My birthday was the exception...which made it an exceptional day. Granny tried to be the first to wish me a happy birthday, calling long before my alarm clock was set to ring.
"Happy birthday to you," she warbled, singing the whole song enthusiastically off-key. "Happy birthday, dear Lorrrrri. Happy birthday to you!"
For dinner on January 5th (or as close to that date as we could manage), she fixed my favorite...salmon patties. She used canned "Double Q" pink salmon.
"Always pick out the little bones," she advised, as she carefully sorted through the salmon with her fingers. She added flour, egg, cornmeal, salt and pepper; then she patted the fish into round cakes about the size of the palm of her hand.
She set the skillet on the burner and poured in two caps full of Wesson oil. The gas under the burner flared blue.
While she fried the salmon patties, we talked about school and books and TV shows.
Sometimes she told stories about when she was a girl...how she used to pretend she was an opera star while she washed the supper dishes. I could just imagine her looking out her kitchen window, soap bubbles up to her elbows, singing made-up words in a loud vibrato (poor on tone, but rich with emotion).
Grown-up Granny set the salmon patties on a folded paper towel on top of a plate. We served ourselves, two salmon patties each, a heap of fried potatoes, a puddle of ketchup...a birthday feast.
While we ate, we talked. Conversation paused only long enough to chew and swallow. We lingered at the table, plates empty except for the paper towel on the serving dish. It was stamped with rings of golden oil where Granny had set the salmon patties so they wouldn't taste too greasy. Granny thought of everything.
After a while, she capped the ketchup bottle.
My birthday had begun with her song and ended with the two of us side by side. While I washed the dishes and she dried, we talked. Conversation continued, our birthday opera in a language all our own, accompanied by the clink of glasses, the clatter of silverware, and the gurgle of soapy water swirling down the drain.
I was another year older; and thanks to Granny, I was a little wiser. She knew how to make a birthday something special.