As temperatures begin to cool, the days get shorter, and the leaves on the trees, start to show their fall colors; I’m reminded that another long year has passed. It’s also, almost time for visits from good friends, the unwrapping of dozens of gifts, congratulations on somehow surviving another year, and the inevitable birthday cake; decorated with one more bright, glowing candle than the previous year. My wife for some reason loves candles. I mean, she really – loves candles. I don’t know if it’s a woman thing, but she takes great pleasure in placing dozens of candles on top of cakes that get bigger, and bigger each year. My wife will shop at Sam’s Club for candles in bulk, and then meticulously, and lovingly place each reminder of my swiftly passing years; gently atop a cake so large that the baker, after finishing the enormous masterpiece, needs to take a much-needed vacation.
Is there really a need for all those candles? A simple cake emblazoned with, “Happy Birthday, You Old Fart,” would suffice. I’ve always wondered why it’s so funny to remind men that the years are swiftly piling up, but place the number of candles on a woman’s cake, corresponding to her exact age, and the humor gets lost somewhere under the icing. You know the years are weighing on you, when your spouse uses a hand-held propane tank with a torch, to light the candles on your birthday cake. I can only imagine that with all the improvements in medical technology, along with increased lifespans, that I might someday be faced with a football field-sized cake, a professional fire-eater to set the confectionary treat into a towering inferno, a local fire department on hand, and two hundred laughing grandchildren and great-grandchildren, eagerly waiting to help extinguish the massive, blazing display. Oh, yeah; I almost forgot. I’ll need two or three spare oxygen tanks, a dozen kids with healthy lungs, and an ambulance on standby, with highly skilled paramedics.
I’m really not that old. I just sometimes feel like it. I’ve reached the point in my life, where I can still blow out all the candles in one breath, but this past year, afterward, I had to sneak out to my deck, to suck in a couple deep breaths of precious, life-giving oxygen. Maybe this year, I’ll get my truck, hit every store within fifty miles, buy up all the candles, and hide the cases in the garage. What do you think? I don’t know why that one, tiny, virtually invisible, extra candle, bothers me so much. There’s getting to be so many that I can’t really tell the difference from year to year. Maybe, I’m bothered because I’m starting to feel my age a little bit. When I was young, and before those candles started accumulating, I at least had some idea why I was sore, tired and achy when I got out of bed in the morning. I’d wake up looking like death warmed over, and my roommate would say, “Man, you look bad. Are you okay? Did you do something to yourself yesterday?” I’d think for a minute, and then say something like, “Let’s see; in the morning I ran the Boston Marathon. Then in the afternoon I helped my dad put on a new roof. I did slip and tumble twenty feet off the side of the house, but a big picker bush broke my fall. After that it was pretty routine. I went clubbing until four in the morning, and got into a vicious bar fight with ten tough bikers. I don’t know what’s wrong. I shouldn’t feel this bad.”
I always wondered where the tradition of placing a candle on a birthday cake originated. Some scholars have speculated that it started in the mid-18th century in Germany. The tradition of making a wish before blowing out the candles, also started at this time. It is believed that a person’s wishes, will only come true, if they keep them secret, and if all the candles are blown out with one breath of air. Do you know, in all my years of blowing out the candles on my birthday cake, that none of my wishes have ever come true?
So, I guess it really doesn’t matter if I say, “Honey, I know you have a million-dollar life insurance policy on me, but I wish you would stop adding candles to my cake. I’ll meet my maker when I’m good and ready. Hey, Uncle Phil. I’m a grown man for Heaven’s sake, and you’re eighty-two. I wish you would refrain from giving me noogys. Aunt Edna; I wish you would stop writing me those five-dollar checks each year for my birthday. Instead, why don’t you invest the money in a good mustache trimmer? Tony, I know you’re my sister’s son, and I love you like a son, but you’ve been living in my basement for three years. I wish you would move out – tomorrow!” Whew, I’m glad I got all that off my chest. My wishes may not come true, but I do feel a lot better.
I have a few questions about the tradition of blowing out candles on your birthday cake. Have any of you, ever watched someone blow out birthday candles, and enormous quantities of some type of bodily fluid sprayed all over the surface of the cake? Did the person celebrating a birthday, have a cold, the flu, hepatitis, or possibly the bubonic plague? How many of you, when asked if you wanted a slice, said, “no thank you, I’m on a diet?” Did any of you ever buy a second cake as a back-up, and give the first one to the kids, and the dog? How come when you somehow manage to blow out all the candles, everyone cheers? Are they happy to celebrate your special day, or are they amazed you somehow survived blowing out dozens of candles? Have any of you ever placed those fake candles that can’t be extinguished, on the cake of a man, well past his prime? Did he pass out after five or ten minutes? Was it still hilarious? How come a kid with lungs comparable to those of an elephant, needs to blow out a maximum of a dozen tiny candles, but a man with the capacity of a mouse is faced with a veritable bonfire of smoking pyrotechnics?
I think this year, I’m going to ask my wife and friends to start some new birthday traditions. How about a single, delicious chocolate cupcake, with one lit candle? While I’m at it, how about everyone stop giving me sweaters, hats, nose-hair clippers, and those silly pink or light blue snuggies. I have to admit though. Those things are soooo……… comfy and warm. I better get going and see what my wife is up to. She’s been up all-night baking, and something smells delicious. “Honeeeey………… Why are there dozens of chocolate cupcakes sitting on the dining room table? Are those cases of candles?”