When you're a kid your birthday is a day of unadulterated joy. It's a day of presents, cake and games. At some point that all changed, and my birthday become a guaranteed disappointment. It wasn't about gifts or anything like that. It was about celebration. Sometime during my childhood I stopped being celebrated.
Of course I didn't understand it then. While I was living my way through it I just thought that was how things worked. I thought that as you grew up birthdays just lost their magic. That you lost your magic. That parents kinda fell out of love with their kids a little. I didn't realize that it was really because my parents marriage was constantly on the rocks and that they just stopped trying. My birthday became something they had to do, and a lot of that came through. Ain't it grand how crystal clear hindsight can be?
It didn't help that people had a tendency to die around my birthday, or that my parents decided to put the family dog down a week before my 12th birthday. I can say that my 12th birthday was my worst birthday, ever. I loved that dog with everything I had. Pepper was a best friend, guardian, guide and part-time parent. Something in me died that day, too.
I actually ended up getting into a lot of trouble in school right after my birthday that year. It's also right around the time that I started to realize what I was made of. I was a tough kid that could push all those feelings some place deep and stonewall the world.
Not a healthy way to live, but it was God sent for the next 10 years. Until Wahoo.
Wahoo always made a big deal about my birthday. In his family his birthday was always a big deal. He'd go out of his way to make grand gestures, but in silly ways. He still does. :)
At first it was hard for me to get on the same page. It was a day I waited to see how long it took my parents to call or to see if someone would forget me. It was a day that I was reminded how unimportant I was, while still trying to put on a happy face for Wahoo.
But we can't depend on other people for our happiness. We have to make our own happiness. I now embrace my birthday. Years ago Wahoo gave me the ultimate gift: The Birthday Week. It's a week of celebration and indulgence. It's a time of gratitude and splendor. It's a week that I do things I want to do just for the sake of doing them.
This year is no different. Sunday was a family birthday day. Last night was pizza party night with just the two of us. Tuesday night will be a movie night. Thursday will be for book shopping. Not sure what the rest of the week will be, but it'll be about and for me.
My best birthday was probably my 33rd. I threw myself a birthday party at our local game hall (kind of a Mom & Pop Chuck E. Cheese, but way more fun!). I invited all my nieces and nephews and my friends with kids. I bought tokens for the kids, made cupcakes in various sizes and handed out party favors. Some of my friends thought it was a little wacky, but those kids had a frickin' blast! We all did. It didn't matter that I was the oldest person having a birthday party there that day...by like 20+ years. ;)
I'm not 100% recovered from all the sad birthdays, but I'm working on it. There was still a little part of me that waited to see who called and when, but it didn't make or break my birthday. I make the most of March 28th because it was the day that I came into this world.