What Happened on My Birthday

Every year I ignore my birthday until people  close to me start to annoy me with it.

“What do you want for your birthday?”

“What are you going to do for your birthday?  Something special?”

Then, on my birthday, no matter how nice they are, I find something to make me cry.  (Does anyone else do this?) I vow to make today different.  So I am announcing my birthday instead of ignoring it.  Today, July 20, 2013, is my birthday.  On my Facebook wall I put up a photo and a video commemorating the day.

And for y’all, I’m sharing a very short story I published on Cowbird a year ago. In a previous post about The Space Race I mentioned this event, but here is the full story.


Apollo 11 Moon Landing: July 20, 1969

I was sitting at the end of the dock, draggling my feet through the lake water. Sometimes my toes caught on marsh grass. Behind me, Dad and his friends were grilling hot dogs and burgers just outside the screened porch. I could smell the singed meat and hear their beer-fueled laughter.

Mom called us to the table. As we approached, she placed a steaming bowl of corn-on-the-cob on the oilcloth. Salads and paper plates had already been set out by the ladies.

Everyone gathered around the picnic table. I noticed Dad disappear into the house, but we all sat—causing the table to first lean to one side, then the other—and heaped our plates full. Everyone talked so fast and loud, excited by the summer’s heat and the waterskiing and, for the adults, the beer.

The ear of corn on my plate dripped butter and I longed to sink my teeth into it. As I went to bite, I remembered my braces. I hesitated because, at fourteen, I already felt awkward. Not yet pretty and feminine, but no longer a careless child. My features had grown large on my narrow face, and my skin shone like greasy wax paper.

I felt the wires bend as my teeth plowed into the cob. I made a mental note to keep my mouth closed so nobody could see all the corn stuck in my braces.

Dad carried our 9” portable TV to the table and plugged it in under the window to the kitchen. He seemed focused, as though he’d thrown off the beer effect.

On the screen, we watched the hazy shapes of astronauts positioning our flag on the moon. Everyone stopped talking. We heard a motorboat in the distance, off in the horizon, but up around the tiny television, everyone was drawn like moths to the porch light.

Eventually my mother remembered and brought out the white cake with fourteen candles staked like individual flagpoles. They turned down the volume to sing “Happy Birthday” to me, then turned it back up and listened to Houston’s excitement.


WRITING PROMPT: Write about a memory you have of a historical event, but focus on your life during the event, not the event itself.


Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing

35 responses to “What Happened on My Birthday

  1. What a great writing prompt – and what a lovely example you’ve provided with your story.

  2. Good one, Luanne. What a memorable birthday! Mine is a week after yours and I do basically the same (forget about it until everyone else nags me into acknowledging it) but I’ve never had a moon landing on my birthday. Happy birthday!!

  3. Lovely story.

    I hate my birthday, too. In 2000 , just as my husband, son and I were going to celebrate it a few days early (not on a school night), I got word that my sister Judy had died. Two days later, on my actual birthday Jacob and I traveled from Geneva to Florida to bury her. And every single person who looked at my passport said: “happy birthday; are you traveling to spend it with family?”

    Ummm, yeah.

  4. Let’s start with HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! I think that makes us both Cancers.
    So cool that you wrote a story that fit the prompt to a T. i love this story.
    Have a great day,

  5. jeannieunbottled

    What a neat memory and essay — so fresh! And so are you.

  6. Thanks for a great story. Birthdays change so much as we age. The only thing special I do is not go to work.

    • Luanne

      Balvah, I’m glad you get to take off work for your birthday! That’s something right there! Thanks for reading.

  7. Happy Birthday, Luanne! I loved reading your story. Cheers!

  8. Here’s to your day; Happy Birthday!

  9. Happy Belated Birthday, Princess! Jill and Barry

  10. Love your post, I hope you have a great birthday. My birthday is Thursday and I love nothing more than ignoring it.

    • Luanne

      Well, now on Thursday, try announcing it instead and you might be surprised. I didn’t cry all day!

  11. Great story, Luanne! Thank you so much for posting. Happy birthday to you! I hope you had a wonderful day. My birthday is on Monday….we’re moon sisters!

  12. Love the story and I totally get the crying on uour birthday thing 🙂 I hope you had a great day

    • Luanne

      Haha, I knew somebody would! So by announcing it yesterday, embracing it in a way, I didn’t cry! Thanks so much!

  13. Happy belated birthday! I enjoyed the story and hope you were happy yesterday and throughout the new year! I always feel a “clean slate” starts every year we begin again! Your fourteenth birthday picture you drew for us was so special! Love the moon and U. S. flag posting added to the story! Awesome!

  14. Happy belated birthday… I’m catching up on reading blogs, after being blotto with flu for a week…
    I remember my fourteen year old daughter solemnly scraping off the glistening yellow blobs from the corn cob, as she wrestled with her braces…
    Your description brought it back so vividly !

    • Luanne

      Ah, thank you, Valerie. I’m so sorry you were struck down by the nasty bug. Thank you for saying the post brought back your memory–that’s what I love to hear :)!

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  16. Happy -very belated- birthday 🙂

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