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70 years later, my seventh birthday remains special

By Edward A. Forbes

The Bulletin

Do you remember your favorite birthday celebration? Do you remember what made it special?

 I think we all have stored in our memory banks an occasion like this.

We first moved to Manvel after my mother’s and father’s contentious divorce and her subsequent marriage to Ted Tomlin.

We, initially, lived in a one-bedroom duplex and then moved to what had been the old schoolhouse at some distant time, or so we were told, delivering the five children and two adults from the confines of the one-bedroom duplex where we had been imprisoned.

Tall, whitewashed, and oddly comforting, nestled among fully adult trees, their canopy protecting us and the house from the bright sun. The doors opened to greet us with a slightly musty mix of old wood and paint, a smidgen of dust and old paper.

Ceilings stretched 12 feet from the floor, closets meekly rose to eight feet, submissive to the towering ceiling. There were three decent-sized bedrooms. The house had large windows that filled it with the sound of rustling leaves and birds going busily about their day. The trees stirred the air gently to provide the essence of coolness to the heat.

The trees were connected by pipes that had been laid in their forks at some bygone time. They had grown and incorporated the connecting pipes as part of their structure. The pipes may have been structural for the trees, but for the kids, they were recreational.

My brother, Butch (Elroy), functioning as our trusted creative director, envisioned them as the tightropes of circus performances. We walked on them between trees with and without balance poles. We swung from them like Tarzan. Falls would knock the breath out of you, but they never resulted in any broken bones.

My seventh birthday arrived in this setting.

Mother was in the hospital and had been for several days. My birthday is on the last day of July, so we were out of school. I knew we would celebrate, although I didn’t know how.

Butch, as was the custom, was in charge. We were lacking both funds and pastry baking knowledge. We did have a charge account at a small local grocery.

Butch procured a pistol (that shot wads of paper) and a half gallon of ice cream. My siblings wrapped the gun. Butch removed the ice cream from its container, covering it with icing.

On the big day, we congregated in the kitchen, and after the birthday hymn was sung, a candle was placed on the converted ice cream container, lit and then blown out with much fanfare.

I opened my present. What seven-year-old boy wouldn’t be thrilled with a pistol that shot wads of paper? We ate the ice cream and the icing off the converted ice cream container. We shot paper wads from the pistol and had a really good time.

Did the pistol really shoot wads of paper (or spit wads, even better)? I don’t know, that’s just how I remember it.

What I can tell you is that it was a spontaneous, joyful birthday celebration. Even now,  70 years later, I smile and laugh with just the memory of it. My sister, Edna, two stepbrothers and especially Butch made it happen.

(Edward Forbes wants to hear from you. Email him at or send comments by snail mail to The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton TX. 77516.)


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