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Someone else's birthday is not as fun as your own

Dec. 5, 2013 at 6:05 a.m.


I am the birthday person out on the ranch. It falls on me to set up all the various birthday activities.

I schedule the dinners, make the arrangements and get the presents, and I love absolutely every minute of being the go-to person.

There is nothing like the surprised look and excitement that surrounds celebrating the special occasions in your children's lives.

Austin, my 13-year-old, and Jamison, who is 9, can't wait until their birthdays. However, their excitement seems to wane when the birthday being celebrated is for someone else.

My boys have their lists made and ideas for their birthdays planned a year in advance. But, like most children, when it is their parent's birthday, a birthday kiss is about all of the thought that they give it.

The celebration of my birthdays are generally not grand. After the age of 25, I have honestly tried to let my birthday slide by with as little fanfare as possible.

There are actually a lot of things about getting older that are somewhat enjoyable. Children, a sense of calmness and well-earned contentment are welcomed surprises that come with age. It seems constant changes and major events completely consume everyone throughout their 20s. Actually, passing the marker date of another year doesn't really bring much excitement, and as I am nearing 40, a mild dread feeling is starting to creep in.

The children are great and try to make my day as special as they can, but they seem to realize that there is something lacking in my non-enthusiasm.

My early November birthdate began with Austin and Jamison awakening me with tremendous "happy birthday," "good morning" and "wake-up" kisses.

My parents knew that John had to be out of town for work, the boys were involved with various school activities, and this middle of the week birthday was going to be more glum than usual. I received an early morning call from my mother asking if I would like to join them for a special birthday lunch in Victoria.

The kids immediately saw my step quicken and my eyes brighten. "What's going on, Mom?" Jamison asked as he noticed my sudden excitement while Austin just had a puzzled look on his face. I explained that Mimi and Popsy had invited me to a birthday lunch, and for some reason, this hit the spot. Immediately, there were whines and murmurs of "we want to go, too."

Right then, Jamison, always the mature and sensible one, said, "We understand, Mom. You need this time to celebrate with your Mom and Dad, and we've got school anyway."

Jamison seems to just know the right words to say, which often tends to stir up brotherly contention. Suddenly, time was getting away from me, so I started running around like mad getting ready for what was turning out to be a special day.

The Victoria restaurant that my parents had chosen for my day was the newly opened The Sendera, which is located at the top of One O'Connor Plaza. I have been to that location many times in the past, John and I had our marriage ceremony and reception at what was then The Plaza Club, located on that sweeping top floor.

I asked my dad a multitude of questions about this basically new but familiar location, since he had already paid the restaurant a visit. He explained that Louise Patillo and her husband, Dennis, had done an interesting job with this site, like they had at another restaurant they had established in Victoria, The PumpHouse.

When we got out of the elevator and walked into the restaurant, we were greeted by Mrs. Patillo, and I was a little speechless, which is unusual for me. The entrance was interesting and reminded me so much of our jaunts down to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, for shopping when I was growing up.

My dad always took us to eat at the famous Cadillac Restaurant and Bar right across the border. My dad had frequented that famous restaurant many times in his youth when his uncle used to take him there. My dad passed that tradition down to me, and sadly, with the current conditions there, Austin and Jamison will most likely never get to visit.

The Sendera offers an interesting mix of familiarity along with grandeur. As if on cue, my cellphone rang with John calling to once more wish me a "Happy Birthday," and before I could hang up with him, I got a text from Austin wishing me the same.

I texted him that I would have to explain my surroundings to him when I got home, but right now, "I was looking at Julio." At our house, Julio is the longhorn steer mount that is positioned at the top of our fireplace above our mantle.

The Sendera had a portrait that could have been Julio's twin, and it was positioned right on the wall as you enter the dining area. Austin texted a series of question marks followed by a simple "Discuss later."

We were taken to our table, and it was fun to see others also celebrating their birthdays with a nice lunch. The food was great, the time with Mom and Dad was memorable, and the surroundings peaked a special nostalgia in my heart. It reminded me so much of my years growing up in south Texas and the special atmosphere that is a blend of land and heritage with a touch of Mexico.

When I got home, my husband made us all a birthday supper. (Yes, I did say said "supper." We are in South Texas, after all.) As we sat around the table, we talked and reminisced about growing up on a ranch. In particular, we discussed the uniqueness of my upbringing, which I don't really think about often until I visit with my dear friend, Anita, who co-writes our Smelly Socks column.

We often visit and compare experiences and differences in our childhoods and the differences our two sets of boys are currently experiencing. Geography does shape people differently, but each day, I am reminded that we indeed live in a very small world.

Johanna is a proud seventh-generation Texan. She lives on her family's South Texas ranch with her husband and two lively boys. Email Johan na Bloom or Anita Spisak at smellysocks@vicad.com.

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