On Facebook, one of my friends said that it was a family tradition to tell the story of your best birthday memory. I, however, don't really have a best birthday memory of my own: I mostly remember the bad birthdays, the ones involving sickness. I also remember the canceled 16th birthday, when my mother was angry with me. And I remember the funny ones, like when my dad bought me mousetraps.
I think my memory deficit is because, growing up, my birthdays were pretty much always the same -- family, Thanksgiving, gifts. One year, there was the infamous Bert and Ernie cake. Sometimes, when my birthday fell on Monday through Wednesday, there were cupcakes or munchkins in school. And then there were the birthday parties, sometimes jointly with my sister, in places like Roy Rogers and Friendly's. But I can't really distinguish any of them as the best -- they were all pretty much universally good. I had a pretty good childhood.
As for adult birthdays, I have a particularly fond memory of my eighteenth birthday. It was my first Florida State-Florida game. I had a friend buy me tickets to the Nirvana concert (and a bottle of Jack Daniels to pregame with). Other friends bought me my first lotto ticket, which won me $6.50. And then there was the engagement ring, but that's a story for another day.
But ultimately, my favorite birthday memory is not from my birthday -- it's from my mother's birthday. A few years before she died, I surprised her by showing up in Florida unannounced. I had spent weeks laying the groundwork -- work was really busy and I'd be seeing her for Thanksgiving anyway -- and then worked out the secret details with my father and my grandparents. Nana and Pop took mom out for lunch and I walked into the restaurant. I got to the table and my mom saw me and did a double take. She was so extraordinarily happy.
I'll have that memory forever.