Friday, August 3, 2012
I'm Glad You Were Born. most of the time.
"It's that time of year again." Brett said to me hesitantly over dinner the over night. "Your birthday is coming up. What would you like to do?"
I describe him as asking this question hesitantly, because he totally was. And as he asked it he sort of flinched and leaned back in his chair a bit. And maybe held his breath. I could be imagining all of these things, but I'm pretty sure I am 100% right that that was what was happening.
I pushed my food back and shrugged. "I don't know. Dinner? And I need a new hair straightener since my last one blew up at that haunted chateau in Normandy."
Brett opened his mouth to argue that the chateau was not haunted. (It was. He slept through the haunting. And, even if I imagined it we were staying in a mansion that was approximately 7 billion years old, sleeping on a canopy bed that had portraits of dead children hanging over our heads along with snippets of their powdery hair. AND, OH THE LIGHTS KEPT TURNING OFF AND ON AND THE COUNT RUNNING THE ESTATE WAS LIKE, "OH NO WORRIES. THAT IS JUST MY DEAD MOTHER.") Anyway, before he started his argument he seemed to actually hear what my preferences were for my birthday, and he stopped.
"No cake? Balloons? Surprise parties you ask for? No special champagne? No drawn out birthday week?!"
"No. And you make me sound very high maintenance. Which makes me want to go out and BUY STUFF. But no... well, maybe some cake."
"I'm worried." He said, practically wringing his hands. "I'm just going to come out and say that I am really worried. Is this a trap? A test? I mean- I know my wife. This is totally a test, right? So you want a big party?" As Brett started trailing off and muttering about how he knew he would be dead meat if he simply handed me a hair straightener over dinner on my birthday, I stopped him.
"Brett- I just...don't feel like celebrating this year. I'm going to be 29. The 20's are almost over. I was just getting good at them, and now they are gone."
"Yeah, I don't think you have to worry about that. I think you'll be a little bit too good at your 30's too."
(He's always incredibly helpful.)
This conversation made me realize two things. One: My poor husband acts like a scared and cornered animal whenever he mentions my birthday, and I may be slightly to blame for it. I'm not a monster (is the thing all monsters say...) But I'm not. Honest. My husband is an only child, and got so much attention as it was, birthdays just...weren't a big deal. In fact, until I came into the picture, I don't think he had celebrated one since he was about 7. And then it took me 6 years of over-the-top celebrations of him to realize he actually isn't a fan of birthdays at all. (Not that it stops me. It slows me a bit, sure. Like- I won't rent the clown for him or anything, but there may still be a jumpy house.) And I come from a massive family. There are too many of us kids to have constant attention. I once RAN AWAY and my mom didn't even notice. Granted, I was sitting in a tree across the road, eating peanut butter sandwiches and watching my house angrily, sure someone was going to run out screaming my name. But no one did. You know why? Because there were nine thousand of us. I don't even think I know all of my sibling's names.
But on your birthday- things were different. I was born at 3:40 am, and for the longest time my mom would creep into my room to kiss me at that exact moment. She would whisper a happy birthday in my ear, and we both relished the thought that she always said the first happy birthday of the day. I was always awake for this private moment, squirming in my bed, knowing any second I would see her silhouette illuminated from the golden light of my nightlight. That stopped eventually, maybe when I became a surly preteen and OHMYGOD MOM THAT IS SO EMBARRASSING. But, I miss it. I want that moment back. I'm sure Brett wouldn't be weirded out at all by my mom joining us at 3:40 am every August 5th.
After the private celebration came the day o'treats. Breakfast in bed, a big, splashy birthday party, dinner picked by the birthday girl, and an entire day where I didn't have to share any toys-at-all-no-way. Even during the lean years, my mom somehow made the entire thing special. We didn't have much, but we had the celebration. It was magic.
And then the next day I went back to being a face among the masses, but not without the lingering glow from the day before.
So, you see the tough act Brett has to follow, but he has taken on the challenge beautifully- year after year blessing me with thoughtful notes and planned trips, and sometimes very quiet and lovely nights at home. It was just about recognizing the fact that I was here, and nudging me on the shoulder over a glass of wine and saying: "Hey. I'm really glad you were born."
So, that brings me to the Second thing I realized about our conversation.
What didn't I want to celebrate, exactly?
Yes, I'm going to be 29. Yes, 30 is looming and I am scared of 30. I feel like I haven't finished my 20's yet. I feel like I'm playing this board game I have only NOW started to get the hang of, and we're switching to yahtzee or something like that. And yahtzee is ridiculously boring. But, you know what is more boring? BEING BORING. Being that person that gripes about being old, being tired, only wanting a hair straightener because what's the point. I don't have to be that person. I can exist outside of numbers- it's really only up to me.
And then I remembered I asked for the hair straightener in a way that wasn't boring at all. How many people fight with their husbands over an evening's events in a HAUNTED CHATEAU IN FRANCE? How many people can say they watched a hair straightener BLOW UP? LITERALLY. BLOW. UP.
And I can.
So, I'll be 29 on Sunday, but that doesn't mean a thing. What matters most is how I spend that day. And the 365 days after. And the 365 days after that.
I'm hoping it involves a lot of explosions. A lot of funny stories. And definitely numerous glasses of wine with the people I love in this life. Where I can look over at them and say:
"Hey. I'm really glad you were born."