When I turned 14, we tried to organize a party for me. My birthday is August 14th, and even though school started the last week of August in Hawaii, most people were still on vacation for my actual birthday.
Regardless, we kept trying, but every date fell apart. Every time mom put off the ordering of the cake, until finally in September, on the 25th, she came home with this gorgeous chocolate number with a marzipan lion on the top and said “Happy birthday.”
Best. dessert and breakfast. ever.
When I turned 15, my mom planned a surprise party for me.
I had no idea. She’d kept it a complete secret.
She’d invited my Aunty Marsha and my friend Noelle and, because she didn’t know people in the drama program at my high school very well, she’d asked a friend of mine there if he would invite the people there that he thought would want to come. She reserved a lunch-time table at Koho’s, which was the fancy restaurant for the middle class in Maui, and then kept completely silent until my birthday.
My birthday arrives, and after a really awesome wake-up that probably involved opening presents from her and having chocolate-chip pancakes I got dressed and we headed out to Koho’s.
We walked in to find a table with 16 empty spaces and Aunty Marsha and Noelle taking up the other two.
I was really surprised.
Apparently the above-unnamed friend in the drama program had totally bailed on inviting anyone to the party or even showing up himself, and hadn’t bothered to tell my mom. (That, or no one in the drama program wanted to come to my birthday — while either is likely, I’m betting on the first one. I did have some friends in high school.) Hence: a party with four people.
In the end it wasn’t bad. I honestly was just happy that two people had showed. We had a great lunch and afterwards Noelle and I got to be mall rats for a few hours — I bought the game Legend of Dragoon for the PlayStation One and maybe some other things, but Legend of Dragoon is what stands out in my memory. Then we decided to go to the top of Haleakala to watch the sunset. We got up there, saw the sunset, and then in the freezing cold that is 10,000 feet above sea level with the sun below the horizon, our car broke down.
We managed to catch a ride down the mountain with some nice dudes in a truck, and when we got back down we dropped Noelle off at her house, where her dog bit me.
At this point I had to start laughing, because the whole day had been such a comedy of errors.
When I turned 18 I had to work on my birthday. It was tech week for the show I was assistant-stage-managing, and we were doing a cue to cue and light refocusing.
I was determined to be optimistic about having to work on my birthday because I was turning 18 and could visit the porn shops and get a tattoo, both of which were really important things to me. I did actually end up getting that tattoo during my break — an Eye of Horus on my right inner wrist.
However, when I got back the director and the stage manager decided to have a screaming fight over half the theatre, the stage manager using the PA system (or “Voice of God”) to make his point. Shakily, upset by all the yelling, I went outside to stand with the actors having a smoke. Dale, that fabulous man, put his arm around me and said in his wonderfully scratchy voice, “Welcome to birthday hell, darlin.”
When I turned 19, the legal drinking age in British Columbia, I spent a week at my dad’s farm on Hornby Island. His side of the family came up from Texas to visit me, and my sister and her husband were there too. (Actually not sure if he was her husband at that point or not; they didn’t tell anyone about the wedding till after it had happened so I have no idea when it actually was.)
On my birthday I got up and walked down to the Co-op to buy some cider. When I got there I saw a sign saying they needed two pieces of ID, so I had to go back to grab my passport. I bought two six packs of Growers Cider and went home. I proceeded to drink 4 ciders over the course of the afternoon, at which point one of the adult family members told me to stop because I was becoming an alcoholic.
(That evening, my sister, her husband, and my cousin took me to the pub and we drank copious amounts while gambling over cards.)
When I turned 21, I was stuck in Powell River working when I wanted to be in the States with my then-boyfriend. My boss asked me if I wanted my birthday off, and I told her no — I’d worked on my birthday before, and there was no way my work day could turn out worse than the one of my 18th birthday.
I came in the next week and she told me my mom had come in and suggested very strongly that I be given the day off on my birthday. My boss and I laughed about it, because moms, and I said I may as well take advantage of my mom’s insistence and go sunbathe or something.
A few nights later (this is still at least two weeks before my actual birthday) I check my email. Mom’s forwarded me an email response from my Aunty Carla. Carla wishes me a happy birthday and sends her love to me. I scroll down to see what mom’s message says, and in said message she tells Carla of her plans to host a surprise party for me at Local Loco’s on the 14th and shhhh because I had no idea.
I keep the secret for two weeks, and on my birthday pretend to be in a really bad mood all day, saying birthdays don’t matter and I don’t care anymore. Mom insists on dragging me out ‘for dinner at Local Loco’s’ and I grudgingly get dressed nicely and go out with her. When I see the sign out front that says “Happy Birthday Jana!” (because I was still Jana back then) my ‘bad mood’ miraculously lifts and I say ‘Mom! You shouldn’t have! Thank you!’
We proceed to have a great party and after I’ve got quite a few drinks in me I tell her that I’d known about the party for two weeks.
Last year, for my 25th, my boyfriend and I spent the first hour or so of the day driving back home from Kelowna for our friend’s wedding, which was on the 13th (I was ring-bearer). After sleeping for several hours we got ice cream, and I got to rent any romantic comedy I wanted and he had to watch it with me.
We watched that horrible Hugh Grant/Sarah Jessica Parker bit, Did You Hear About The Morgans, and now Nate and I just have to shake our heads like a horse and neigh a little bit and we start laughing. (There’s a reason people compare her to a horse. It has nothing to do with ‘shaming her for being unattractive’ and everything to do with her constantly shaking her head like a horse does. At some point in the movie she and Hugh Grant share this passionate kiss and he has to clamp his hands down on her head to stop it from moving long enough to kiss her. Also she does have some certain horse-like features but I’m not sure that automatically makes one ugly; I think people are quick to say animal = ugly because they fear being accused of being attracted to animals. Fact is, horses are gorgeous creatures, so saying you look like one isn’t much of an insult.)
This year I’m turning 26. No surprise parties, no postponed cakes, no dog bites. I’m going to GeekGirlCon the weekend before, if all goes to plan, and then hopefully a small gathering of friends at either my place or my mother-in-law’s (I still need to ask her). If that doesn’t happen, then I’ll just fall back on last year’s plan: ice cream and movies with the boyfriend.
I’m learning to embrace having a summer birthday — sure, it means most people are busy with other stuff and don’t have time for you, but it also means you can do whatever you want with yourself. Isn’t that what having a birthday is all about? A day for you?
Besides, Leo is the best sign. Ever. No denying it.