I had a birthday this week. I turned 58 on Wednesday and don't care who knows it. Despite the fact that my good friend Keith Estes makes a pretty convincing argument to the contrary, I still prefer growing older to the alternative -- at least for now.
I'm kind of like the little boy in the Sunday School class I used to teach. I asked the children who wanted to go to heaven, and they all raised their hands except one person -- little Timmy. I said, "Timmy, you don't want to go to heaven when you die?"
His hand immediately shot up toward the ceiling and he said, "Oh, sure! I want to go to heaven when I die. I thought you were getting up a load to go right now."
Well, one day I will be ready for the better world we are promised, but I would love the chance to hang around here for a little while longer. There are still a few things I haven't gotten around to trying yet -- although for the life of me I can't recall what they are right now -- and there are a few things that I have done that I would love the opportunity to do again. For instance, I would purely love to see Georgia beat Florida in football at least one more time before I go.
But we were talking about it being my birthday.
One of the classes I teach actually threw me a little breakfast shindig Wednesday morning. I guess some kids will do anything to get a little down time in an AP class. Let's see -- would I rather eat ice cream and cake or would I rather discuss Warren G. Harding?
By the way, my daddy went to his grave insisting that Warren G. Harding was the worst president this country ever had. As far as Bob Lunsford and I could tell, the worst thing Harding ever did was to allow my daddy to spot him coming through LaGrange on a train. But all of that is another story for another day.
While my class and I were enjoying our refreshments, some of the students -- the ones, I suppose, who really didn't want to get back to the Teapot Dome Scandal -- began to quiz me about my celebrations of birthdays past.
"How did you celebrate when you were a kid?" I believe is how they put it.
You have to be pretty smart to survive an AP class, understand, and my students are smart enough to know that the best way to get me off course is to ask questions about my childhood in Porterdale. The 1950s were golden, don't you know, and my students realize that I never tire of talking about those happy days gone by.
I don't remember all my birthdays, of course, but a couple stand out in my mind. My mama always made fried chicken on my birthday, and nobody's fried chicken compares to hers. Once or twice I had friends over for a birthday party. Birthday parties were a lot simpler back in those days. What wasn't? There was usually a cake -- homemade, of course -- and maybe some little cups of ice cream -- the kind you ate with the wooden paddles -- and a few nuts and mints. Cherry Kool-Aid was the beverage of choice, and the mothers would organize games of musical chairs and pin the tail on the donkey for entertainment.
Most guests would arrive with presents, which were modest in nature but much appreciated. A $2 model car was a magnificent gift, but 99-cent cotton-seed baseball or a 49-cent rubber-band-powered balsa wood plane was equally welcomed. No one thought twice if a child showed up empty-handed, and we never knew anything about giving goodie bags to our guests or such. A piece of cake and a Dixie cup full of Kool-Aid was treat enough.
The birthday parties we gave our kids didn't resemble the ones I described above, but I am pretty sure we enjoyed the ones we attended at least as much as my kids enjoyed the extravaganzas that passed for birthday parties in their day.
Someone else asked about my favorite birthday. Hard to pick just one, but I do remember that in 1978 Rich Simpson at WGFS, the voice and choice of the Piedmont Area, declared March 10 "Coach Darrell Huckaby Day." My football and basketball teams at Cousins Middle School had both won league championships that year, and I guess Rich thought the hometown boy could use a little positive attention. I don't mind admitting that I enjoyed being in the limelight.
Another favorite birthday was Wednesday, two days ago. I spent it with my lovely wife, Lisa, and the chicken she fried up for me was almost as good as my mama's.
And if I make it to another March 10, I am sure that will be a pretty special one, too. When you get my age, every tomorrow's a gift. I'm with Timmy. I want to go to heaven, but not if you're getting up a bunch right now.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. E-mail him at email@example.com.