Birthday things

Liz Morales celebrated her birthday with friends, presents and a different kind of cake.

Liz Morales, The Columbus Telegram

COLUMBUS — I’ve endured my birthday in all kinds of different places, but this time it was right here in Columbus.

I always hear that when you get into your late 20s, you try to forget just how close you are to seeing the top of the hill. I hate thinking like that, so I choose not to.

Maybe that’s because I have 22 years until that summit is directly beneath me. Oh wait, I promised not to think about that.

After a long day of life, the two characters who make it into my columns regularly came over to help me celebrate my day.

Kylee and Karsen sat down at my dining room table to shoot the breeze as I prepared the main course. I warned them ahead of time there was not going to be a cake. Because I loathe cake. It’s one of those “always have, always will” kind of things.

Yes, I realize this makes me my own statistic, because who doesn’t love cake? Only me.

I decided when I was in third grade that cake was too dry for my liking. I’ll lick the icing off, but that’s as far as I’ll go. So my folks and I came up with the perfect alternative — dirt pie. Yes, that sounds like the most unloving thing to make for your growing child, but hear me out. It’s essentially chocolate pudding with mashed Oreo cookies and gummy worms.

The preparation of this masterpiece leaves your kitchen looking like a raccoon got loose, but it’s worth the hassle.

My birthday tradition was scooped into coffee mugs and we caught up. Then Karsen told me to open my birthday card. She had a glint in her eye so I was expecting something terrible. I opened the card and found a smiling frog lying on his back. The frog looked happy and relaxed, but this didn’t matter.

A scream that could be heard in Schuyler left my throat and the card went flying. I like to think I’m brave and strong in most cases, but I had to choose the stupidest thing to be afraid of — frogs.

As with most fears, this one started when I was a toddler.

My uncle was gardening in my grandparents' backyard one day when he told me to look at something. I clearly remember leaning in close to where his hand was. I couldn’t see anything distinguishable amid the wooden plank that lined the garden. Then something jumped. I hadn’t seen it before and didn’t understand the concept of camouflage yet, so I thought I was being attacked.

I realize how hilarious this all is. So have the people who have been around me when frogs or toads are about. A couple of months ago Karsen was added to that list.

One of our friends was getting their car worked on, so we all lazed around and waited for the vehicle to be healed. It was a summer night, so all sorts of little animals were about. Beetles don’t bother me, neither do worms. I’m fine with spiders and centipedes, too.

Karsen noticed a little frog between the garage and wall. She scooped it up and showed it to everyone. It was a tiny little thing, cute from a distance, really. My reaction to the baby amphibian was not unlike my birthday card, and, of course, Karsen remembered that.

My fight-or-flight response cooled off, and I got to my presents.

I’m now the new owner of a pillow covered in sequins that can be manipulated into different designs, several gift cards and a framed “But First, Coffee" display. Since coffee is an integral part of my bloodstream, I found this fitting.

To the passing eye, none of this is too exciting for a birthday. Three friends laughed and talked over pudding, then two of them left. But when you ask anyone what their favorite part of a holiday is they’ll more often than not tell you the same thing — spending time with family and friends.

Someone will bring up a story that usually releases laughter or maybe another story. This is how memories are made. All memories, to me, are mental photo albums. Adding to those albums is what makes any birthday just lovely.

Editor's note: The "New to Town" series features regular columns by Telegram reporter Liz Morales as she documents her transition to Columbus and what she learns along the way.

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