Here & Now
Mark the date. On May 3, a very privileged Sanibel Island gal named Lily is having a birthday party. In a jewelry store. Some say she’s 28; others might roll their eyes on that one. But we’ll talk about that later.
They say age and birth dates are just numbers. I totally agree. I’ve been playing fast and loose with my own birthday numbers for so long my kids doubt their own math skills. Sure, it’s a girl thing, but recent occurrences prove we’re not the only ones. Consider the Queen’s Birthday Garden Party, hosted each year by the Naples chapter of the English Speaking Union to celebrate the April 21 birthday of Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II. Very highbrow: large hats, four-in-hands, proper accents, all that. But the April party, alas, took place in March. In London, the Queen has to wait until June for her April celebration. Frankly, I’d put my royal foot down. Then there’s Santa Fe, N. M. By the time the city fathers finally stopped bickering as to which year their city would actually turn 400, the prime suspect—2007—was gone.
But no smirking, please. Depending on who’s talking, our beloved Naples was established either in 1923 or roughly a quarter of a century later. Mayor Bill Barnett’s office explains: The town of Naples was incorporated in 1923, but the city of Naples wasn’t chartered until June 13, 1949. That complicates the history books because the City of Naples (not on Mayor Barnett’s watch) already had a 75th birthday party.
One moral of this story is that it’s never too early to start planning a birthday bash. In just eight years, the City of Fort Myers will hit the Big One-Four-Oh, and next year the City of Naples, bless her ancient heart, will be 60. I’m thinking we should get cakemeistress Karen Vazquez to start designing a suitable birthday confection. Perhaps one of those trendy gravity-defying Topsy Turvy Cakes (leaning a bit to the right, here; a tad to the left there, I’d imagine).
Topping the cake could be Col. Abraham Myers. That intrepid Union soldier defected to the Confederate side, but when his wife insulted Jefferson Davis’ wife, Myers’ military career abruptly ended. Still, the old boy got a fort and a city named after him. All this, of course, is my abbreviated version of actual Fort Myers history, with deep apologies to Matt Johnson, guru of the Southwest Florida Museum of History.
For the most over-the-top party plan, I’d unleash the brainpower of charity divas Pam Cronin and Rose Rundle, also known on the Fort Myers social scene as The Theme Queens. Cronin, president of the Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce, carpeted her dining room in Astroturf for a Super Bowl party and recently wrapped up a marathon 70 Events in 70 Days for her company, the Shell Factory. I’d also tap Naples City Councilman John Sorey and his wife, Delores.
Coveted, indeed, are invitations to the Soreys’ annual Victorian holiday party, for which their Gulf Shore Boulevard lawn and sidewalk are blanketed with "snow," and guests arrive in velvet gowns, bustles and feathered hats.
Not to usurp our experts’ creativity, the Big Birthday Bash should involve re-enactments. Pioneers in the costume of the era would replicate the quaint cultural activities of the founding year, such as the Battle of Fort Myers, "the southernmost land battle of the Civil War." The Union side wheeled out all two of its cannons to defend the fort against the Confederate Cattle Guard Battalion with its single piece of artillery. The Rebels won.
As for Naples, can’t you just visualize the adrenaline rush as crowds gather to watch re-enactments of sophisticated Kentuckians arriving by sea for the 1949 winter season? They’ll be wearing crisp white linen and estate jewelry. There will be galas and house parties and dinners at the glamorous hotel on the beach. Guests will reminisce over ancient times, when names like Collier, Pulling and Goodlette were guiding the destiny of our little paradise. And we will gape in awe as others re-enact that quaint recreational activity called golf.
Wait, this isn’t working. Best we just have a nice golf tournament and a gala or two, raise a glass to Col. Myers and the others, and be patient for a few hundred years until we get some respectable age on us.
Now, about Lily’s birthday party Saturday, May 3 from noon to 4 p.m. It’s a Sanibel Island tradition. Technically, Lily is four, but the pampered Labra-doodle of Karen Bell, co-owner of Lily’s Jewelers, is just emerging from debutante status in dog years. Her annual open house for pampered four-legged ladies and gentlemen, and their people, will feature gourmet biscuits, "pupcakes" and a peek at the latest canine-themed jewelry. So if you can’t pay your respects to the Queen, do drop by to wish Lily a happy birthday. If you see Pam, Rose or John, remind them that there’s a party to plan, and the clock is ticking.
Happy birthday to whomever it may concern. And as always, savor the moment.