Barely a month goes by in our family that someone doesn’t have a birthday. In fact, last weekend we had a fun family birthday gathering. Presents were bought, wrapped, unwrapped, and thanked. Food was grilled out and grazed upon buffet style. And cake and homemade ice cream were happily consumed. And copious pictures were taken.
And thinking about how we celebrate family birthdays causes me to reflect upon how a certain British bloke’s family might help him celebrate his birthday today. Hmmm. So, I give you a completely fictional birthday day in the life of someone like our favorite British actor, storyteller, charitable soul, and gentleman, Richard Crispin Armitage.
Once Upon a Time, There was a 42nd Birthday, by Gratiana Lovelace
(an original fictionalized story; any references to persons living across the pond is a complete fabrication)
(I will illustrate my story with Richard Armitage portraying the son.)
It is early Thursday morning of August 22, 2013 and the neighbor’s dog barks as the newspapers are delivered to their doorstep with a fling of the wrist of the bicycle riding teenager. The newspaper always just misses the glass storm door by hitting the side of the house. But one of these days, his teenage aim will get better–or worse–and the newspaper will hit our front door’s storm door squarely in the middle of the glass, shattering it. But not today.
Today, my baby boy is 42 years old–more precisely he is nine months of gestation inside me and then 42 years out in the world. People always count back 9 months prior to try to cheekily figure out if there was some conception connection–some celebration that warranted the baby making. I sheepishly admit that I don’t recall conceiving him. You may interpret that any way you like. You see, my boy was born almost a week late. His due date was actually August 17th. My husband always jokes that it was The Sun introducing a page 3 girl on November 17, 1970 that got his engines revving. I am not amused–well, maybe a little bit.
So with the barking dog, the almost broken front storm door, and a birthday boy to spend the day with, I turn my head on my pillow and gently nudge my husband awake.
Mum: “Dear, the paper’s here. And you need to set out the rubbish bin for this week.”
Dad: “Hhhhh! What’s the point in having our son home if we can’t have him do chores? Let Sonny do it.”
Mum: “No! It’s his birthday. And you’ll not endear yourself to him by calling him by his childhood nickname.”
Dad: “He never complains.”
Mum: “No, of course he doesn’t. But if you want to go with me on the cruise that he’s planning for us, then you had better get on my good side.”
Dad: “I thought we were talking about Sonny’s good side?”
Mum: “I’m his Mum. His good side is my good side. I carried him for 9 months and five days.”
Dad: “But that was 42years ago.”
Mum: “Precisely! Now get up and take the rubbish out while I make Son’s favorite breakfast–a chili cheese omelet with extra pepper, grilled tomatoes, and a cinnamon roll.”
Dad: I sit up faking a gag–well, almost faking it. My digestion is not what it used to be. “Oh Lord! Where’s my stomach medicine?”
Mum: I roll my eyes. “Our son likes spicy foods. I won’t make you eat it.”
Dad: “Thanks for that. I’ll go see to the rubbish.”
I shower, shave, and get dressed, then attend to the rubbish–by detouring into our visiting son’s bedroom. I knock softly, then enter upon a scene of such devastation that Sonny could be 12 and not 42 years old. Some things never change–clothes strewn on the floor, empty suitcases piled high in the empty closet–Sonny never did seem to grasp the connection between hangers and clothes that hang on them–and my son lying prostrate across his twin sized teenaged bed with his arms and feet dangling over the side. I half think he left home for the circus when he was seventeen because he had had his growth spurt three years prior and he didn’t fit into his bed any more.
Son: “Ahhhhhh!” I moan with a hangover. I can’t recall the last time I even had a hangover. Well I can, but that’s another story.
Son: “Dad, please, no sounds.” I whisper hoarsely. My stomach is churning in knots. “What time is it?” I groggily look at my wrist watch on my bedside table.
Dad: I walk around to the side of the bed where his head is. I lean down and survey the damage. “Bit of a late night, eh?”
Son: “Double shots.” I carefully nod my head once, then halt its movement for fear that I my head isn’t firmly attached. I slowly touch my head–and it seems to be where I left it.
Dad: “Son, you don’t drink liquor, you drink only wine.”
Son: “They were wine goblet shots, Dad. Ohhhh! My head is splitting.”
Dad: “I think our King Under the Mountain has drunk himself under the table.” I tease him.
Dad: “Dad, please. What they were smoking was suspect, not what they were drinking.”
Dad: “Don’t worry. I won’t make you sing for me with your hangover.”
Dad: “You know, you have to take it easy. You’re not twenty five any more, son.” I smile bemusedly while looking at a picture on the book shelf of him partying hard years ago.
Son: “So I’ve heard.” I smile wryly as I roll over onto my back and cover my eyes with my hands so the little bit of sunlight coming in doesn’t pierce my eye lids. Well my school chums did take me out for a pint or two of wine last night to celebrate my birthday early. The lads meant well.
Dad: “Well get yourself up and have a shower and shave before you come down for your Mum’s special birthday breakfast for you.”
Son: “Must I shower and shave?” I say facetiously as I look up into the face of my Dad–the face that will be staring at me in the mirror in thirty years. Yet, he takes me literally.
Dad: “Yes you must. You might like people to think that you’re a slob who couldn’t care less about his appearance, but …” I stop and look around his messy bed room and then at my son’s several days of stubble face. “Check that. But when you’re at home, we like to think that you’ve moved on from your teenaged self.” I smile at what I know is a hopeless request–with regard to his housekeeping habits.
Son: I smile at him. Then I start to get a whiff of breakfast–and it makes me want to gag. “Dad! What is Mum making for breakfast?
Dad: “Your usual–a chili cheese omlet, grilled tomatoes, and cinnamon rolls.”
Son: I do gag. “Oh, please stop her. I just can’t. The only thing I want is hot tea and cinnamon toast to settle my stomach. That’s all I think I can keep down at the moment.”
Dad: “I’ll tell her. But she won’t be happy. She lives to make you your favorite foods.” I walk toward his bedroom door.
Son: “I promise that I’ll eat it tomorrow.” I look at my Dad pleadingly.
Dad: “I’ll smooth it over with her.” I wink at him.
Then while Sonny makes himself presentable, I take out the rubbish.
Breakfast was a slow and quiet meal since Sonny was still settling his stomach and clearing his head. But we chatted about family and friends and caught him with what everyone was doing. He nodded at appropriate intervals. So I think he heard us. Then it is off to visit the King Richard III archaeological dig. The University of Leicester has added some KR3 educational exhibits explaining about how they determined that the body they found was King Richard III and about the life of the king I named our son after–King Richard III, who died on Bosworth field in 1485, on our son’s birthdate of August 22.
Sonny can usually walk around our large city without being recognized that often. Though, he sometimes looks a bit conspicuous when Sonny wears some of his characters’ clothes that he has been given to keep (like this photo of him in my wallet taken in 2010, left). I would imagine that there is no chance of him wearing his most recent character’s clothes in real life–unless there is a costume party, I suppose.
Before we get to the final KR3 exhibit, Sonny excuses himself and says that he will meet us outside in twenty minutes–he has to run an errand. Then we can all go on for lunch at the pub–but with no alcohol he pleads. Ha! Our Sonny isn’t much of a regular drinker–he’s too health conscious for that. So my wife and I patiently listen to the tour guide talk about the debates over the location and style of the last resting place of King Son III currently taking place.
When we get outside, we look around and see our son leaning against a stone wall. He looks content–and I smile. But he also looks like he is up to something. But I don’t know what. So I guide my wife over to him.
Dad: “Well son, feeling better?”
Son: “Much.” And I am.
Mum: “Are you sure? You look a little warm.”And I feel his forehead. My son rolls his eyes sheepishly at me, then smiles. Alright, he may be 42 years old today. But he will always be my baby boy. He wears so much leather, no wonder he is hot.
Then we see our son look behind the wall and he reaches for something.
Son: I give my Mum a bouquet of one dozen pink tulips. “These are for you, Mum.”
Son: “These flowers are a small way for me to say thank you for being my Mum and for going through so much pain when I was born. In the language of flowers, pink tulips mean love and caring–yours to me, and mine to you.”
Mum: I have tears in my eyes. “Thank you, Dear. They’re lovely. A mother could not be more proud of you and the man that you have become, than I am of you.” I lean forward and kiss my son’s cheek. Then he leans in to me for a hug–holding on to me a few seconds longer, like he used to do when he was young.
Dad: “Well done, my boy!” I pause and look at my son. “Well what about me? I had something to do with you being born.” I say bemusedly.
Son: I look at my Dad, raising one eyebrow in a decided smirk. “I do have something for you, Dad.” I reach behind me again and pull out an old newspaper copy of The Sun that I had picked up the other day.
Dad: “What’s this?” I ask impishly. “It looks rather old.”
Son: “It’s The Sun, from November 17, 1970. You always joked that the page 3 girl was my inspiration.”
Dad: “I open up the newspaper, and taped over the page three girl is a picture of my wife and I at our wedding so many years ago. I smile and look up at my son. Then I show it to my wife and she smiles. “Son, you are absolutely right.” He and I shake hands, then I pull him in for a bear hug. “You have become the man I always knew you would be. I am proud to be your father, Son.”
Son: “Thanks, Dad. And I’m proud to be your son.” I look at both of my parents.
We’re all tearing up now, on a busy city street–and we still have to have my birthday lunch yet.
Lunch at the pub is followed by me stopping by my Mum’s women’s club meeting when I drop her off. I sign a few autographs and take a few pictures with the ladies. Most of them have known me since I was in nappies–and they hadn’t started dying their hair yet–so there is a lot of cheek caressing (mine, that is) that goes on. They are so sweet. Meanwhile, my Mum gives me a gleaming smile the whole time. Then while Mum is otherwise engaged, Dad and I do some manly things together for a few hours–mostly going to the electronics store to check out plasma screen tvs and those multi media chairs with indentations for remote controls, game sticks, drinking cups, and such. One of the chairs even has a massage feature in it. Brilliant! My brother and I are buying Dad one of those chairs for his birthday–Dad just doesn’t know it yet. We are devious that way.
I see my brother and his family when they and some close family friends join us for dinner earlier tonight–with chocolate birthday cake for dessert. Yes! And the birthday gifts that I received? Well, let me just say that some are useful, some are just for fun, and all are greatly appreciated by me for the thought and caring they put into it. Actually, I will share that someone gave a gag gift of a very loud and colorful print silk shirt–like the Miami Vice tv show kind. I had wanted one as a gag when I studied at Lambda,, but I could never find one. So, 15 years later, I have my silk shirt. Ha! I have had a really great birthday spent with my family and close friends. The last 2.5 years, I have been gone and away from them for such long stretches of time while I worked on my most recent project. I missed them a lot–and they missed me. But it was wonderful to be able to share the THAUJ London Premiere with my parents last year. That’s what life is really all about–sharing our lives with those whom we love.
After TH, I’m not sure what’s up next for me–or at least, I’m not at liberty to say yet. *smirk* Then I turn around–billowing out my long coat portentously–and I walk back home.
(This has been a completely fictional tale–brought to you by Mirror Movies, Reflections of Life.)
And for another fellow having a birthday today:
I hope that you have a fabulous, lovely, and private 42nd Birthday! I sincerely thank you for giving myself and others immense joy and inspiration with your character portrayals and storytelling. And for your birthday gift? I wish you every happiness that you wish for yourself!
Love & Hugs! Grati;->
P.S. And my hubby and I will make a donation in your honor to Childline at Richard Armitage’s Just Giving site.