Smoke Alarm

While San Geraldo and I were making our travel plans, one of my cousins happened to phone my mother to tell her she was having a small party for her husband’s 80th birthday. My cousin is much, much, much younger than her husband. (She didn’t tell me to say that.) This is the second marriage for both, but they’ve been together a very long time.

IT’S AMAZING HOW MUCH HEAT (AND SMOKE) 81 CANDLES EMIT.

Years ago, when her husband’s son gave them their first grandchild, my cousin teasingly asked, “So, old man, how does it feel to be a grandfather?” His tart response: “I’ve got a better question. How does it feel to be sleeping with one?”

THE BIRTHDAY BOY IS A RETIRED UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR. HOT AIR TO SPARE?
HE’S FLANKED BY MY COUSIN, ONE OF HER AMAZING GRANDDAUGHTERS, AND HER SON-IN-LAW.

There were actually two birthdays being celebrated. My first cousin twice removed turned 13. I grew up with the birthday tradition that you always had one candle on the cake for every year of your age and then an additional one for good luck. I thought everyone had this tradition until I met San Geraldo. They didn’t get any extras in the frugal Midwest. What’s your tradition?

THE BIRTHDAY GIRL, MY COUSIN TWICE REMOVED. GRACIOUSLY AWAITING HER TURN.
13 CANDLES PLUS ONE FOR GOOD LUCK.

A VERY CONTENT DOWAGER DUCHESS.

My cousin wasn’t making a big deal of the party, really, just her husband’s family at first. But she then decided to include her daughter and family, and her sister (my cousin, obviously, too) and brother-in-law. She knew we were planning a visit and, if it coincided with the party, she said she would love if we could be there. So, we arranged to be in the States at the right time and we drove from Brooklyn to New Jersey on Saturday.

HEADING BACK FROM NEW JERSEY WITH SAN GERALDO BEHIND THE WHEEL.
NEW YORK’S (DOWNTOWN) SKYLINE IN BACKGROUND.

The party was an absolute pleasure. Both cakes were delicious. The kids were sweethearts. The Dowager Duchess was elated. And San Geraldo even had a half-hour siesta.

VERRAZANO-NARROWS BRIDGE, LOOKING BACK TO STATEN ISLAND.

As we crossed the Verrazano Bridge from Staten Island on our return to Brooklyn, I thought back to when the bridge first opened in 1964. Before that, we could only get to Staten Island (one of the five boroughs of New York City) by ferry. The bridge goes over the “narrows” heading into New York Harbor, so it’s officially the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. It was the world’s longest suspension bridge until 1981. I think it has since dropped to number  8. There are spectacular views of the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline, but I couldn’t get San Geraldo to pull over for pictures. (Something about it being against the law… or dangerous, I think. Party pooper.)

The bridge was named for Italian explorer Giovanni de Verrazano who is said to have “discovered” New York Harbor in 1524. (Four years later, he was eaten by cannibals on an island south of Jamaica.) My sister Dale initially thought the bridge was called the Verraznarrows Bridge. The name does flow off the tongue. Well, kind of.

YES, IT WOULD BE NICE IF THE ITEMS IN THE MIRROR WERE CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR.

Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

25 thoughts on “Smoke Alarm”

  1. One candle per year is the tradition in this part of the world, Mitch. Definitely no extras! Possibly our rugged British Colonial forebears did not approve of too much jolliness!

  2. I can't imagine putting that many candles on a cake. In our family after a certain point, say fifty, we put one candle for each decade. This keeps the Fire Department happy.

    1. Stephen:
      I checked for smoke alarms in my cousin's dining room before I helped light the candles (which took four of us to accomplish). San Geraldo put the required number of candles on my 50th birthday cake (without the one for good luck). They were lit so long, the icing melted.

    1. Ms. Sparrow:
      Hey! What's that supposed to mean? Since I'm only 29, of course, she's old enough to be your mother.

      Really, she's even younger in mind and spirit. (In June, I'll be 59 and she'll be 86.) And my rotten kid brother. who still looks like he's in his 20s, turned 53 in February!

  3. Yes, your mother looks very contented! Must have been those sumptuous cakes!! Looks like it was a lot of fun Mitch. Always good to get-together with family.

  4. Oh! Such fun to see a photo of your Dowager D. mamá! and the rest of the family! and those CAKES! Wow. 🙂 Happy cumpleaños to both birthday folks 🙂

    I had forgotten about the extra candle bit, but I'm pretty sure we've done that or been around it being done before… more likely out in New England or in NJ, where I grew up until age 16. May I ask where-ish in New Jersey you were?

    1. Judeet:
      My East Coast friends all had that one-for-good-luck tradition.

      We weren't far from Rutgers University.

      I hardly took any photos of my mother and brother this trip. I kept forgetting to use the camera! So glad I got that one good shot!

  5. How lovely your mother is… just beautiful! As for the birthday candles, I've never heard of putting on an extra… We have, a few times, resorted to just one big "table" candle because we didn't have anything else… so far haven't had to use votive candles or a flashlight. (guess it would be hard to blow out a flashlight….)

  6. No extra candles for the upstaters. At young ages, those candles shaped like numbers get used (You're 2 today!). From about 3 to 5 years, standard candles in a number equal to the age are on the cake to be blown out with great fanfare by the youngster. And after another certain age (somewhere in the 20s or 30s, depending on the person), only one symbolic candle is used so as not to depress the one who's birthday it is (I'm too old for this! Oh shit, I'm getting old). Then, after another certain age, the candles shaped like numbers come out again (80 would be a good example).

    It's very funny how when one is very young or very old, the half-years are used (I'm 8-and-a-half! I'm 93-and-a-half!). No one ever says they're 35-and-a-half.

  7. After the 13th birthday candles aren't used in my family…unless it's to poke fun at someone's age.

    The cakes, however, tend to get more elaborate; such as my older brother's toilet shaped cake on his 50th. Dunno who would have made something like that.

  8. How much younger is your cousin than her husband? If you don't mind me asking. Antonio has 17 years on me! I like knowing/hearing that I'm not the only one that's fallen for someone much much much older. 🙂

    1. Brittany:
      Since my cousin I'm sure doesn't read the comments, I'll tell you she's really only 10 years younger than her husband. I'm sure she was grateful for my exaggeration. But, I've got very close friends who have been together for 32 years and they have 17 years of age separating them. A perfect match!

    2. Haha! 🙂 Yeah 10 years isn't so bad! I'm happy to hear of your friends, though! I hope Antonio and I have many many many (let's put lots of emphasis on the "many" part) happy years together!

Share your thoughts and experiences. It's always nice to know I'm not alone.