent to a white person’s birthday party for not-so-rich black folk… (sorry if I’m stepping into offensive ground I’m just trying to be real) anyway, they mostly consisted of family members only; all the cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc… there was never anything special about the day, you might have gotten a new outfit or maybe just some new shoes (that you saved for school days) you more than likely already had your gifts or were still waiting for them there was never a designated open your gifts time… sometimes there was food and sometimes not if there was it was always hotdogs and hamburgers and you mostly spent all day playing outside with all your cousins… if you got anything from the ice cream truck earlier that day you made sure you didn’t get it on your new outfit (before the pictures were taken) otherwise even on your birthday you’d still get whooped…
When the sun set it was time for cake and ice cream… you already had dinner so there really wasn’t anything else to do… and then and only then could you MAYBE invite a friend or two over… not a minute sooner and they had to be kids your mom already knew and had been invited into the house on previous occasions… don’t think for one minute you’re gonna get to invite the new kid over because your mom didn’t know them and they were NOT coming in… in fact you probably already told the friends who were invited earlier and were going around the apartment complex knocking on their doors telling them it was time for the cake and ice cream and to hurry up…( actually it went more like this ,” Ms so and so I’m getting ready to have my cake and ice cream now can so and so still come over?)
Once everyone was inside you gathered around the kitchen table where the few decorations were (a few balloons and MAYBE some streamers) and everyone sang happy birthday to you as your mom came around the corner with the cake and all the stick candles in it (WE NEVER HAD THE NUMBER CANDLES) and that’s when the pictures were taken… in order to get a piece of cake you had to have the same plate you ate off of earlier… (everyone had their own identifying mark… initials, stars, hearts, an X etc) and only the few friends got a new plate which you probably went out of your way to give to them as to not make a big deal when everyone seemingly had a plate out of nowhere because they were told to go get their plate which was in a designated holding area.
After you ate the cake and ice cream… the day was done… you and all your cousins walked the few friends back to their door then all the family started to disappear (most with plates full of leftovers) but they never left without giving you a hug and kiss and telling you happy birthday… most of the time you just stood by the door as to not miss anyone… that’s when, IF you were getting anything from anyone you’d get it… rather it be a card, or a few bucks… BUT it wasn’t expected nor was it an obligation to give anything because you just had your gift which was the cake and ice cream… and truly that was enough!!!
You rarely got a chance to feel special, especially if you had siblings so to get the privilege of having a cake and ice cream party was the highlight of the year! I absolutely loved them whether they were for me or my brothers or sister or a cousin… because although you didn’t get too many things you were truly surrounded by all the people who cared about you the most and maybe even a few friends who made the cut!! We had cake and ice cream every year for our birthday even if we had nothing else… and we (the birthday boy or girl) always got to pick what kind of cake we wanted (at least in my family we did).
And I guess that’s why today I absolutely love birthdays and I refuse to let anyone be alone on theirs or go without acknowledging it… because if I and many other not-so-rich black folk can love and be excited and grateful about our birthdays on the simple basis of cake and ice cream then surely you can find something to be excited and grateful about on your birthday!!! So just know that when I say happy birthday I really mean it. Whether it be via Facebook, text message, voice-mail, card, or a prayer you may not know about…. if I know your birthday please know that I am thinking of you on your most special day of the year!!!