My brand new teenager knows what it means to have a disappointing birthday.
His 13th birthday celebration is being hampered by a worldwide pandemic. That is the worst so far, but it isn't like Dawit doesn't know about disappointing birthdays.
We adopted him one month after his fourth birthday. For his first real birthday party, we made big plans. We rented a room and invited a bunch of his friends. It was going to be great. It turned out that we had scheduled it concurrently with the local high school graduation ceremony and all but one of his friends had to attend that event instead.
Even with only one friend in attendance, it was still his best party ever. Everything was fine for a couple of years, but then came his first birthday in Oklahoma. We got the whole family together in a big fun center with batting cages, bowling, arcade games, mini-golf and many other ways to entertain children.
In a complete reversal from his one friend party, Dawit had a lot of unexpected guests that year. You see, his party was in the safe room in the facility and when the tornado warning sirens sounded, management crowded everyone in the building into his birthday party.
The next year, a few days before his birthday, there had been a tornado that reportedly hit the Tiger Safari and freed some of the big cats. It wasn't the same roadside zoo run by "Tiger King" Joe Exotic. In Oklahoma, there are so many zoos like that and so many tornadoes, it is surprising they don't intersect more often. Fortunately, no tigers were released on an unsuspecting population by the twisters.
However, when Dawit's birthday arrived, another rainstorm sent a different horseman of the apocalypse riding by. When I returned home from taking photos of the historic flooding around town, I had to abandon my pickup in front of a neighbors house and walk through chest-high water holding my cell phone and wallet over my head to keep them dry.
After having floods and tornadoes change his plans, having a birthday affected by a pandemic isn't that surprising.
The only thing that keeps me from feeling bad is that he never even had a birthday party until we adopted him. He didn't even have a birth certificate until the agency we used had to get our case ready for court.
After a few years of bad luck birthdays, last year, I left my job in Oklahoma to come to the Black Hills. Of course, we were trying to wrap things up, sell the house and find a place to live in South Dakota. But we were determined to make sure his birthday wasn't a casualty of circumstance again so we made a long weekend trip to Branson, Missouri. I doubt many Black Hills residents have made the trek to Branson. It is a regional tourist mecca that features lakes, amusement parks and music venues. Most people do something fun during the day and see one of the many shows at night. Traffic in the town of 10,000 that draws millions of tourists each year is almost always a nightmare.
But you can have a lot of fun for not a lot of money, so it has always been a favorite for my family. Last year we took the boys one last time before we moved up north. I think it is safe to say we gave Dawit his favorite birthday ever when we let him suit up and fly. The new attraction was a company called Fritz's Aerodium that has a huge fan that lifts and holds people 10-15 feet in the air as you literally fly on your own.
Obviously, this year his birthday will be in a long list of spring events that have been delayed or canceled by the pandemic. As we have in the past, we will make it up to him. I just hope we have finally seen the end of his birthday catastrophes.
Kent Bush is the editor of the Rapid City Journal. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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