And when my mother was a week late in delivering, her doctor told her, “Take a long bus ride, see if it jostles something.”
And so they got on the B9, mom and dad together, and rode the bus from one end to the other. 2 and 1/2 hours.
When she went back to the doctor, he told her that he was going on vacation. She told him, “I’m going to wait for you, Dr. Fanta.” He laughed at the silliness of her statement and assured her that the child was going to be born long before he got back from vacation, but he promised to look in on her as soon as he got back. When he got back to his office, his face dropped when he saw my mother sitting in his waiting room.
“We gotta go get him” was all he said.
And so, on Monday, September 20th 1965, with the aide of a surgeons scalpel, I came into the world kicking and screaming. I was a full ten months in gestation. I like to tell people that it takes just a little bit longer to make perfection, than it does for you mortals. Mom told me that she conceived me on their wedding night, first time out of the gate. Mothers know these things. I always wanted to ask the old man if he was a freshman too, but I was afraid to spoil the fantasy.
Born of two virgins. That’s better than Jesus.
Birthdays were always pretty low key in the early years. There wasn’t a lot of cash around, so there wasn’t an abundance of gifts, and after my 5th, there were no other parties. I didn’t really mind all that much. I liked being the center of attention, but only on my terms. Even to this day, I tell whoever I happen to be dating. “No gifts, no surprises.” I never liked gifts. I always thought it was too much pressure for everyone concerned. I rather just go somewhere. Take me to dinner. Take me on vacation. Take me to see Pearl Jam at the Barclays Center. And scratch-offs. I like scratch-off lottery tickets.
When I reached my teenage years, it was always a good excuse to get pretty toasted. Not that I needed any excuses but if I was out on a Friday night, I always made sure to say, “it’s my birthday” in the hopes that I’d get a free drink, or some other chemical trinket. I may have used it a few times when I was broke in March too.
Years later, after I had mended my ways, I saw a friend of mine on the avenue. She had a dour look on her face. When I asked he what was wrong, she sighed. “It’s my daughter’s birthday, she’s out with her friends in the Hamptons.” I didn’t get it. “What’s the problem with that?”
“I wanted her to spend it with me. It’s our day.”
“It’s our day.” My stomach dropped. Those words cut through me like a knife. I thought of all the birthdays that we missed.
The next day I went to visit mom. She was suspicious from the minute I got there.
“Ma, what do you want to do on my birthday? I want to spend it with you.”
She raised an eyebrow. “What do you want?”
“Nothing. I just want to spend the day with you. It’s our special day.” By this point she dropped her head and looked over her glasses at me.
“Are you on something?”
“No, Ma. I’m serious.”
“If you want, I’ll make you manicotti, but I want money for Atlantic City next week.”
When she said it, the word came out “manigawt”.
It was a pretty good deal, home-cooked manigawt for $100 bucks in quarters. I made that deal quite a few times. I’d do it again in a minute.
The world turns colder after Sept 20th. The leaves change, the days get shorter. It’s always a melancholy time of the year for me. Summer’s almost gone. If it weren’t for the fact that school starts and winter is on the way, it’s the best time of the year.
This year I’ll spend my birthday with my workmates. I’ve done that quite a few times. It don’t really matter. She’s always with me.
Happy Birthday Ma. It’s our day.