I was four, maybe five, and it was May 30. Not only was it memorial day back in the seventies, but it was my birthday. The memories of the entire day have hazed, most likely the truest, clearest parts have been woven into my memories with the aid of our family photo album. But, I do remember waking up very early and very excited. I must have bugged my sister, because she went into my parents room and asked if there was something she could give me — presumably to shut me up for another hour or so. She came back with an oddly shaped package in thin tissue paper. I tore it apart, breathless with anticipation. It was a sandbox play set, complete with sifter, rake, shovel, and a bucket with eyes on it. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t go out to play in my sandbox for hours, or that there was little to do with it other than comb the shag carpeting with the rake; I was happy — for a while.
The day wore on and my impatience grew. We had to wait for my grandmother to walk the mere distance of two houses to join the celebration, and I guess for the neighbor kid who was my sister’s friend to come over (he’s in the photos, but I don’t really remember him being there). I can’t recall what we had to eat, or what kind of cake I had. I don’t even remember (parents and Mom Mom forgive my poor memory) any of the other gifts. I only remember one. The One. It was the most perfect, amazing present a kid could ever have —
The Weeble Tree House.
I tore off the paper and it was as if angels had suddenly burst into song and rolled back the thick gray clouds to let the golden rays of the sun beam down upon me. Along with the two, properly choking-sized (hey, it was the seventies, man), hippie Weebles, the tree house came with a yellow basket swing hooked to a wench, a picnic table, a hidden door in the tree’s trunk, and — silly seeming to my preschooler brain — an orange window set smack in the sunshine yellow roof. It wasn’t particularly large, or elaborate. There were no batteries, and very few moving parts. But, man, it was cool.
I played with that thing all day, and for many days after. It is the gift that immediately comes to mind even now when I think of my birthday. It is the one that, despite my young age and underdeveloped memory-retention skills at the time, has managed to stick in my mind as the present of all presents. And it is the day that all other birthdays must hold their own against in comparison. Every year I move farther away from that day, from being that elated kid with the incredible new toy. But, there will always be something inside me that hopes to have just one more birthday like that, one more Weeble Tree House day.