Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Birthday Story

I come out looking bad in this. The only defense I have is that I was raised that birthdays are a big deal. When we were kids, there would be streamers hanging from the pot-hanger over the table, and all the cereals on the table. Often at school there were cupcakes. On your birthday you chose where the family went out to dinner that evening.

Phil turned 21 the day before I turned 20. At 1130 the night before (on the 13th), people arrived to take him on his "twenty-one run," so he could order his first legal beer at midnight on the 14th. Jujubi, whose 20th birthday had been a few days before, and I stayed home. The next day was my birthday. Phil insisted that we go to wash our cars that afternoon, which I thought a really strange thing to do, though it turned out the purpose was to get me out of the house so Jujubi could hang up a sign.

We often ate together, which is how I got through college without learning to cook. I had a padded envelope from my mom; Phil's gift from his mother had arrived a day late and was a 3'x2' box. As we finished dinner Phil put his box on the table and said something like, "Time to open presents." Jujubi reminded Phil that they had to sing "Happy Birthday" to me first, and as it was actually my birthday I should open my present first. They did, and I did, receiving two books by Rita Dove, with whom I had taken two writing workshops, books I still have. Mom had included a happy birthday note on a "While You Were Out" memo. Phil brought this big box onto the table and after opening it pulled out clothes, coffee, a new coffeemaker carafe, some art supplies, and several other things, plus a birthday card with "To My Son On His Birthday" written on the front in a cheesy font.

The next thing I remember Jujubi and Phil were heading off to the library to study (I always studied at home). I don't remember what specific thing triggered it but I remember standing on the walkway leading to the front door yelling at them for not celebrating my birthday with me. I remember very clearly that I was furious, even knowing that it wasn't their fault that his package arrived late, even knowing that Mom's gift was perfect and probably mailed on the fly while she was at work so it would arrive on time. After they left, I carefully chose books I didn't care about from the shelf and threw them at the wall. I yelled and cried.

I don't know why I threw such a temper tantrum that night. I was really embarrassed about it afterwards and apologized to Phil and Jujubi. I even apologized in my heart to Phil's mom for thinking that she had sabotaged my birthday.

The next year everyone and their brother came out for my "twenty-one run" (also, the next year, many more people were 21; only Bink had to wait for another week). The September Birthdays Party we had that year seemed like it had an especially large turnout and I received birthday cards from all kinds of people. I ruefully enjoyed all the birthday greetings, as I suspected that a lot of my friends had heard about the tantrum the year before.

1 comment:

Saipan Writer said...

A belated Happy Birthday. (When I was in grade school, my best friend's birthday was on the 15th. Mine is on the 25th.)