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Birthdays are banner days wrapped in big red ribbons

At my 12th birthday party, my guests, left to right were Sharon Sheffield, Margo Publow (now MacNaughton), Diane Trumpour, Elayne McKee (now Meharg) and Cathy Dodds (now Long). That's me in the middle.

Each fall, as my birthday approaches, I find myself recalling long ago childhood birthday parties on The Commons (Hill Street). Celebrations always took place in the home, for Ronald McDonald had not yet been born and there was no such thing as a DQ cake. Traditionally, my mother always baked an angel food cake for me and topped it with her special lemon icing.

Each year, I was permitted to invite approximately eight school friends for a party to celebrate my natal day. Mother planned the event carefully and developed an ingenious scheme for making sure that I would received the most sought after party favour on my birthday. Inexpensive charms were concealed in each child’s piece of cake. Everyone wanted the small ring, When baking my birthday cake, mother would wrap the ring in waxed paper, fold it into the batter, then mark its location with a toothpick. When the angel food came out of the oven, she knew exactly which slice to place on my plate. If my young friends suspected skullduggery, they were always too polite to mention it.

Children’s birthday parties of the 1950s were simple affairs, in comparison with the themed celebrations often thrown for youngsters of today. We played simple games, such as Bingo and Pin the Tail on the Donkey and our prizes were token gifts.

Young girls of my generation knew how to dress for a party. In each of our closets was a dress to be worn only on special occasions. When it was outgrown, a new one took its place. My favourite was a full-skirted, white outfit made of a semi-sheer fabric with tiny blue flowers embroidered on it. Its wide collar was notched for a petal effect. Despite the fact that it made me look like a talking Bachelor’s Button, I could never wait to wear it.

I still remember the excitement of greeting my young guests at our front door, on the day of my birthday party. It was my first experience at playing hostess. Once my friends had arrived, the games began. After an hour or more of spirited play, I would open my presents. Then, we would sit down to a birthday feast. After the cake had been served, we would resume play for a short time, as my guests waited for their parents to arrive to take them home.

I will always remember my fifth birthday, for it was then that I received a very special gift. My party was almost over, when Uncle Clarence arrived in his truck with a present for me. No doubt fearful of my mother’s reaction, he came to a rolling stop, handed her a Beagle pup wearing a huge red ribbon, and sped off. I could scarcely believe my eyes. All other birthday gifts forgotten, I experienced a feeling of wonder as I held the puppy in my arms. Sadly, Skipper, as I named him, died of distemper a few weeks later but I have never forgotten that wonderful birthday when he was given to me.

Birthdays no longer excite me as they did when I was a child. In childhood days, a birthday meant that I was growing up. Now, the celebration of another birthday carries with it an undeniable truth – I am growing old. Still, some things never change. While I may not be receiving a puppy for my birthday this year, I am getting five kittens and their mother. When a stray cat delivered her kittens in our barn this month, my husband Alan agreed that we could foster them for a few weeks before surrendering them to the Humane Society. With my birthday just around the corner, I was successful in persuading him that they would be the perfect gift and asked to keep them. Eventually, he agreed that five kittens and a Mom Katt for our barn would make a fine present, indeed. He’s planning to gift-wrap them in red ribbons.

Filed Under: Margaret Haylock-Capon

About the Author: Maggie Haylock is a freelance writer and former newspaper reporter who has co-authored several books with her husband, Alan Capon.

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  1. Ann Sherwood says:

    Like I’ve always thought, the strays know where to go! Enjoy your new family!

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