The morning of October 13th dawned bright and sunny, the perfect sort of day for a birthday. But not just any birthday, this was beginning of my long-awaited 21st year of life. Arising to the shrill tones of my alarm, which I had set appropriately early to allow myself time to dress in a manner somewhat classier than my usual day-to-day attire, I quickly donned my pants, formal shirt, and plaid blazer. By the time my wardrobe was completed, my careful calculations of the exact amount of time required to dress turned out to be a bit too precise, leaving me something along the order of a minute or less to make my way up the stairs if I was to be on time for breakfast. I blame this diversion from my well-laid plans on the buttons of my shirt – the dastardly little devils always seem to take so much longer to do up in the early morning.
After mounting the stairs with a dignified strut, which doubtless looked more like a beached seal squirming across the sand than anything resembling either a strut or dignified, my cynical mind was in full-swing. I was certain that nobody had remembered that it was my birthday, or if they had, that it wouldn’t be thought worth celebrating. True, Stephen (our in-lodge chef) had taken note of everybody’s birthdays and hadn’t missed any yet, and a few people had asked when mine was only a couple of days before, but these sorts of things are easy to forget, after all. Alright, I thought, I still had four jars of Nutella and a birthday gift sent from home, and a fellow can have a pretty decent celebration all on his own when he is that well equipped. My suspicions had matured to near certainty by the time we had finished singing the Doxology and no one had made mention of the occasion. At this point, however, my grimly triumphant cynicism was dealt its death blow.
“Isn’t it someone’s birthday today?” Stephen inquired. “Someone whose name starts with a ‘D’ and ends with an ‘aniel’?” His inquiry prompted off a round of “Happy Birthday,” surprisingly energetic, cheery, and on-key for such an early hour. This was especially memorable because it marked the first time that one of my professors had ever sung “Happy Birthday” to me, and a quite prestigious professor at that. The rest of the morning continued as normal with our scheduled classes, until lunchtime. Following the Doxology, the entire group launched into another singing of “Happy Birthday” which took a turn into “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” Sometime during lunch, one of my classmates took note of my blazer and inquired as to whether I might be considered to be wearing my birthday suit. I responded in the affirmative and made a mental note to inform my mother, who I would call in the evening, that I had attended all meals that day in my birthday suit. With any luck and a good deal of fast talking, I would be able to make this startling announcement, mischievously revel in the fallout, and then avert the declaration of World War Three which would likely follow.
After lunch, I was beckoned to the kitchen by Julianna, a fellow student. She asked what sort of cake I would like, and after a brief moment of panic in the face of such an unexpected and life-changing question, I answered that I was quite fond of any sort of rich chocolate cake. After rehearsal for a play that Dr. Williams was putting on with a few of the students and a brief game of volleyball, I returned to the lodge and discovered that she had spent her entire afternoon in the kitchen baking a pair of double-layer German chocolate cakes! Each was carefully frosted in a rich chocolate frosting with trimming around the top and bottom, chocolate syrup dripped onto the trimmings, and layered with the only coconut filling that I have ever really liked. Not only were cakes a thing of beauty to look at, but they were heavenly in taste and richer than any that I’ve ever eaten before. Even if a bit more fancily decorated, the wedding cakes that I’ve had didn’t hold a candle to these in flavor and richness. Elizabeth, also a student, kindly spent a good deal of her afternoon baking and frosting a gluten-free cake for the students who could not enjoy Julianna’s cake. I did not have the good fortune to sample that one, but I heard from reliable witnesses that it was quite excellent.
Dinner that evening was specially prepared for the occasion by Stephen, who went to a good deal of extra effort to make scalloped potatoes, pulled pork, and ratatouille. After reveling in the wonder that was this meal, basking in a third round of “Happy Birthday,” and enjoying a bit of leisure, it was time for class again. I hadn’t been particularly fond of the idea of sitting through four classes throughout the course of the day, but Dr. Williams’ classes were quite enjoyable. Earlier in the evening, I had laid plans with a couple of the young ladies to put on a short and small dance after class. The evening turned to night, the lecture ran long, and my energy levels plummeted at a rate roughly proportional to the square of the time elapsed since the beginning of class. By the time class ended, I had decided to call it a day and finish off the festivities by getting myself enough sleep – if such a high and lofty end could truly be attained. The instant that the professor had finished, however, Elizabeth was on her feet announcing the dance, which turned out neither short nor small, and was a very fitting and fun end to the day’s celebrations. Needless to say, my plan to get to bed early was thoroughly subverted, an occurrence for which I am grateful.
Before I drifted off to sleep that night, I ran over the events of the day in my mind again and again. It was certainly one of the best birthdays that I have ever had, perhaps the very best, and I am touched at the love shown to me by all on my special day. Could I be to somebody else even a tenth of the blessing that it was to me, I would be satisfied, and the memory of it all, still fresh, brings tears to my eyes. I would like to extend my deepest heartfelt thanks to each and every one of the students and staff here. Each of you contributed in your own way to make the day special, and were any of you absent it would not have been the same. It is a birthday that I will never forget.
Daniel Perano joins this year’s Summit Semester Class from California. Daniel is currently planning on transferring to the University of California at Davis, where he will complete a degree in Computer Science. Part of the passion driving these studies is a goal to make social technology more conducive to meaningful interaction. While at Summit Semester, Daniel is looking forward to interacting with others, developing his intellectual abilities, and continuing to grow spiritually. During his free time, Daniel enjoys working on technical projects, fish keeping, and enjoying music.