This last weekend we had cause for celebration, Will’s birthday. Backalong, in the days of our rapidly expanding family, when we were young, our dreams were golden-ripe and ready for plucking, and pennies were few and far between, we devised different ways of celebrating. Unable to afford the more conventional bought birthday presents we made, invented and recycled our gifts. The centre piece of each birthday became ‘the table’ – as it’s now referred to. And when the birthday boy came down in the morning the table would be transformed into the theme of his birthday, his passion of the moment – knights, dragons, space ships, monsters and castles, anything. With gathered branches, flowers, objects, homemade papier-mâché, presents and cake, I would create some kind of wonderland which signified the specialness of the day. This homespun tradition hung on over the years, gradually becoming more of a complementary backdrop. Will, though, holds onto the childhood magic fiercely; he’s a full-on birthday kind of guy, jellies and all.
Last year he was working up in Scotland. Rushing headlong towards deadlines and living in temporary rented accommodation he told us not to bother. We’d celebrate later, at some more convenient time, he said. We duly did as he suggested, phoned, emailed and texted our happy birthdays. But without the celebration he was devastated, felt miserable and forgotten – abandoned! To make sure it didn’t happen again he’s been reminding us gently, and then rather more urgently, about his birthday for the past month or so, reaching a crescendo of calls this last week.
This year the theme was orange, I’m not sure, why. Orange flowers, montbresia and nasturtiums were picked and arranged, orange shredded paper festooned from the overhead chandelier (yes, we are dead posh), presents wrapped in yes, you guessed it, orange paper, and so forth. Rob wore an orange shirt from his youth. The chocolate cake was adorned with tangerines –just joking, they were cherries.
Will, never one to let feelings of pleasure show, grunted mild appreciation and started to open his presents with agonizing slowness. Drawn out, excruciatingly-tantalising elongated delight. The family left him to it after an hour or so, he’d only managed to remove the envelope from one card.
Today is the real birthday. Happy Birthday Will!