Birthdays come and birthdays go, and by the time this article is tucked neatly into your rural route mailbox I will have passed, believe it or not, yet another.

Though the weather has been dark and dreary, let me assure you that even on a clear day I’ll not see any of the 70s again. Time has a way of marching on.

The first birthday that I can say I rightfully remember was my seventh, and I had many reasons for so doing. Firstly, about two weeks or so before my birthday, I was handed a pair of canaries and told by my father, “For you son, for your birthday.” He had bought them unintentionally at an auction when he nodded recognition to a friend who had jokingly waved to him from behind the auctioneer.

My father was a man light in weight, short in stature, quick  witted, also a proud man not comfortable in shouldering the brunt of a joke. When the auctioneer questioned his purchase he never backed down, and nudging me he said, “Go get two dollars from your mother.”

Excitedly wringing my hands and trying desperately not to wet myself, I dashed off to my mother’s stand at the local adjoining farmers’ market and while dancing up and down I stated, “Dad bought a pair of parrots! I need two dollars.” The frustrated expletive  she uttered I’ll not repeat, but, as she crumpled the two-dollar bill tightly into my closed fist, it ended with “My God! Parrots? Have we not now got enough mouths to feed?”

Do the math, folks. The Great Depression lingered still, World War II had just been declared, and two of my older brothers had volunteered to the Canadian Infantry and a soon-to-be brother-in-law had joined the Air Force.

Times were not great, with the shortage of help workloads on the farms were hard, money was scarce, and a $2 bid could buy you a solid oak table and matching four chairs at any auction. But a pair of tiny yellow birds in a poop-splattered cage, in my mind, at that time, was the best of the best.

That same month, my grade school teacher, Miss Benham, God bless her long departed soul, figured out that I was far-sighted. I could see and identify a small bird at the end of the schoolyard but could not read what was on the blackboard or in the reader held in my hand. I could read the large Z, Y, X, W, V’s above the board if I stood at the back of the room. When asked to read from my reader, the Mary, John and Peter book, I had to look over the shoulder of my classmate ahead of me.

The next week after eye tests and more eye tests and the squeezing of $9 from somewhere, somehow, to pay the optometrist, I was presented, coincidentally on my birthday, with a wire-rimmed set of glasses. Wow, I could see close up! I could read!

“I am John. I go to school. I am Mary. I go to school. I am Peter. I… –  Wow, I could read!

Just weeks later, at Christmas, though it was hinted to expect nothing, I unwrapped the one and only gift that Santa had brought, a huge three-inch-thick book titled, in overly large letters, The Children’s Best Story Book. It contained dozens of interesting animal-related stories. That same book today rests in a clear protective covering on top of a filing cabinet overlooking the computer desk where I, each week, untangle the words you are now reading.

Yes, many birthdays have come and gone – as well, an equal number of Christmases.

Take care, ‘cause we care.



Barrie Hopkins