Chapter 24 1963 - I-Day

I always enjoyed the celebration of I-Day, and the fact that it fell on his birthday was a double pleasure for him. I had no idea that the day was meant to honor him. Henry and Juliette did not want it to color his early life, and they kept that part of its origins a secret from him.

Without knowing its true meaning, I secretly reveled in the fact that the holiday had the same name as his. One might suppose it was like a kid named Chris born on Christmas, or a kid named Abe born on Lincoln’s birthday. To them, it was coincidence, but they enjoyed it along with everyone else.

This year’s I-day celebration was more subdued that others, with the President’s assassination only twelve days earlier, but as a birthday, Henry and Juliette had never let the occasion slip without a great celebration.

“It’s your birthday!” exclaimed Henry as he tried to get I out of bed. “You’re a year older than you were yesterday. Do you feel it?”

“Leave me alone,” I declared in his grogginess. “Let me sleep.”

“You’ve got a long life ahead to sleep, sleepyhead,” said Juliette. “But you’ll have to fill your years ahead with more than sleep, too, I hope.”

“That’s right,” said Henry. “You can’t take it with you when you die.”

“Henry!”, exclaimed Juliette. “That’s a morbid thought to pass along to a ten year old.”

“I’m just sayin’,” Henry defended his statement. “He needs to take advantage of what he’s got now. That will help him get by the future. After all, ‘another day, another dollar.’”

“If you play your cards right,” Henry turned to I, “you’ll be a leader and others will follow you. But don’t be overbearing, because they will turn on you.”

“Henry! That’s enough!” exclaimed Juliette, not quite sure of the meaning of the words coming out of Henry’s mouth.

“Happy birthday little one, our little son, you’re number one!” Juliette sang.

I pulled the pillow over his head. His fight with his friends was too fresh in his mind, and he wasn’t sure he even wanted to go outside today.

“Just a minute,” Henry cried and he ran out of the room. He returned smashing a cymbal from the Scrappers drummer’s kit. “Greet the morning, boy. This oughta get you up!”

I sat up and wiped the sleep from his eyes as the words finally began to sink in: it was his birthday. He was ten!

Henry and Juliette left him to get dressed and come into the kitchen for the special breakfast that Juliette prepared. In a way, having a holiday made it so much easier to celebrate all day long, and a good breakfast was a good start, as she always told him.

As I entered, Henry raised his glass of orange juice in a toast, “The years that follow will be fulfilling,” he predicted. “So live them well. Always be willing to change your ways to please the people.”

Juliette turned again to Henry, “What’s gotten into you? Now you’re being philosophical?”

Henry lowered his glass, but ignored the comment as I dug into the stack of birthday pancakes. And just as quickly, he wolfed down his own glass of orange juice.

“Where’s my present? Where’s my present?” I asked in excitement.

“Now, now. Calm down,” chided Juliette. “Daddy and I didn’t forget. Henry?”

Henry looked up from his scrambled eggs quizzically, then bopped his forehead with the heel of his hand. “Oh, right! Just a minute,” as he left the room.

He returned with a big package, as least three feet on a side, and I’s eyes widened almost as big.

“This is for you!”

I ran over and began tearing off the wrap, revealing a nondescript box beneath. He grabbed the edges and tore open the box cover, peering inside to reveal its contents: another wrapped box.

I, slightly disappointed, pulled the second wrapped box out, unwrapped and opened it only to reveal a third. With each box growing smaller by degrees, his excitement as he moved to the final goal began to wane. When he opened the tenth and final box, all that remained was an envelope which simply said “Happy 10th Birthday I!”

I nearly threw it aside in disgust. Juliette encouraged him to open it.

Inside was a note that read, “Look in the red book on the bookshelf.” I ran over, expecting to find great riches stuffed inside, only to find another note. Henry and Juliette chuckled at the look of consternation on I’s face. That note led to the vase on the table, the next to the top shelf in the closet, and finally the tenth note led to a small box hidden behind the salt and pepper shakers right there on the kitchen table.

I had lost all enthusiasm for the search by then, but Henry urged him “Go ahead, open it!”

I lifted the lid on the tiny box and turned it over as ten shiny pennies spilled out. “What’s this?” he dejectedly asked.

“It’s a penny for each of your years,” Henry explained as he picked one up. “Look! Here’s 1957, the year you turned four!”

I was even more disappointed, and a tear began to form. “That’s it?” he inquired.

“Well, not quite,” Henry admitted, as he left he room for a second time, returning this time with something a bit more substantial.

“It’s a radio!” I said excitedly, “My own radio!” I turned it on.

“Let’ see if there’s a game on!” Henry suggested.

Juliette warned Henry, ”Let him listen to what he wants.”

I tuned to a local rock station and started to do The Twist.

Henry reached for the volume knob, “Hey! Not so loud!”

“Honey, it’s his birthday,” Juliette said. “Let him enjoy it.”

To I, she said, “Would you like to see your birthday cake?”

“Yeah! What kind?”

“It’s your favorite. Chocolate!” She pulled it triumphantly from the pantry shelf.

“Oh boy! Let have some!”

“No, no. It’s barely past breakfast. We’ll wait until after dinner. Why don’t you go out and show your radio to your friends?”

I ran outside to see Spike, Isaac and Osgood playing ball in the street. “Hey look what I got. A radio!”

“So what!” yelled back Spike, “Get outta here. Were playin’!” The fight of a few weeks before had not yet been forgotten.

“Can I play?” I inquired, willing to bury the hatchet.

Isaac boldly stepped up. “No, we already started. Go away!”

Once again, Osgood was emboldened to add. “Yeah, go away!”

As the boys ran off, I headed back home in despair.