It was a winter Saturday and we had been at our new home, a single-wide trailer in Hubert, NC, for eighteen days. As a new family, we were starting to form a routine that worked for the three of us. Although we had only been married a few weeks, we were feeling comfortable with each other, and dancing on our very own white, puffy cloud-nine.
The sun shone clearly and it was crisp but tolerable, nice enough to visit the ocean. For me and Tye, it had been a while. Even though it was in the forties, we took off our shoes and walked in the white sand, collected some shells, and watched in vain for dolphins. After the beach, we grabbed a burger and some fries and did some site seeing, and every time we stopped somewhere, I thought Roger was trying to surprise me with a birthday gathering with his marine friends or something else to commemorate my twenty-second year on Earth.
When we pulled up in front of our green metal trailer in Hubert, I realized then that there was no surprise, and that Roger had forgotten my birthday. Actually, he just didn’t know it. Remember, we were only together for a few months at this point.
There were no phones, cell or landline, and our mail was very slow so I didn’t have any birthday cards or packages waiting for me at home. Tye was only four, so he didn’t know the date. It was to the point in the day when I felt it was too late to say anything, so I vowed to wait until the next day so no feelings would be hurt. As the sun made way for the moon, I began to internalize my emotions, and mentally evaluated the past year causing me to become incredibly homesick. That’s when the pouting began.
After some coaxing, Roger got it out of me.
“Look at my license,” I said to him.
He left our room and came back in with my purse. He gave it to me, and I took out my license and handed it to him, not wanting to cry.
He looked at it and said, “I don’t understand.”
“Look at my birthdate.”
With that, he set my purse down, kissed me, and said, “Tyler get some shoes on we’re going to the store.”
“No, it’s ok. You didn’t know. It’s not your fault it’s mine,” I called out to him. I felt so embarrassed.
He and Tye took off in Roger’s 1985 white Mazda RX7 to the local convenience store. Twenty minutes later I heard them come back in. They were talking and seemingly busy.
I continued to sulk, mostly out of embarrassment at this point, and remained in bed, wishing I had said something earlier. After some time, I smelled warm sweetness dancing through the air, and I started to feel happy.
After some time, Tyler and Roger walked into the room singing Happy Birthday. Tyler was holding a gas station felt red rose, and Roger was carefully balancing a rectangle cake on a flattened paper bag. On the cake was melted frosting and what looked like ketchup.
Through my tears I said, “Ketchup?!”
“No,” Roger said shyly. “That’s red frosting. I didn’t let the cake cool before we frosted it. And I put it on the bag because that’s what you do with cookies.” He looked nervous through his smile.
After that birthday, Roger made sure the next twelve were all about me, even from different countries or states. When he was stateside, he made me cake and dinner, in the later years there were always crinkle-cut fries he would make in his Fry Daddy. Extra salt and only Heinz ketchup.
If I could offer advice, I would say to push through those uncomfortable moments and tell someone if it’s a special date. It’s human to forget, and in my case, he just never knew. We were brand new to each other. Me withholding that information only caused me to feel sad, him to feel simply terrible, and Tye to feel awkward.
When I look at that day through today’s lens, I see a young family who enjoyed a day together going to the beach, eating burgers, and having warm, sweet cake. I also see love, the big kind, and am once reminded that our time with Roger was short, yes, but reminiscing about days like my birthday in 1996, I realize just how condensed our time together was. For that, I am thankful.