Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Birth Days

Not your first day on earth, but your first day out of your mother's body on earth. That is your birthday.

Because memories are state dependent, I have been remembering some of my most depressing birthdays today. The one I remember the most today is my 18th birthday. My mom and I had moved into another family's basement, who were friends of ours. Our carpet was plaid. There was sparkly sprayed-on stuff on the ceiling. We had dark wood paneling on all the walls, except for the wall that had the giant picture of a beach on it. No, this wasn't in the 70's, but it might have looked a little like a ghetto version of an Austin Powers movie.

I felt embarrassed by my lack of money often while I was growing up. But on that birthday I felt most embarrassed that my mom was throwing my birthday party. It was sort of like a little kid's party, but it might have been fine if not for her serious miscalculation resting on the faulty premise that surprise = fun. I knew about the party. That wasn't a surprise. I was helping to prepare for it. (Surprise might have something to do with fun if it gets you out of the preparation.) The big surprise was: I had invited all these people and none of them were coming! Surprise!

After about the 5th phone call that night saying someone couldn't come, (I lie I can't remember how many phone calls there were,) I talked to my friend K. She had been my friend since we were in 4th grade. Apparently we were in nursery school together. It was my 18th birthday. She said she couldn't come to my 18th birthday party because her mom wanted her to stay home and get some things done. I was incredulous, I knew her nice mom, "Are you serious? But it's my birthday! Ask her if you can just come for a little while!" I pleaded. Later she told me that she felt really bad doing that. Of course she did! That is not a fun birthday surprise! What was my mother thinking!

After everyone actually showed up, (much to my mixed emotions,) we played stupid games. At least that's what the people-who-weren't-really-my-friends-but-we-were-in-the -same-circle-of-friends-so-I-sort-of-considered-them-friends-and-invited-them-like -you-do-with-distant-relatives-when-you-invite-them-to-a -wedding-even-though-you- have-no-emotional-ties-whatsoever said. Then the cou de ta of humiliation: My big 18th birthday present from my family (ie: my mother.) If the party in it's entirety wasn't embarrassing enough, if it didn't just emphasize that no matter how much I tried to pretend, I did not have a happy, well-to-do, or socially ept family, I then had to open my present in front of my friends. I wasn't surprised, (and I don't think at that point that they were either,) to find that my present was 18 pairs of socks, each one a different color. For years after that I wore those mustard yellow, purple, bright pink, or lime green socks when it was laundry day, or when I was walking around inside. I always put them on grudgingly. I'm very happy to say that none of those socks are with us now.

The whole party was worthy of being a scene in that one movie where the kid had a big fro, and lives in a small town. (Ever since I turned 25 I often can't remember the precise words for things. That fits in with this post because that's depressing too, and has to do with age.) I now find my mom's presents charming, and she usually adds a check to the mix (that was weird) which helps. On this current birthday, my mom's present was the only thing that was not depressing. Quirky seems cooler to me now that I am older. On my cat in the hat birthday card, she gave me a message in binary, hex and decimals. I told her I was tickled by her card. "Well, she said, "I just kept trying to think: what is special about 32?" It's 2 to the power of 5, that's what!

1 comment:

Laura Moncur said...

I'm sorry 18 wasn't a good year for you. I actually talked back to the computer screen when I read your story. That was NOT a good surprise for your birthday...

I've had parties where no one has shown up (or just my sister). After experiencing that, life is actually easier. Whenever I think of throwing a party, I think, "Well, it can't be as bad as that Mardi Gras Party."