And Many More

19 Jan

It sounded terrible. Everyone was singing in a different key and the tempo was only marginally quicker than a dirge. But, Marilyn Monroe’s edition aside, “Happy Birthday” almost always sounds terrible. Even my family, which includes a fair number of pretty good singers, couldn’t manage to sound like much more than something Animal Planet might air when we recently feted the two members born in January.

Birthdays are a big deal in America. People take the day off and they get pissy if they can’t. We go out to eat. We get drunk. We are so invested in having a terrific time on our birthdays that all day we are admonished to do so. “Happy Birthday,” we hear from our family. “Happy Birthday” we hear from our friends and co-workers. Hell, we even hear “Happy Birthday” from our favorite stores. I got a $10 gift card from Ace Hardware last year. Ace Hardware!

What’s really amazing to me is that we feel like we deserve special treatment as if we did something amazing on the day we were born. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I was a passive participant in the events of April 22, 1958. Frankly, my mother was, too. The accepted practice then was to knock mom out. She’d come to with a baby in her arms. Maybe that’s where the stork legend came about. When I come out of anesthesia you could tell me I’d had a beer with George Bush and I’d believe it.

These days, Mom is generally well aware of how the wee ones enter the world: through our bodies. And yet, on the anniversaries of their births, we give them presents. And they expect them!

My son has yet to thank me for allowing him to suck the life out of me for nine months. The little beast didn’t even want to come out and, in fact, did everything he could to stay in. He was one week late and then took one and a half hours of pushing to get his fat head out of my body.

Some people think childbirth is beautiful. I think sunsets are beautiful. I even think my children are beautiful, but giving birth? Not so much. When my son finally crowned (for those who don’t know, that means you could take a peek at my lady parts and see the crown of his head just beginning to appear), one of the nurses asked if she should get the big mirror so I could see the baby. She giggled like a little girl, practically jumping for joy, as if looking at my hoohah stretched beyond belief were more fun than getting a puppy for Christmas. “No!” I said. “The only way I want to see this baby is out!” I wanted him out so I could give him the first time out of his life.

He finally did come out and every year afterwards, we spent a boat load of money on parties and gifts. Lately, it’s been mostly gifts, as he no longer really wants a party, wisely understanding that less party equals more gift.

It may come as something of a surprise, but I get a kick out of planning kiddie birthday parties. I will even admit, with a modicum of parental pride, to losing my mind over some of my kids’ birthday parties. There was the fishing party which required: construction of bamboo fishing poles with u-shaped magnets instead of hooks, gluing of additional magnets to the backs of assorted pond-related plastic animals, and cutting out of craft foam lily pads. The animals floated on their little lily pads in a kiddie pool in the yard. The children fished them out and exchanged them for treats. It was a-freaking-dorable.

The fishing party wasn’t my only folly. One year, I constructed a miniature golf course in our back yard out of stuff (read: junk) I found laying around the house. Not as cute as the fishing party, but just as fun. We’ve also had princess parties, flower power parties and night-at-the movies sleepovers. The most recent parties have featured some amazing cupcakes crafted by a family friend.

None of these parties was for me. In fact, I very seldom get a birthday party. I am wise enough to know that my husband’s birthday planning skills consist of making reservations and placing a credit card in a leatherette folder. Still, for my 50th birthday, I wanted a party and I was damned if I was going to plan it for myself.

My husband planned the party, bless his heart. If you are Southern, you know what that “bless his heart” means. He tried. He really did. He invited the guests, he readied the house, he ordered the food. About half an hour before the guests arrived, I realized I hadn’t seen a birthday cake. “Is someone bringing the cake,” I asked. “Cake?” he said. “Yes, cake. It’s a birthday. There’s supposed to be a cake.” He got that “I am in it really deep” look in his eyes. He went to the store; he got a cake. He will never live it down.

I won’t ask my husband to throw me a birthday party again. He’s not good at it and he really doesn’t want to do it. I’m touched that he did it at all. But, we’ve developed a new tradition for my birthday. We go to a really good Vietnamese restaurant located right next door to an Oberweis store. I eat my rice paper-wrapped spring roll, top it off with the best turtle sundae in the world and they roll me home. And they all have the good sense to skip the birthday song.


11 Responses to “And Many More”

  1. Natasha Devalia January 19, 2012 at 11:27 am #

    Great Post! Vietnamese for your birthday sounds delicious. We might just adopt that tradition ourselves.

    • jmlindy422 January 19, 2012 at 11:31 am #

      Thanks! I love, love, love Vietnamese food. We almost adopted from Vietnam, in fact. I hope to visit some day. It looks gorgeous, they speak French and the food rocks. What’s not to love? Maybe when we take daughter to visit China. She’s very a place close to Vietnam. We could kill two birds with one stone.

  2. the waiting January 19, 2012 at 11:32 am #

    Birthdays are indeed strange in that – simply because you were birthed – you get celebrated. Up until about three years ago, I was always disappointed by the *perceived* lack of hoopla my birthday received. Thank God I finally got over myself and realized that a cupcake from Whole Foods shared with my husband is all I really need on my special day.

    Awesome post!

    • jmlindy422 January 19, 2012 at 11:35 am #

      Thank you! I hope your birthing experience is MUCH better than mine. We flunked LaMaze; can you tell? And I hope your kid thanks you! Of course, you can always tell her: You know, I allowed you to live in my body! That completely grosses out my son and he’s putty in my hands. Can’t hold that one over my daughter.

  3. Jim January 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    I was there when my sons were born, in that modern “dad participates” way. I totally agree — there’s nothing beautiful about childbirth! Maybe we celebrate birthdays as a way of covering that up.

  4. Trick Brown January 19, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    Yeah, I’ve never been one to go all crazy for my birthdays, but I turn 40 this year. Maybe it’s time to throw a little bash or something.

    Fortunately, I got 8 months to think about it.

    Happy birthday!

  5. sukanya January 20, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    I am all for birthdays…and therefore cannot expect my kids not to be.
    I totally agree with you about childbirth. there is nothing beautiful about it. sorry to the folks who think otherwise. The only beautiful thing is the new, pink, crinkly little species that is placed in your hands after you give yourself a hernia, well almost, pushing.

  6. Ray Hocking March 14, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    Happy Birthday…Vietnamese – I prefer Thai but each to their own. You don’t sound very grateful that you husband went out of his way to throw the party. He could have played golf instead. And Ace Hardware – forget it, while not try a golf related present at
    Hope you have a better birthday next year,

    • jmlindy422 March 14, 2012 at 10:12 am #

      Hm….grateful to my husband? Gonna have to think about that one. The party was my idea, so I’m grateful that he did what I asked him to do. That’s not always the case. He doesn’t play golf; he hates the outdoors. Me? I’d like my gift card from my local independent running store. I’ve developed a taste for these really expensive compression socks. My birthdays are generally good since I’ve decided they are just another day and they give me an excuse to have the world’s greatest ice cream sundae. BTW, I don’t think of golf when I think of Bushnell. I think binoculars…great for viewing birds at my local prairie. Maybe for next year’s birthday?

  7. jmlindy422 March 14, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    See, now, that’s why I’m a bad blogger.


  1. Why I’m A Bad Blogger And How You Can Be, Too! « Snide Reply - January 25, 2012

    […] I would use titles like, “Top Ten Ways Americans Are Weird About Birthdays,” instead of “And Many More.” I would have written “Why Your Nine-Year-Old Drives You Crazy and What You Can Do About […]

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