Birthdays have never been a wonderful thing for me since I’m practically a Christmas baby.
First of all, my parents were inconsiderate enough to get pregnant at the end of March so that my date of arrival was somewhere around the last of December, first of January. Secondly, my mother decided that she didn’t want to risk maybe spending Christmas Day in the hospital having a baby, so she raked the yard to throw herself into labor so she could deliver me before Christmas.
All of this meant that — like most late December born — I received countless presents that were “for your birthday and Christmas, too.” And, I never had birthday parties because everybody was too busy Christmas shopping or going to Christmas parties or special church services or Christmas concerts…well, you get the idea. My brother, a September baby, had a great pirate-themed birthday party and a cookout party with pony rides another time.
Then there are just the flat-out bad birthday memories.
Like the time nobody remembered (not even me) that it was my birthday until I got a phone call from the one person who never forgot. (This, of course, was when I was younger and wanted people to remember I was a year older)
Or those birthdays during the years of a deteriorating relationship when your partner’s “What do you want to do for your birthday?” is said in a tone that makes it clear sex better not be on your list because that would take way too much effort on her part. I always hated those birthdays most because you still have a thin thread of hope that she’s going make your day special by trying to rekindle some of the love and intimacy you used to share, right up until you turn out the light and she says goodnight and turns her back to you.
Of course, all of my birthdays haven’t been bad. I did have one considerate lover who suggested that we pick a different day during the year and celebrate it as my birthday. So, we did. But it just wasn’t the same, you know, no matter how much we pretended. Because it wasn’t really my birthday.
And, my parents did throw a “sweet sixteen” birthday party with most of the popular kids my school, and dancing in our big den. It was a big hit right up until there was a tangle up on the dance floor and I ended up with a broken hand and had to go to the emergency room. Then I had a cast for the first time in my life, which was cool for about a week until it began to itch.
But today was one of the best birthdays I’ve had in a long time. The cake was in the shape of a pregnant woman and my gift was a house full of some of my favorite women — all related to me.
My day started with, yep, a baby shower.
Now, I don’t normally do baby showers. Those are for straight women who like to play those silly games and sit around in a circle and exclaim over little baby clothes, talk about breast pumps, and (shudder) the pros and cons of episiotomies. (If you don’t know what that is, don’t look it up. Stay innocent. I wish I had.) Normally, I claim I didn’t get the invitation or send a gift with one of my sisters or just admit that I’d rather be hog-tied and slow-roasted that sit through one of those gatherings.
But this was for two people I admire, my niece and her husband who are teachers in Honduras. When I visited them last year, they’d been married for about five years and were frustrated that they hadn’t gotten pregnant. They both love kids. So, we were all ecstatic when they discovered several months later that Heather was with child.
Plans were for her to come home to the States for Christmas and get her fix of family and all cravings U.S. (she gets a Big Mac the minute she steps off the airplane in the Atlanta airport) and collect baby loot from all her friends here before she is too preggers to fly. She’d been counting the days until her trip home for months. But, she had premature — way too early — labor pains a week before she was to leave and the doctor put her on bed rest. She was devastated.
So, we held the shower anyway. It was a brunch and no silly games. We skyped Heather and husband Ariel, using my sister’s laptop and big screen TV. They could see the entire room full of us, but could only hear clearly if you sat next to the laptop, so about fifteen people took turns sitting at the laptop, opening their presents for the baby and holding them up for Heather and Ariel to see, while visiting and catching up with them. It went on for two hours.
When it did come up that today was also my birthday, the only man physically at the party — the person who always remembered until Alzheimer’s disease began stealing his memory — burst into song. You see, it’s been a tradition since we were children for Daddy to sing Happy Birthday to us. As adults, cell phones made it easier for him to find us and sing over the phone. Since he can’t keep up with a calendar any more, the siblings make sure he gets reminded and a phone put in his hand on the right days. This year, I was lucky enough to be there in person. My only regret is that I didn’t think to grab my phone and video it. I never know when it will be my last birthday song from him.
After the party, I went to a movie with my brother-in-law and my nephew, Corey. The movie was god awful, but the time was well spent because I don’t know when I’ll see Corey again. He leaves Jan. 2 for boot camp. He’s signed up to go into Army Intelligence and his training posts for the next 9 months are nowhere near the East Coast. It scares me to death that his MOS will probably land him in the Middle East.
So, on my four-hour drive back to North Carolina after my busy visit to Georgia, I reflected on the 59th year of my life that I’m concluding tonight. Some of the changes like my dad growing feeble and Corey joining the army are scary. But It’s also been a great year of family drawing closer together, deepening some very good friendships, finding some great new friends, and meeting some personal goals for myself.
Anyway, I’m home now, sitting in bed as I type this blog, pinned down by my three furry terrors who celebrated my return like I’d been gone two weeks instead of two days and now are crowded close to make sure I don’t leave again anytime soon.
A birthday just can’t get much better than that.