Clif’s Birthday

The birthday boy
The birthday boy

Last Saturday was Clif’s sixty-third birthday. This year, we decided rather than exchange presents for our birthdays—mine is in September, too—we would do special, fun things on each birthday.

The day of Clif’s birthday just happened to be such a beautiful, warm,  sunny day that we could hardly believe it. By midmorning, the temperature was over sixty degrees, and by afternoon it was so warm that records were broken. As soon as we got up, we knew what we would do in the morning—go for a bike ride.

We went on our favorite ride by Lake Maranacook, where the sky was a deep, deep blue, and below it the lake shimmered in response. Across the lake, the trees were in their first blush of fall, and purple asters bloomed by the side of the road. There is not much traffic on Memorial Drive, the road that goes by the lake, and this, along with the beauty of the lake, is one of the reasons we like the ride so much.

Across the lake
Across the lake

We pedalled, pedalled, pedalled with the sun warm on our face. The miles just seemed to slide by without any great effort on our part. It was one of those “zen” rides where you are completely in the moment and in the landscape, with all thoughts of chores and what to do next pushed firmly aside.

In the afternoon, we met our friends Joel and Alice at the local cineplex to see The Boxtrolls, a stop-motion animated movie about, well, boxtrolls, little scavenging creatures that live below ground and come out at night to raid the trash that humans leave behind. They wear boxes—recycled, of course—and are despised and feared by the humans, who falsely consider the boxtrolls to be a dangerous threat. This fear and loathing leads to an eradication program—now that’s never happened in real life, has it?—and a boy whom the boxtrolls adopted must find a way to save them.

In The Boxtrolls, the animation is terrific, the characters are well done, and the storyline resonates with both children and adults. Two side characters—Mr. Pickles and Mr. Trout—nearly steal the movie. They come from a long tradition of sad-sack comedic tramps who question the meaning of life and the universe. Readers, if you go to this movie, do stay until the credits are over to see and hear one of the funniest exchanges in movie history. In fact, the four of us were laughing so hard that we missed some of the dialogue between Mr. Pickles and Mr. Trout, and we all agreed that we would need to see the movie when it came out on DVD so that we could watch the scene again.

We were probably the only adults in the cinema without children, but it didn’t bother us one bit. There were plenty of children in the audience to laugh loudly in all the right places, to make pointed comments about what was going on in the movie, and to even console one another when the action grew a little too scary.

After the movie, we all went to the pub The Liberal Cup, one of Hallowell’s hotspots, for some tasty, hearty food. Because it was Clif’s birthday, we even ordered dessert.

When we were done eating, Clif and I returned to our home, and it was still warm enough to have drinks on patio. As we sipped our rum and Cokes, we listened to the crickets sing, and on the nearby Narrows, loons called to each other.

“We won’t have many more nights on the patio this year,” I said, a little sadly.

“No, we won’t,” Clif agreed.

But we had that night, and we both enjoyed it very much. In fact, Clif pronounced that the whole day had been a very good birthday filled with simple pleasures.

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