Monday September 15, 2003 11:53 PM

I turned thirty-five years old today.

I spent some time today in an introspective mood reading back over accounts of previous birthdays recorded here. There are three- 1999, 2000, and 2003 found in TOV. Unfortunately and unconscionably, last year's festivities were not recorded and I can recall nothing of it at the moment.

I had a pretty good 35th birthday. They weather was marvelous and work was not bad. Ruth had called me during the day and announced (unsurprisingly) that her folks wanted take me out to dinner for supper and they wanted to know where I'd like to go. I had no ideas and told her I'd think about it.

In fact, I had been looking forward to staying how and doing nothing tonight, but I knew better than to put her folks off. I tried all day and didn't come up with any good ideas. Especially since Ruth's Aunt Ruth was coming too and she doesn't like Mexican which had been the only hint of an idea I'd had.

Once I'd gotten home and we'd discussed the situation and ruled out all the ideas I came up with, Ruth finally came up with the idea of Fin Inn which is, of course, a fish place about thirty minutes up the Great River Road from Alton. The Fin Inn not only has good fish, they also have aquarium lined walls so that almost all the booths provide a view of under water life swimming inches from your eyes.

After we'd gotten the business of decision and telephonic notification of our conclusion out of the way, Isaiah brought me a box with my present from Ruth in it. She got me a very cool book about the Lewis and Clark expedition. This year, if you didn't know, is the bicentennial of the beginning of their westward exploration of the land that would become our great country and I am taking advantage of the anniversary to learn more about their historic exploits. I look forward to enjoying this book out on our back porch in the future.

Isaiah was excited to hear we were going to Fin Inn and I decided that it would do just fine- if I had to go. I called my mom to let her know the plans and she came by and picked us up. I was more than happy to let her drive since it was about half an hour away and I'd had enough driving on the way home from work.

The ride beside the Mississippi on a beautiful 72° September evening changed my mood and I was looking forward to a nice evening with my extended local family.

The Denby's and Aunt Ruth were already there when we arrived and Mark & Missy showed up a few minutes later. We'd been seated at a table whose aquarium held a giant snapping turtle. His body was about two and a half feet in diameter. He was a big, venerable old fellow. For the first twenty minutes or so he barely moved at all, but soon after that he began to move and walk around his watery dwelling.

Isaiah and I had a good time watching the big old guy with super-wrinkly skin and a mouth big enough to swallow Isaiah's head. When Ruth had hit upon the idea of Fin Inn I was looking forward to watching the aquatic life with Isaiah, but when the food came the catfish fritters on my plate hit the spot better than anything had since the chili Ruth had made on Labor Day and I was happy.

After our good supper together, the Denbys and Aunt Ruth loaded me up with more birthday loot at their car in the parking lot. Aunt Ruth got me a nice polo shirt, which I'm sure my wife helped pick out. The Denbys got me a couple of nice ties and a photo album. I thought the photo album was a little odd, but didn't voice such a sentiment and when I opened it at their urging I was delightfully surprised. It was almost full of old Alton related postcards!

Some of the postcards I'd never seen before, and some of them I'd actually bid on on ebay and lost. A couple are duplicates of ones I've already got, but that's OK because I just like old postcards. The oldest (judging by postmark- but they aren't all postally used so some might actually be older) one in the batch they got me was from 1909.

When we got home Ruth iced the cake she'd baked earlier. She remembered on the way to supper that she'd left it out on top of the stove and hoped that our cat, Nijal would leave it alone. That was Nijal's birthday present to me- she didn't bother the cake.

I was working on a model in the family room when Ruth called Isaiah into the kitchen. Moments later he came out singing "Happy birthday to Daddo!" carrying a paper plate with a piece of cake on it, adorned with a single symbolic candle.

So, now I'm thirty-five years old. I've had about as good a birthday as I could- even better than I expected.

I had a great evening with my family and a giant turtle.