It always rains on my birthday

 

Birthday-SkatePHOTOS BY COLIN RIGLEY

This is not a lament. Merely a statement of fact.

In sunny California rain is something to be savored and appreciated. Most years I love the rain. Maybe not last year when the rain chose my birthday to stage a comeback after an epically long drought forcing my boyfriend to cancel the bounce house he’d booked as a surprise for my birthday party (I’d have happily bounced in the rain but the company’s insurance wouldn’t have allowed it).

My mom taught me that birthdays are sacred. Everyone deserves at least one day out of the year when they can expect good things—kind words, a slice of your favorite dessert, some expression of joy that you were born. And I think this only grows truer when we grow up. Because nobody’s there to high five you for paying the bills or cleaning the toilet. So someone should be there to buy you a drink, make a silly card, anything really, on your birthday.

This year I kind of wanted a quiet birthday. There’s been so much going on, so many projects, efforts, undertakings, that sitting around the home I grew up in eating and hanging out with my family sounded pretty good.

Quiet doesn’t necessarily mean that there weren’t some cool surprise.

First and foremost, this year’s Yukon Quest started the day of my birthday (Saturday, Feb. 7). Ever since my mom and I traveled to Anchorage to watch the start of the Iditarod and then traveled to Fairbanks for several days of dog mushing, we’ve been obsessed with all things dog mushing and the Iditarod and Yukon Quest in particular. Even though we knew nothing too exciting was likely to happen the first day, my mom was following the Yukon Quest website on her phone and keeping me updated. We’re rooting for Allen Moore of SP Kennel. He’s a two-time Yukon Quest champion and he’s running with my absolute favorite sled dog—Quito—in lead. Because Quito is eight years old there’s a very reasonable chance this will be her last year running the Quest and I’d love to see her win it once more. To my coworkers’ dismay, I watch the race very closely and tend to maintain a dramatic commentary about what’s going on despite the fact that I’m probably the only person within one thousand miles who knows or cares that it’s happening.

The night before we left for my mom’s house in Prunedale my boyfriend surprised me with dessert at the Madonna Inn (that enormous pink confection of a hotel, café, and steakhouse in San Luis Obispo, where I live). A handful of coworkers were on hand to help eat pie, French fries, milkshakes, cocktails, and basically any other unhealthy offering that captured our attention on the menu.

While we were there the paper’s food and drink writer Hayley Thomas—or Hayley Cain, if you prefer to refer Birthday-Glassto her by her married name—presented me with a Madonna Inn goblet, which is the perfect San Luis Obispo kitsch item. In fact, I’ve had my eye on these goblets for quite some time, and have been plotting to buy a half dozen or so of them and utilize them for the dinner parties I always mean to throw (and never do because I rent a small house with no dinner table).

In any case, I was utterly thrilled that my kitsch goblet collection was taking off and am very much looking forward to expanding it (to my boyfriend’s horror, I suspect).

We drove to Prunedale Friday night and spent the night devouring a kahlua cake my mom makes on special occasions, and which I haven’t had in several years. When I told Colin that it was my absolute favorite dessert his jaw dropped and he had a hard time believing it. Considering that he’s seen me barrel through whole rolls of cookie dough, tubs of ice cream, platters of cup cakes, pies (both my own and store bought), milk shakes, and pretzel sticks dipped in chocolate, choosing an absolute favorite is a daunting task. But kahlua cake has the advantage of being one of my first loves; even my brother who is disinterested in sweets as I am interested in them, goes nuts over this cake.

The following day was baked goods from Provence Bakery in Prunedale, pedicures, Vietnamese noodles, and then Indian food for dinner. Pretty much your basic perfect day so long as you’re comfortable having a seamstress take out all your clothes.

We got home from dinner and I finally opened presents, including Colin’s present to me, with which I intend to break every bone in my body and terrorize the entire household.

Roller skates.

Finally.

This means I can finally sign up for roller derby, which I’ve been talking about for at least the last five years. My mom’s house has cement floors so I threw on my skates and wobbled my way through the house. Around lap three I figured out that if I carried a broom to steady myself I didn’t have to worry about falling.

My family was terrified.

The family pets were terrified.

If it hadn’t been for the latter fact I probably would have skated around the house all night but I didn’t want to traumatize them too badly so I took off the skates, already mentally scheduling skating practice time this week.

I’ve even got my derby name picked out.

All I need now are some new tights. And to learn how to skate. But that last one’s easy, right?

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