I have managed to endure into my 7th decade and have had lots of birthdays and celebrated many birthdays for others.   Once you have children and grandchildren it seems like every other week there is another birthday.  That is pretty much the case too.   They all begin to blend together like a blur in the memory.  It is hard to recall very many specific ones.  I find that it is not so much the birthday as such or the presents but the atmosphere and setting that you will recall more than any gift received or given. 

As a child I can only really remember one that sticks out in my memory log bin after all these years.  It was my tenth birthday.  We were living in a clapboard home in a new development, one of those built by the bushel after the War.  We had moved several times after Dad came home from the war and he worked very hard and on a couple of occasions had two full time jobs simultaneously.   I really don’t know how he did that but he did.  We had lived in rent houses. When we moved there it was literally the last street of the city before you got to cropland.  When we moved in there were acres of crops across the alley from our house.  That house I am sure had no more than 1000 square feet or so.  It was quite small.  It was the first new house we had ever had.  We hadn’t been there very long before Dad had surgery on his back.  It was to correct and injury from the War when he fell into a slit trench during a air raid warning.  It was dark and they were running for the shelter and since they were sailors on the Island they didn’t know the layout and Dad and several others ran right into the trench.  There were no lights of course during the war on an island like that so it was pitch black.  Anyway the surgery was very serious and they had to fuse Dad’s back together right above his tail bone with 4 silver screws.  It was a fairly experimental operation at the time and a young orthopedic surgeon performed it at the VA.  I remember going with mom to visit Dad at the hospital.  I was young but old enough to know the surgery was a big deal and that he might threaten our livelihood.  At that time Dad was a working man and had to have his health to drive trucks and deliver goods and jump on and off railroad cars.  They put Dad in a solid cast from his neck to his mid thighs.  He had to waddle to move at all when he came home.  I don’t really know what we did for money during this time.  Kids usually aren’t told too much about money problems when they are that young.  Dad was supposed to be off work for six months and after that there was no guarantee that he could do manual labor again. 

Dad only took about half that time to be own his feet and went right to work.  For the rest of his life he was supposed to never lift more than 50 pounds which meant that would restrict his prospects for work greatly since he delivered and lifted products weighing more than that all the time.   Dad was tough and he was the strongest man for his size I ever knew or saw.  His back did hurt him for the rest of his life.  Sometimes very painfully so but he soldeired on always.  He did end up doing very well for us and had his own businesses a few years later. 

Right after Dad recovered from the surgery and was working again my birthday came along.    I know he couldn’t have been working very long and no doubt the money situation was very tight.  I was going to be ten.  I remember being home with Mom and my brother and then Dad came home with a package.  A big one.  Kids always love to see those big packages at Christmas or on their birthdays.   Those big ones always portend something really special or at least they think they do.   But this one was not a disappointment.   Dad had got me my own shotgun.  It was a .410 that was a very simple design.  It was bolt action with a clip for the shells.  I had been hunting with Dad many times over the years when he would go rabbit, squirrel or dove hunting and he would take me along.  I loved those hunting trips with Dad they always made me feel so big.   I was absolutely mesmerized by that gun.  It was a Ted Williams model from Sears.  Ted Williams at that time had an endorsement deal with Sears.  He was one of the first sports figures to have a long term deal with a company to sponsor their products.  He was well known as a hunter and fisherman in addition to his skills on the baseball field.  The gun cost $10 dollars.  I remember Mom talking with Dad about it.  That $10 dollars was probably a real stretch for them at that time and Mom, like all Moms, was worried about me being too young for a gun.  Dad assured her it would be fine and that he would teach me how to handle that gun.  He did.  You can be assured that when he gave me my instructions when he took me out with it a few days later for a dove hunt that I was very attentive.  I remember the lessons he taught me then to this day.  How the gun is never “unloaded”, how to use the gun safely to cross a barb wire fence, how to load it, aim it, unload it, working the safety and then firing it.  I was never a particularly good shot and still am only so so at best.  Dad was sensational.  He rarely missed and could point and fire in a flash. 

Ten dollars today would be a laughable number I know for a present.  It was not a great deal of money even in 1952 but it was to us.  I felt so big and so proud.  None of my friends had their own guns even though they had more money than we did then.  Of all the birthdays why does that one stick out?  I still have that gun and still treasure it even though it is not great quality.  It is a relic to me and a treasure trove of memories.  I will pass it along some day.  It won’t be used much but that doesn’t matter.  Its history matters.

We all should never lose the belief that we can rise above ourselves and that we are important to someone.  The accomplishments in life are only significant if they are shared with someone we love.


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Filed under Culture, family, history

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