Today I turn 33 years old. It’s hard to believe; I definitely don’t feel like I’m in my thirties. I can look back over all of those years and relive many memories. Birthdays on vacation, birthdays at home. Celebrations with friends and family. Quiet nights and parties I couldn’t remember the next day. I have a favorite memory, which I’ll get to in a little bit. First, though, I want to tell you about one of my more un-favorite memories. Both take place in similar circumstances.
Back when I was quite a bit younger (single digits) the family used to drive up to Springfield, Missouri once a year to attend a food show. Dad was the head buyer for the Price Mart grocery chain here in Tulsa and attended an annual convention of distributors and vendors, showing off their latest products and working deals for the coming year with companies across the region. While Dad worked in back rooms to secure the best prices on the goods his stores sold, I wandered the convention floor. Over the years, I made friends with reps from various companies like Sunshine Biscuits, M&M Mars, Colgate-Palmolive, and the like. I remember playing a version of Hard Drivin’ that was embedded in a fiberglass stock car, winning a Nintendo Entertainment System thanks to my high score on Super Mario Bros. (and being locked out the subsequent year due to my expertise), and gathering all kinds of grocery-related swag. I met Mr. Peanut and the Kool-Aid Man. I even had my picture taken next to the 1989 Batmobile! It was always a good time. Most years, we made a point to go by Bass Pro Shop, too, and eat at Hemingway’s.
Maybe it was my 10th birthday. We were eating at this restaurant at Bass Pro, having a great time, and suddenly I’m surrounded by wait staff. Before I know what is happening, they start singing Happy Birthday to me in the tune of Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat song. I was mortified. After they left, I didn’t talk to my parents. To this day, I get super nervous any time I find myself in a restaurant on my birthday. I’ve left when people have sang to me before. And that includes the regular old birthday song. I’ve never liked it…and I never will. My stomach knots just thinking about it. So, if you are ever inclined to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to me…please don’t. I hate it. And not in a ‘aw how cute it makes him squirm’ kind of way. Like burn the building down hate. Anyway…
The happy memory I spoke of earlier also took place at a food show. I was wondering the lower level one year and was admiring some of the bakery counters when I noticed a big cake that said, ‘Happy Birthday Rhys’. I was stymied. How did one of these sample cakes have my name on it? I ran upstairs to find Dad. I pulled him downstairs to show him this cake that incredulously had my name on it. What were the odds that someone else named Rhys had a birthday on the same day? When we got there, though, I discovered the obvious truth: Dad had them make the cake for me. I was surprised and delighted.
On my birthday, I am most thankful for my friends and family. I have a wonderful girlfriend who makes every day special. I have a Mom and brother who I love dearly and get along with easily. I have a circle of friends that I can count on and a wide range of people that make me smile on a daily basis. I am happy, and that’s the best gift I could ever receive.