For the last few years, I’ve spent a week of April in Sarasota. Leslie heads that way because her kids have spring break. And it’s hard for me to turn down an opportunity to spend seven nights sleeping on a sleep-sofa with a pillow shaped like a concrete curb. Okay, spending seven days picking seashells and eating gelato with Anders and Olivia also help in the convincing department.
Last year Leslie told my mom she wanted to get me a birthday cake. While my birthday had recently passed, she thought it would be fun to surprise me. Also, she specifically wanted to get one from Morton’s, a gourmet food store that has fruit tarts that make my heart flutter.
“Their cakes are too expensive,” my mother said as she steered her Mercedes Benz into the driveway of her lakefront vacation house, her gold Italian ring clinking against the gear shift.
Nothing was done. No one bought cake. No one sang me happy birthday. Not that it mattered. No really, it didn’t. Spending a week wading through the warm waters of the gulf before plopping down on the white sand beach to build a sand castle really puts things in perspective.
“PJ, I want us to do something to celebrate your birthday when you guys come down,” my mom said a few weeks ago. “We’ll go out to dinner.”
“We can just do the Lazy Lobster,” I said, selecting this eatery because it’s close to the house, has a kids menu, and serves lobster. Plus the service is impeccable, you can sit outside and did I mention they have lobster?
“No, we always go there. We can go anywhere. It’s your birthday!”
“Okay, well, let’s do Libby’s.” I had only been there once for lunch and was eager to sample their dinner menu.
A week later, my mother rang to propose we go to an Italian place on Main Street. “This way the kids can get pizza.”
“Leslie just took the kids to an authentic French restaurant and they did just fine,” I countered, omitting the fact that I don’t really much care for Italian food and very much don’t care for any of the restaurants dotting Main Street. It is as if that address guarantees mediocre fare.
“But Mediterraneo is quite good.” This from a woman who is 100% Italian and has always expressed a disdain for the food of her people. It was like a vegan proposing dinner at The Palm.
A week passed before my mother called again, this time to ask what night we should celebrate my birthday at that restaurant I had absolutely no interest in experiencing. “Leslie doesn’t know what time they’ll get in on Monday so I thought Tuesday night.”
“Let’s go Wednesday night. No need to run out for dinner the second night they’re in.”
“But Tuesday is closer to your birthday,” my mother argued.
“Closer by twenty-four hours but still a week later. Plus, Wednesday is a nice mid-vacation break.”
Yesterday Leslie rang to check in. Somewhere between her description of heavenly coconut cake she got from a bakery near her house and the highlights of working the school book drive, she mentioned our mother. “Oh, and Mom just told me she booked that Italian place for Thursday night. You know, for your birthday. Hey do you even like Italian?”
Happy Birthday to me!
PS: Yes, today is my birthday. In anticipation of eating cake for every meal, I worked out extra hard this morning.
PPS: Based on the number of restaurants mentioned in this post, one might conclude I am obsessed with food. I am.
Update: In the twenty-four hours since the post was originally penned, and with some help from Leslie, my mother has conceded that since it is technically my birthday, I should have some say in the festivities. We are now going to Libby’s. On Wednesday night. Like I wanted.