🎁 BIRTHDAY MEMORY, AGE 3 🎂

  1. This is one of only a few fully-intact memories of my first years.
  2. For my third birthday, there was nothing I wanted more in my little world than a blue and red peddle car I’d seen in the Sears Christmas catalog.
  3. I had asked for the car for Christmas, but Santa had brought me clothes and board games instead. Alas.
  4. On the day of my birthday, I got up and my mom made breakfast and gave me a few presents. I don’t even remember what they were.
  5. I opened birthday cards from my grandparents with money in them. Stupid, stupid money.
  6. I looked all around me.
  7. Did I get the car?
  8. Did I get the CAR??
  9. I didn’t see it.
  10. The car wasn’t there.
  11. “When your dad gets home from work, he will have one more present for you,” Mom said, “But you have to be patient. He wants to be here when you open it.”
  12. I quivered with anticipation.
  13. So I played with toys in the play room and chased rabbits in the backyard. It was an eternity to wait. And all the while I listened for the low, grinding, squeezing sound of the garage door, opening.
  14. At last I heard it. And found myself running.
  15. I met Dad at the back, screen door.
  16. “Why, hello, Christopher. I have a birthday present for you. It’s downstairs."
  17. He picked me up and carried me into the house. We descended the stairs. As we did so, the air temperature went down ten degrees.
  18. The half-finished basement was always cooler and mustier than the rest of the house. And we went down, stair step by stair step. Mom followed.
  19. At the bottom, Dad set me down on the bare, concrete floor.
  20. “Now close your eyes, son,” he said. I clapped the palms of my hands over my face and squeezed my eyes tightly.
  21. Footsteps. The creak of the laundry room door opening. Then silence. More footsteps. The thunk of something being placed on the floor in front of me.
  22. “Open your eyes,” Dad said.
  23. I opened them. And right there—in front of me—was the car.
  24. It was an amazing little machine. It looked like an old Duesenberg, if you’ve seen those—a luxury car from the 1940s. The body was blue. It had whitewalls. There was a pretend, spare tire on the sideboard. The working, convertible canopy was sky blue.
  25. I did a little spin and hugged Dad’s legs. He showed me how to open the car’s door.
  26. It was the car!!
  27. So I was about to get in. And I almost got in.
  28. But.
  29. But I didn't.
  30. I wasn’t fancy enough. I was wearing torn, hand-me-down shorts and a stained t-shirt. My hair was a mess. I wasn’t fancy *at all.*
  31. “I want to wear my suit,” I said.
  32. I raced up the stairs, through the kitchen and down the hallway to my bedroom. I flung one of the closet doors open.
  33. Deep inside, in the darkness, was my powder blue suit. The one I wore on holidays. The one I hated.
  34. But I wanted to wear it now.
  35. Mom helped me get dressed. We buttoned me into a tiny, white, collared shirt. I put on the powder blue slacks, which made me itch.
  36. Next, black socks and shiny, too-small, black shoes. Then a clip-on neck tie.
  37. I stood tall and reached my arms behind me as Mom helped me on with the jacket. We buttoned one of its buttons.
  38. I was down the hall again and into the bathroom. I turned on the light. I went into a drawer and got out a comb and groomed my hair.
  39. I parted it on the side and was brave while dealing with several tricky tangles. I looked in the mirror and saw the proud owner of a fine automobile. Mom and Dad smiled. Mom brought a hand to her lips. I adjusted my tie.
  40. Chin up, I marched through the house and back downstairs. Mom and Dad followed. Dad handed me an oversized, plastic key.
  41. “Your key, sir,” he said.
  42. He opened the driver’s side door. I took the key with a nod. I got into the car and closed the door. I tried the horn, I adjusted the mirrors while my feet rested on the basement floor through the car’s hollow bottom.
  43. At last, I put my fancy feet on the pedals. The pedals didn’t turn like the pedals on my Big Wheel, but after a minute, I found the rhythm of it. The car began to move.
  44. And I drove the little car.
  45. And I drove the little car.
  46. And I drove it.
  47. And Mr. Christopher Kubica was at the top of his game as he pedaled wide circles around the basement floor.
  48. He was the President of the United States.
  49. He was the Queen of England, too.
  50. And he was an astronaut, just now home from a most amazing mission, driving his car in a homecoming parade. All the people lifted their children onto their shoulders to see this amazing man. The sky was filled with confetti.
  51. And Christopher, bright as the midday sun...