Just Survived Another Birthday

In the beginning my parents met, married, and had children, of which I am the oldest and the most important as I am the one that broke them. My parents, not the other children. I mean broke them in so the future children wouldn’t have to work as hard to wear them down, especially my mom. This beginning wasn’t the actual beginning of beginnings, just the beginning of my beginning. Everyone has one, and everyone pretty much believes that their beginning was the most important. They are all wrong. Mine is the absolutely most significant occurrence of the 20th century if you have the right perspective. If you doubt that, just ask me.

Along with diapers, safety pins, and plastic pants came other wondrous things. Some hung over my bed, some stayed in the play area and rattled or squeaked or caused tears to come to my eyes every time I hit myself in the face with them. I liked the live furry ones the best. They were as patient as my mom with me… up to a point. I liked to pull appendages and poke eyes. I thought the growling sounds were just loud purrs. The cat, finding itself in a grip like a vise and unable to free itself from torture by walking away, finally expressed itself in a punitive unsheathed swat. I was stunned. I cried and got no sympathy, and to this day only pull the cat’s tail with tongs while wearing a full suit of armor. I wear the armor, not the cat. Still not right. I don’t wear the cat and the cat doesn’t wear the armor.

Another wonderful thing happened right around the time I’d been alive for a year. A party! I liked the cake and the ice cream and the candles and the gift wrap and the ribbons and the boxes. They had been wrapped around some other stuff to show them off to advantage, but just a short time later the fancy stuff was gone and all that was left was the stuffing. I soon figured out the filler was fun, too. Some stayed in my bed, some rattled, some stacked, some clanged, and I hardly ever hit my face with any of them.

I’ve seen the pictures from that hot August in Walla Walla, Washington. No lie. Yes, Virginia and Margarita, there is a Walla Walla, Washington! There are pictures of me with my chunky thighs and round belly sitting on my pregnant mother with her round belly and legs of a model, both of us miserable. There’s one of me looking exceptionally wretched in a blow-up pool. The consensus was I had won the Jonathan Winters look-alike contest hands down. That, by the way, is the kind of picture one would really wish had been burned years before one began dating.

My sister put in an appearance a few months later. I was pretty curious about her, and wanted her to play, but my mother wouldn’t let me get her on the floor, or push her out of mom’s lap, so I had to just study the thing. Soon I noticed that baby was also wearing diapers with pins under plastic pants. Well, if anyone thought I was still a baby they were wrong. My mother tells me potty training went quickly. Blessed woman.

Years went by with frequent moves, hot summer birthdays often with only the family as we didn’t know anyone yet in the new place. By the time November came around, we girls had been in school for a couple of months, my sister had a few friends, and my mother knew other mothers and even imported an extra girl or two for the party. I tried to be pumped for my sister’s good fortune, really I did, but I’m thinking she remembers more about the unkind things I said and did out of, well, spite!

When the children came along I tried to give them memorable times with cake and ice cream always, and frequently had home-made pizza. (Later on it was from a pizza place and wasn’t as good as mine.) With 4 of the 5 having birthdays in November, December and January around Christmas and Thanksgiving, we couldn’t afford to give big parties every year, so they had their parties on alternate years.

The point I am heading toward along circuitous paths is this: for the last 20+ years I have hit the emotional lows on 2 particular days of the year. New Year’s Eve and my birthday are both indicators of another year passing by me at a dizzying rate leaving not much to show for it. But this year was different. This year I looked forward to seeing what might be coming my way.  (It was my children making a party  for me, with chocolate!) The fact that it marked a lost year was shown to be irrelevant. I turned another year older without even blinking. Sweet!

I wrote a poem a few years back. It started out as a rant against birthdays and ended up as a kind of tribute to them. Birthdays, that is. I need to remember that should I ever fall into that particular hole again.

So I have just one more thing to say and it is this:

 Happy Birthdays to all, and to all a good-night!


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