Anticipation and “ansiedad” would start to build about this time, the day before my birthday. Mom and I would start to talk about how many cupcakes I would need to take to school the next day. She always found a way and made sure I would have enough cupcakes to share with classmates at the end of the school day if my birthday fell during the week. She would send me to school with a note for the teacher asking if it was okay that I bring cupcakes to school the next day and if so, how many should I take. The teacher would then respond back on the same note, and I would hand it over to my Mom that evening when she got home from night school. I never had a teacher at J.T. Canales Elementary that denied me the pleasure of sharing german chocolate cupcakes with the class. Every year for my birthday, Mom made sure I had a new outfit to wear, something from Sears, like Toughskins, size Husky because pues tu sabes, baby girl was thick (still am), Earl Campbell thighs, and a Winnie the Pooh turtle-neck, or maybe something stylish from JC Penny or something cute from Aziz Brothers on Elizabeth Street. She also made sure that she treated me to my favorite lunch every birthday: jumbo fried shrimp from the Oyster Bar. It was the one day out of the year that I could have a full order of fried shrimp. I can taste them now, sweet and salty, corn-meal crunchy, perfectly delectable and mouth-watering delicious.
On my birthday, I would take another note to school letting the teacher know that my Mom would be signing me out and picking me up for lunch. As lunchtime neared, I would eagerly wait for the school secretary’s voice to come over the big square speaker box that hung over the chalkboard. She never, and my Mom never failed me. I would be called to the office where my Mom was waiting for me and off we drove to the Oyster Bar for a quick lunch because Mom could only take an hour off for lunch. That 1972 Mustard Tan 4 door Chevy Impala could fly on those days. She would order a half order of fried shrimp and order a full order for me. She always asked for a salad and I had French fries with a Coke. This, to me, was always the best lunch of the year. A far cry from the Chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, corn and lukewarm milk cartons that often comprised our school lunches. Somehow, someway she also found the Wonder Woman kind of time to pick up about 25 cupcakes that sat in the back seat of the car, until she brought me back to school after lunch. Los cupcakes venian bien pasiados, pero sabrositos. En route back to school, Mom would also sing “Que Sera Sera” to me and by the end of the song, we would both be singing it together. It was her song she sang special just for me on my birthday. To this day, I love that song and I love Doris Day.
Once back at school, she would help me carry the cupcakes back to my classroom where they sat for a couple of more hours until just before we got dismissed for the day, then I got to share them with all my classmates as they sang Happy Birthday to me. Those were the bestest cupcakes, most delicious pieces of fried shrimp I ever ate, and some of the best birthday memories of my life. To this day, nothing I eat tastes as good . . . and no other song rings as sweet. I have had a very blessed 53 years and I hope to be around a few more, always keeping in mind “Que Sera Sera.”