Chuck (charlesofcamden) wrote,

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Adding another candle

With another birthday looming in a few days, I’m looking back today at memorable birthdays past. As one of eight children, birthday celebrations were fairly common and rather codified during my childhood. The cake would generally take one of two forms – it would either be a Sanders brand cake purchased from the local supermarket or, as became more common in later years, Mom would bake whatever your favorite cake was. I don’t have any photos of my own childhood birthdays, but this is as good an excuse as any to show you a couple of photos I took of siblings’ birthdays. These are, respectively, Greg’s 9th birthday (with Helene next to him) and Helene’s 9th birthday.

My most memorable birthday would probably have to be my 21st. I had been on the staff of the Attic Theatre in Detroit for only a few months, and the night of my birthday was a final dress rehearsal for the Attic’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I played two roles: Snug the Joiner and one of Titania’s faeries. In the spirit of full disclosure, I suppose I should state for the record that I was the biggest faerie in the show, at least in terms of sheer physical volume. In any other sense of the term, I would have to defer to other cast members.

I’ve never been one to trumpet my own birthday in advance (this post notwithstanding), so I didn’t even know whether anyone at the theater was aware that it was my birthday. Well, the moment we ended the rehearsal, the lights went down and our stage manager, Arlene, came parading onto the stage with a candle-bedecked cake in her hands, and the whole company sang Happy Birthday to me. Arlene had baked the cake herself and had festooned it with dark chocolate naked women cast from molds that she happened to have in her kitchen. I never visited her kitchen myself, so I could only speculate on what else one might have found there (though I will respectfully decline the opportunity at this time). The cake was also decorated with Chuckles – that is, the jellied candy you may recall from your childhood. Because, you see, Chuckles was also my nickname to many of the folks at the Attic. Though I left the Attic quite a few years ago, I have no doubt that most of those folks would immediately call out that name rather than my real name if they were ever to run into me.

I have one other photo to share from a memorable birthday; my 31st, to be exact. I was on the road with The Wizard of Oz. On that day, we happened to be arriving at the Holiday Inn in Skokie, Illinois, though this was a couple years before I moved to Chicago. When we arrived, our stage manager went in first and checked us all in. When she returned to the van to give us our room keys, she had a package for me. It was a present from CC. She knew I would be arriving there on that day as she had a copy of my itinerary, so she had mailed this package to the hotel with a note to hold it for my arrival. It contained mylar helium balloons as well as a couple of music cassettes. This photo shows me, bedraggled from a day riding in the van, sitting in my hotel room talking to CC on the phone and thanking her most sincerely. In the middle of crisscrossing the country on a 9-month tour, something like this could really make one’s day!

So here comes another one. And from the bottom of my heart, I propose this toast to myself – Here’s to many, many more!

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