It’s Your Birthday
It’s Your Birthday.
Yes, yes, it is indeed my birthday today. I know, I don’t look a day over 38, amazing, isn’t it?
Which is a bummer, because I turned 36 today.
I’ve always treated my Special Day as something of an unrecognized National Holiday, like Groundhog Day, or Arbor Day. People stop, say, “Oh, it’s Arbor Day. Trees are Groovy. Too bad I don’t have it off from work,” and go about their business. (I am lobbying for National Guwi Day, but the Senate seems to be a little busy right now. I should have sent my petition to someone other than Mark Foley, because he is so bad at returning phone calls. Maybe I should have emailed? Hmmmm…I’ll put that on my to-do list.)
Anyhoo, it is my birthday, and there are a few things I love about this day, regardless of the fact that if my age were miles per hour, it would put me over the legal speed limit on my street. Yesterday? I wouldn’t have gotten a ticket. Today? License and registration, ma’am (with emphasis on the “ma’am” because the officer can clearly see that I’m OLD).
1) I love, love, love fall. If my birthday lands on a crisp, clear, leaf-scrunching, cocoa-drinking, sweater-wearing, apple-crunching day, I am happy for the whole year. One year, it was 85 and humid, and we went apple-picking. I ended up with a migraine and crabbed for about 7 months. Fall is my good karma.
2) Birthday gifts have become so much more fun since I had children. I prefer the painted macaroni necklaces and smudged cards to anything sparkly in a small box. However, this morning I was presented (before I had even opened my eyes, mind you) with a very large box and a gift bag. Both of these gifts had been chosen by my children. The large box? A cappuccino maker from my son ("Mom--it makes coffee with froth."). The gift bag? A bejeweled “princess mug” from Squishy. (“It’s for your COFFEEEY Mommy, for your new COFFEEEY. And it's sooooo sparkly.”) The giving joy is there, too—I think they enjoy giving gifts almost as much as I do. They are truly priceless.
The other thing I love about this day is the fact that it’s one day before my Dad’s birthday. Growing up, that always made me feel a little extra-special, because he would always tell me I was his early birthday present. Then, there was the cake with 97 names on it (October is a busy birthday month in my family—why buy 97 cakes? It’s just not practical). Having my name on the same cake as my Dad’s name (which was “Dad,” obviously--duh) always tickled me. It was, “On this sacred day of the Family Birthday Party, you are equal to your Father, who, because of the fact that he is an ex-marine and a very big man, could kick your ass from here until Wednesday. But he won’t. Because your names are on the same cake.” Not that my Dad ever actually kicked my ass, but make no mistake. He could have. He almost kicked John’s ass once when he found out we were moving in together, and John’s 6’4”. But he didn’t. Despite the fact that my father had years of military training and a very loud bark, as it were, he didn’t really bite. Much. He was, at heart, a gentle soul.
Where was I? Oh yes, my Dad. So now that he’s gone, behind my celebratory birthday cheer, I’m always a little melancholy. His last birthday party was at my house, the day before his birthday, on my birthday. It was a lot of fun, almost the entire family was there, and all of us knew this was going to be the last one for the Big Man. Still, like the trooper he was, he opened every gift we gave, delighted with each, undoubtedly knowing full well he would never read the book, watch the movie, wear the sweater. He died a mere twenty days after his last birthday party, completely at peace with himself. What more can anyone ask, really? I mean, we all wished for the obvious—one last day at the beach with him cracking peanuts, watching a Sox game, hanging tinsel on his ears and glasses at Christmastime, more time, and more time, and more time. No-one’s ever ready when it happens, but if a person’s at the end of his life and he’s in a peaceful state and ready to go, how great is that? It sucks for the rest of us, but he got on the train and rode it to the last stop. His ticket had been punched, and he wasn’t the type of guy to ask for a refund.
In case it seems like I’m dwelling on sadness on a happy occasion, I’m really not. I’m truly a glass-half-full kind of person, but this time of year, I’d feel remiss if I didn’t take some time out to think of my Dad, his birthday, his great life, and the fall of 2001. It always pained me that my father had to witness the carnage that was 9/11 in his last weeks. Who knows? Maybe it made him even more ready to go.
So yes, Happy Birthday to me, the Birthday Princess!
And Happy Birthday to my Dad, Mr. All-Around Good Guy. I miss you. The cake’s not the same without your name on it.