The house of happy birthdays

Chris Erskine can be reached at

We seem to live in one of those homes where the TV is always a little too loud and the butter tub is out by the stove at all times, in case someone wants an omelet at, say, 2 in the morning. It has the come-and-go ambience of a precinct house. I’m not bragging. That’s just the way we live.

“Can you make me an omelet?” the little girl asks.

“Sure,” I say.

My birthday’s coming up, and they are recognizing the day, as kids always will, by letting me do things for them. They are discovering that as dads go, I am better than some, worse than others. I usually have a spare Kleenex in my pocket, which is good. And always, it seems, an extra 10 bucks for a movie or a quarter tank of gas. Those two things, the Kleenex and the cash, are what set me apart from other, less remarkable fathers.


“What kind of omelet?” I ask.

“What kind do you usually make me?” she asks.

“Tuna fish,” I say.

“OK,” she says, turning back toward the TV.


This is further proof that they don’t really listen to me. I have never made a tuna fish omelet, as appealing as that sounds. The little girl just assumes that whatever I suggest will be OK, not brilliant, but good enough. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

“Did you hear me?” I ask.


“I said tuna fish,” I tell her.


“OK, Dad,” she says and rolls her eyes.

So I make her a cheese and mushroom omelet, the one I always make her.

I vow that one of these days I will teach her to listen to me by actually making her a tuna fish omelet. But, then again, she’d probably end up liking it, and I’d be making her tuna fish omelets for life.

To other dads, let me offer this: Never do anything that you’re not prepared to do a million times over.


More AND more, my life resembles an episode of the old Dobie Gillis show. Not just because I’ve somehow inherited his hair and penchant for a nice pair of khakis. But also his ability to surround himself with some of the great wits and skeptics of his time. Tonight they’re all at the table with me. Happy birthday, Dad. Could you pass the olive oil?

Yes, it’s my birthday dinner, and in this age of constant, soulless banter, it almost qualifies as a literary salon.

“So, what are everybody’s plans this week?” I ask.

“I’m having a mole removed,” someone says.


“I’m having one put in,” someone else says.

“Tuesday, I’m flying to Rome,” says the boy.

None of these things are actually happening, of course. The kids say them only to get a rise out of me. It’s my birthday, after all.

“What do you want for your birthday, Dad?” one of them asks.


“Nothing,” I say.

“I know what I want,” says the lovely and patient older daughter.

Which opens the floodgates for what everyone else wants for their birthdays. When done with that, they move on to Christmas. One wants 100 shares of Pixar. Another wants underwear from Victoria’s Secret.

I patiently explain that Victoria has no more secrets. That every secret she once had is now out there in public for everyone to see. And that’s why the little girl won’t be getting Victoria’s Secret underwear for Christmas.


“That’s OK,” she says.

“Good,” I say.

“Because what I really want is my own apartment,” the little girl says.

Eventually, they all leave.


After DINNER, there appears to be genuine concern over the direction my life may take as I near 50.

“What do you mean, direction?” I ask my wife.

“That you’ll get kinda crazy, like your friends,” she says.

Frankly, my friends were nuts long before they hit 50. But at 50, Paul became very health conscious. David entered law school. Bob bought a motorcycle. It’s an impressive sight, Bob on a motorcycle. He looks like Don Rickles in those old beach movies.


“So what are you going to do?” my wife asks.

Well, I was going to run off with Teri Hatcher, but then that new show of hers caught fire.

Then I thought about buying a boat. But can you imagine all of us in a boat, in the middle of the lake -- two teenagers, four cellphones and no place to dump the baby’s diapers?

I decided to pass on the boat.


“How about a car?” she asks.

Every troubled midlifer gets a car. But I assure her that I’m still game for some oddball personal crisis that will deplete the college fund and make the neighbors gossip to each other over the fence.

“From now on, each day will be an adventure,” I tell my wife.

“It already is,” she says.


She ain’t seen nothin’ yet.