Last week, in what I now consider a moment of foreshadowing, I thanked Stasha for her Listicles because she makes me post at least once a week… and last week I posted nothing else all week. So here I am again, alive and kicking and listicling. I don’t really have an excuse for ignoring my blog other than the fact that being on vacation is actually more time consuming than being at home, doing homey things. I know, poor little ole me.
Oh, I do actually have an excuse, now that I think about it, my mom and her husband are visiting! I have houseguests! Hence, I can’t blog, what with all the beach laying, cocktail sipping, restaurant eating, and varied and sundry gallivanting and cavorting. (For them, I’m still running around after the kids).
This week’s topic is Birthdays(!) brought to us by the lovely Robbie of Fractured Family Tales and for some reason, my mom being here is rather an inspiration to me so here goes…
1. Strawberry Cheesecake – my mom is not what one would call a baker by any stretch of the imagination. She’s a fantastic cook, but she doesn’t eat sweets, so she doesn’t make them. I remember one of the few birthday cakes she baked for me was the year I turned 13, we were in Canada for a year and she hadn’t scouted out the bakeries yet so she made me a cake… I don’t remember what kind of cake it was, I just remember it was covered in chocolate and bizarrely decorated with kiwis, but she hadn’t accounted for the altitude change (which was mighty since we were in Calgary and she was used to cooking in Houston – practically below sea-level) and the cake didn’t rise, or something. It was inedible. But we all applauded the effort, which was truly a demonstration of motherly love. All this to say that normally, in Houston, she would buy me the most exquisite strawberry cheesecake from a bakery that has, unfortunately, since closed, but that evokes “birthday” to me like nothing ever has since. For my daughter’s second birthday I baked her a strawberry cheesecake, and if it turns out she enjoys them, I’ll bake her one every year until she begs me to stop and do something else already.
2. Anticipation or possibly trepidation – I don’t know if my parents ever forgot a birthday when we were little but for some reason my brother and I approached our birthdays with a certain degree of anxiety, feeling the need to remind our parents of the auspicious event several months ahead of time, then weekly, daily, and finally hourly as the moment drew nearer. We approached the arrival of our birthday with rather more hype than the Rapture or the frenzy preceding the New Year of 2000. It was like a humongous, cataclysmic turning of the clock. Nothing, barring possibly the birth of my two children, has ever approached the same level of unadulterated excitement rife with possibility.
3. Freedom – my parents were pretty strict, but each year that passed we “earned” a small extra privilege, a slightly later bedtime, a little extra television time, more say in what we wore, or what we ate, little things. These extra privileges that accumulated year after year though were much coveted, much anticipated, small tastes of the freedom that was to come with adulthood. Every year that passed we became more “grown up”, and somehow this building up of our desires made them much more appreciated when we got them. Adulthood, represented by the freedom to make our own choices, earned daily, yearly, in small increments is possibly sweeter than it being thrust upon us all at once, or not at all, as is often the case nowadays.
4. Special – as I said, I grew up in an adult-centered, traditional family, i.e. nobody gave a crap what the kids wanted or were feeling at any given time, the phrase “mother knows best” quite likely originated in my family. But on our birthdays, our parents really cared (or pretended to care) what we wanted. I got to choose what the family ate (unthinkable!), my brother had to be nice to me, on a couple of occasions I even got breakfast in bed! I got to be Queen for a day, every year on October 3rd, what more could a kid want.
5. Presents – we never lacked for anything, in fact our lifestyle was often the opposite of that, but my parents weren’t random buyers… they didn’t buy us crap just cause we asked for it or we could afford to. They bought us what we needed, they were generous, but presents were for special occasions and that’s it. We never really knew what we would get. We knew we would get at least one of the twenty two thousand things we had asked for during the year, and we would usually get something that was a complete surprise. Basically, opening presents was exciting.
6. Excitement (veiled in embarrassment) – I still get excited about my birthday. But most of the time, I’m embarrassed to admit it. As adults we’re not really supposed to celebrate ourselves, but after twelve years with my husband, I’m not holding my breath for a surprise birthday party, so despite my age, I still celebrate myself. I anticipate the phone calls, texts and FB messages, I anticipate the presents, I anticipate the yummy cake I’ve baked myself.
7. Others – birthdays aren’t just all about me anymore, I get to celebrate others. I’m in charge of the Husband’s birthday, which is conveniently two months after mine, so if he gets me a crappy gift he gets a crappy birthday party and present. It’s a great motivator. I’m in charge of the kids’ birthdays, and though tiring and often frustrating, it also makes me happy because I’m creating their traditions, their happy memories and one day in the future they’ll be writing a listicle on birthdays and citing my amazing birthday cakes (or something to that effect).
8. Reflection – birthdays now aren’t quite as happy go lucky as they once were, of course. I take them as a chance to stop and think about where I am, what I’m doing, why the hell haven’t I lost that stupid baby weight for yet another year… Every year that passes I take stock of what I’ve done and what I want to do and it gives me a chance to center myself again, to start afresh, for new goals, new motivation, for patting myself on the back or encouraging myself to get on with it. I try to keep it positive, but thinking about where I’m at also gives me the chance to give myself a swift kick in the behind when I need it.
9. Aging – yes, every year that passes I age, I gain a few more wrinkles, I’m not quite as bendy, I’m a little creakier, but I’m also calmer, more aware. I’ve accomplished more, even if it’s just a little, every year I take a step forward. So aging isn’t all bad.
10. Celebrating – I’ve already said this, but birthdays need to be celebrated. Not just acknowledged, but actually celebrated, anticipated, with excitement, like when we were kids. My mother-in-law drives me insane, because she never celebrates anything (ok, that’s not the only reason she drives me insane…), she’s always in a bad mood on her birthday, she’s standoffish, she won’t acknowledge her anniversaries… she’s a curmudgeon. But honestly, every year that passes we have fewer and fewer birthdays ahead of us, fewer celebrations, and we are never getting them back. So I say, whip out the champagne, cut yourself a slice of cake and celebrate your birthday because nobody is going to be celebrating your death. (Or so one would hope.)
So remember… October 3rd!