Lost Journal: Suffering the Misfortunes of Birthday the 13th

Journal entry: May 4, 1982 (Age 13) – Birthday

As the ball swished through the hoop in my backyard on West End Avenue, I stood frozen in amazement. “11 to 10 – good game,” said my best friend, Mark Murphy. In three years of after school one-on-one games, this was the very first time I had beaten Murph, who is several inches taller and several coordination units more coordinated. A better man would have resisted the chance to gloat. “In your face, Murph! You suck, big time!” Perhaps I wasn’t a better man, but I was most definitely a man. Today was my thirteenth birthday, and I had just been basketball-mitzvahed.

Alas, my idyll was short-lived. My mom appeared to say the phone was for me. It was my 14-year-old brother, Dan. “Oh, man, Tim! You gotta help me out. I totally forgot that I wouldn’t be back from my class trip till wicked late tonight.” I knew what was coming. Dan is a Jedi master of the forgotten arts. In other words, he can forget almost anything. But I knew he hadn’t forgotten about the trip; he had been talking about it for weeks. No, good old what’s-his-Daniel had forgotten the activity he performs every weekday afternoon, year-round. He had forgotten that he has a paper route.

Murph was sleeping over, so he helped me deliver the papers. As we followed the trampled path Dan had beaten across the manicured lawns of the West Side of Binghamton, tossing folded copies of the Evening Press, I was furious. I have a morning paper route delivering the Sun-Bulletin, so this was my second walkabout of the day. The birth-day. After I threw a paper at a screen door with a little too much gusto, Murph tried to cheer me up. “Your mom said she’d take us to Video King later…”

We got back home in time for dinner with my parents. Mom made my favorite meal of spaghetti with meat sauce, and capped it off with my favorite dessert – a Duncan Hines yellow cake with chocolate frosting. As usual, I ate all the yellow cake first, leaving three parallel walls of frosting for the final frenzy of forkfuls to follow. After dinner, Mom drove us to the video store. She did the paperwork for the VCR rental, carried the monstrosity out to the car, and waited patiently while Murph and I looked for a tape to rent. We settled on Caddyshack. I covered the R rating on the box as I showed it to Mom. “Oh, that looks like fun, boys,” she said, digging in her purse for her wallet as Murph and I silently high-fived behind her.

Hours later, we were sitting in my rec room in grim silence. The credits were rolling, and so was my stomach. My father had just left, after unexpectedly joining us for the movie. His presence in the TV room was almost unprecedented, so I had spent the entire movie wincing at four-letter words and two-breasted women. Dad was not amused. For two hours. Great fun was had by all. As we unrolled our sleeping bags, I asked Murph if my birthday could have gone any worse. “Yeah,” he said, “I could have told you that I threw the basketball game so you could finally win one.”

Latest posts by Tim Mollen (see all)