“Getting a fire started can be much easier than extinguishing it” from The Secret Language of Birthdays by Gary Goldschneider & Joost Elffers

Cale Goods by © Camila Gargantini

Originally from Australia, Caleb is in Canada working as a Researcher at York University. This picture is a perfect rendition of whom I see him as being… a funny guy that loves a little sarcasm, has a tendency to injure himself (see the big cut on this nose) and feels kind of awkward in front of the camera. This session was a lot of fun and I think I have achieved my attempt to sum him up: just a cool dude with a PhD, crazy hair and a big smile.

Image © Camila Gargantini

An Interview with Caleb

Q. What is your best memory/moment from one of your past birthdays?

A. To be honest I am not a big birthday person, my birthday memories mostly revolve around family, food and the weather being very hot. However, my wife Danica is crazy about birthday celebrations, but pretty terrible at the organisational part, which often results in me receiving a picture of what I will eventually receive as a present rather than the actual present on my birthday. My favorite memory of these ‘picture’ birthday presents was when Danica decided to buy me a table tennis set for my birthday but as usual left it until the last minute and couldn’t find one. So on my birthday morning I was presented with a trail of table tennis balls that led me outside were I found a life size table tennis table drawn in chalk on our back veranda.

Q. How about the worst? And why?

A. When we were kids we could pick our birthday cake. I can’t remember which birthday is was, I was probably about 3 or 4, and I picked a rocket cake and this was a big mistake. The cake included sparklers at the bottom – very cool! But when mum lit the rockets sparklers they caused the tablecloth to catch on fire! Mum and dad grabbed my rocket cake and tablecloth and raced outside with me screaming, “bring my cake back”!

Q. What was the present you’ve received for your birthday that most surprised you?

A. My family doesn’t like or do surprises. We always tell each other exactly what we want for our birthday and that is what we get – going off the prescribed birthday present list is completely unacceptable and not tolerated! However, I did receive one surprise present when for my 11th birthday my parents took me to a pet shop and let me get a dog. It was a big surprise because my mum hated dogs and because my parents had told me just a few weeks earlier that the house we were renting didn’t allow pets – which was a complete lie.

Q. Is there one food or dish that you insist in eating during your birthday celebration?

A. There in not usually one food. The tradition we have is just to tell my mum what we would like and mum makes the magic happen. My birthday is always hot so my food requests usually includes ice cream. Also, when I was a kid the tradition was we could pick a cake from the Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book (the most famous Australian birthday cake book which contains 107 different cakes like ducks and trains), so I had lots of cool cakes like ghosts and rockets.

Q. What do you believe is the most important aspect of celebrating a birthday?

A. It’s pretty simple for me – sharing it. My birthday isn’t that important to me but it’s a hell of a good excuse to do much more important things like catch-up with family and friends and eat, drink and chat. I am going to be a pain and say a second thing. The other critical thing celebrating a birthday does is it gives you a loud yearly reminder that life is short and moves way too fast, this isn’t a negative thing, but it is important to be reminded.

Q. Do you/your family/culture have any traditions/rituals/ceremonies that are performed to celebrate birthdays? What is it?

A. A big family dinner prepared by my mum and and a terrible terrible rendition of happy birthday singing led by my Dad. Since becoming an ‘adult’ I also try not to work on my birthday – that’s a tradition I think I will try and keep going!