Having A Good Birthday: A Writer’s Source of CRAZY

My 8th Birthday, 1977
My 8th Birthday, 1977

Today is my birthday. Yeah, I know….have a fabulous day. Blah, blah, blah. Not that I don’t appreciate the benedictions and well wishing from the people I love. I like being thought of as much as anyone. I work at other people’s birthdays. Giving a great gift takes planning and understanding the person. I’m inclined to give presents whenever the mood strikes. Doesn’t have to be an occasion. Believe me, I’ve received some doozy gifts and all are proof of how little the people around me know who I am. That’s okay too….I’m not easy, by a long shot. I’m difficult. I’ll admit it. I’m assertive, laissez faire on most ‘normal’ moral issues and I don’t lie. You’d be surprised how much people dislike those qualities. I say I don’t judge, but I do.

I judge the hypocrisy, specious behavior and misanthropy. I judge these things harshly because my childhood steeped in them like a cup of strong tea. My first marriage steeped a bit too long, going black and bitter. I’m fair minded. No worries if you’re a good human being.

Growing up, I learned that words and actions don’t always align. This lesson slammed me at 15. My mother voiced loudly and long her desire for a quiet, no frills 40th birthday. Her deep depression at the milestone (arm thrown over eyes for dramatic effect) demanded mourning rather than celebrating. My father and I took her at her word. A nice dinner, some flowers, zero fanfare. Yeah, I know, we missed it. She imploded or maybe exploded as it wasn’t silent, independent or without collateral damage. We paid. For weeks, we paid.

My 13th birthday. I was mad about Pegasus in 8th grade.
My 13th birthday. I was mad about Pegasus in 8th grade.

My 16th birthday happened the following spring. Nothing. Less than nothing. Our house sagged inward from the relentless pull of her black hole. I saw it coming. The powerful lesson clobbered me. My mother’s dubious reliability slapped me in the face like the big fish in the Monty Python skit. My father planned and executed the most outlandish and decadent ‘surprise’ party for my mother the next year. I never spent my birthdays at home again. Oh, she sometimes bought cakes. I received trivial presents, maybe $20.00 now and then. Now she calls and sings The Beatle’s Today Is Your Birthday. I know. I’m a horrible person. It’s painful.

In our house, birthdays are a week long. Family dinner or dinner out. You’re choice of cake. Parties for the young kids. Sleepovers as they aged. Now, cold hard cash. I manage to surprise them on occasion with some creative gift. The fun of birthdays is in the ownership of the day. I don’t need that. I’d rather my kids showed me more kindness and grace over the course of the regular days. Ahem….do your laundry. That would be wonderful.

This year I’m 45. I love growing bolder, more fearless and more assertive. I’m working at my passion as a writer. I’m surrounded by people and family that I adore (most days). Bam! I love me. I love my life. That’s not a popular quality in a lot of circles either. F&*# ’em if they can’t take a joke.

Son 2’s dismay over my lack of interest in this birthday amazed me.

Son 2: Can I sleep over Ben’s on Friday?

Me (after thinking): As long as you clean your room.

Son 2: Wait, your birthday is on Saturday, right?

Me: Nope. Friday.

Son 2 (crestfallen): Oh, really?

Me: Q, spend the night at Ben’s. It’s okay.

Son 2: I don’t have any money to get you a present. Aren’t we going to DO something? Have a party?

Lake Powell. Year 20. My mother sent an ice cream cake that forced my friends to pack it in dry ice. except that it wasn't ice cream.
Lake Powell. Year 20. My mother sent an ice cream cake that forced my friends to pack it in dry ice. except that it wasn’t ice cream.

I explain to him the same thing I’ve already said….be nicer and more conscientious during the year. He laid his head on my shoulder and said in a childish tone, “I love you, Mommy.”(Wait for it……) “Oh, could you push me $20.00 so I can get some food?” Son 1’s disappointment that we’re not doing birthday dinner surprised me too. I imagined he’d have plans for a Friday night. “I can make plans. You’re never out past 8 or so. I can do something after 8.” Kapow! Happy birthday to me. I’d love it if someone else emptied the dishwasher or picked up dog pooh. I enjoy simple things.

We’re recovering from three proms, Graduation and a weekend long graduation celebration that involved my parents. My mother flashed me her boob at Son 1’s graduation. My father and I knocked back a few beers. Okay, more than a few. I controlled the urge to throttle my mother after she ruined two dozen cupcakes an hour before the party. I triumphed over Son 1 in beer pong, arguable honor I know.  I’m exhausted and saturated. If anyone says beer, I might detonate.

I’m capable of putting together a party. I’ve thrown a few parties when the desire hit me. In a few weeks, this place may be rocking. My self-worth isn’t dictated by the noise my family could produce. I’d love a parade when my book hits the best seller list. Oh hell, the best seller list trumps any parade. Most days, I count on my fingers how old I am if someone asks. My age means little. It’s my life that’s the big deal.

Today is my birthday. It’s raining so the dogs will have to wait on a walk. I’ll dig up some of my mother-in-law’s Irises for a friend of mine. A load of laundry or two nag me. I’m avoiding the gym. The vacuum will have to wait. I’m working on some editing notes from Vivian Caethe, with whom I’m thrilled to be working.  At last a collaborative editor! I’ll be joining two of my favorite people for a glass of wine and some snacks. Sunday evening will be sushi night with the sons and perhaps the dotter….ahem.

I’ve four, no now five voicemail messages from my mother singing The Beatles, even though she sang it to me yesterday when I spoke with her. Should Sir Paul call to sing it, well…..that’d be different. If you’re inclined, raise a glass to me tonight and as my darling, little cousin would say, Huzzah! Who doesn’t love a six year-old who uses Huzzah! How can I not adore a family who taught their kid to use Huzzah? I told you….I’m blessed.