virtual children by Scott Warnock


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We all have our defining aspects, and my birthday is near the tops for me. Everybody might say their birthday defines them in some way, but, for me, it’s not the birthday itself — it’s when it falls. I don’t mean in terms of astrological destiny, as I don’t believe in a lick of that. December 21st. Right before Christmas. Shortest day of the year. When winter break normally starts. The advent of flu season. Yes, my birthday has made me critic, cynic, aw, who are we fooling?: It’s enabled me to be a big, giant complainer.

There have been a few bright years: The year of the ping pong table and telescope. The 40th surprise party. But it’s basically been a life-long slog of celebratory neglect that has spawned my well-earned (see?) complaining. (I document some of this in “A simple plea on behalf of children with holiday birthdays”.)

This year, I had lovely plans for my 50th: A 14-hour drive to Indiana with my sons, niece, wife, and dog to visit my brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and four nieces and nephews. The reality proved even more delightful than the plan, since I was violently ill the night before we left, and I spent my 50th in a foggy stupor traversing the Midwest while everyone else slept.

It would have been just another one for the complaint log, but something special had happened a few days before that. Something magical.

On the morning of that previous Sunday, December 17th, my wife told me to stop down at our neighbors for some brunch donuts. Of course, I overstayed at their house, wandering back just in time to catch the 1:00 Eagles game.

When I came in, I saw on a door in large stick-on foam numbers the numbers 5 and 0. I supposed my wife had put them up. “What a nice little, feeble gesture,” thought I. But she then asked me what I had going on that day. Of course I had something going on, an afternoon futsal game to coach, in this case.

When I told her that, she hit me with, “No, you don’t have anything today. The game is covered. And drinks are on the porch.” No coaching? Covered? Nice of her to have drinks on the porch. Was someone stopping over … waait a minute — was this a party? I sputtered out that question.

Yes it was, she said. And oh what a party. Through diligence/snooping, she did her best to contact people from throughout my life trek. They arrived throughout the day open house-style. Friends from second grade. College roommates. People I coached. My old coach. Friends from work, present and past. Neighbors.

All these people who influenced me, who made me what I am.

She also asked each person to write their thoughts based on an open-ended writing prompt, a prompt that would make a writing professor proud:

Hello friends of Scott Warnock,

Scott turns 50 on the 21st of December and I was hoping to get some help from all of you to help celebrate his birthday. I want to make him a memory book compiled of adventures and stories you’ve shared, quotes, wisdom or anything you think Scott might love to read.  We all know how much he treasures the written word and documenting experiences!  It can be just a few words or as lengthy as you want it to be.  He’s led a very interesting life, thanks to all of you! 
I am having an open house for him on Sunday, December 17th at our home, 414 Lippincott Ave, Riverton, NJ 08077. Please come by anytime between noon and 8:00 to help celebrate Scott Warnock, the man, the myth, the legend.
Please email me back by December 15th.
Thanks!  Julianne
P.S. Try to keep this a surprise.


What more could a writing teacher ask for but a book of writing? Some expressed nervousness about having to write for the “writing professor,” but this is exactly what I do for a living: Read raw writing that’s seeking an audience. That night, I plunged into the book, humbled by it. A lot of it is merciless roasting. I love it.

50 years. It’s been a good life so far, thanks to all of you. If ever a party could make someone feel that way, this one did. I got to look back on a life. I was going to include quotes here from the book, but where to begin? You’ll have to see it yourself.

I clutched that book long after everyone left, and I had a thought: Now I might not complain about my birthday’s ill-fated timing – well, at least until around November 2018.

Scott Warnock is a writer and teacher who lives in South Jersey. He is a professor of English at Drexel University, where he directs the University Writing Program. Father of three and husband of one, Scott is on two local school boards and coaches all kinds of youth sports.

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3 Responses to “50”

  1. Love you my friend.

  2. Happy belated birthday. Sounds like a great way to celebrate.

  3. I related to this, my birthday is December 21st too :). Glad you had a nice day and what a considerate wife!!

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