October 30, 2014
Funny the things that have been running through my mind as I approach another birthday here in a few days.
First, I’ve agreed to let some family members and friends host a birthday party at my house this year…the first birthday party I’ve had since goodness-knows-when. It’s not going to be anything fancy. We’re just going to build a bonfire in the back yard, roast some weiners, burn a few marshmallows (no matter how hard I try, mine always end up charred!), and share few hugs and laughs.
The first birthday party I remember as a child was on my 5th when Mama told me I could not have a party. My big day fell on a Sunday that year, and she said good, young Methodist boys didn’t have parties on Sunday. Imagine my surprise when I walked into our little living room and a dozen or so of my friends were gathered there all dressed up and shouting out, “Surprise!” Trust me, I truly WAS surprised!
From the sixth grade all the way through high school my best buddy, Wayne Turner, lived right behind us, and his birthday fell on November 3rd. I was two days older than he was, and was never shy about reminding him. We used to take turns having a joint party on the day in between our big days, November 2nd. One year we’d have it at his house, the next year at mine. (Funny how a “joint party” had a totally different meaning back then than it does today!)
I’ve frequently told the story of my birthday in 1959 when I thought the girl I was engaged to marry had completely forgotten my special day. About five o’clock that afternoon, after having received no card, no present, not even a phone call all day, I sat down with my guitar and wrote a sad song called, “Happy Birthday To Me.” It was about a guy having to sing Happy Birthday to himself because the special one in his life hadn’t done so.
Again, the surprise was on me. I showed up for dinner at my parents’ house and there sat my intended at the table when I arrived. I felt like a jerk, but Hank Locklin had a big hit on my song!
My favorite story of having to celebrate my birthday while out on tour came back in the sixties when we were booked for back-to-back Friday night and Saturday night shows in towns not too far apart in Iowa. At the Friday concert, a fan walked onstage in the middle of my show and presented me with a large chocolate birthday cake covered in white icing and shaped like a cowboy boot, obviously in reference to the white stage boots that were rapidly becoming my trademark. She led the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday,” and I was extremely pleased.
The very next night she showed up again in the other town and walked out on stage again holding another shiny white boot-cake. I appreciated it, but I said, “You already gave me a cake last night in such-and-such town. You didn’t have to do it again!”
“Oh, yes I did!” she exclaimed excitedly. “That was the left boot. This is the right one!”
I’ve got lots of years and lots of memories and lots of blessings to celebrate again this year. And I intend to do just that.
After all, I may be getting older, but I’ll never be this young again!