My birthday is fast-approaching.
[Note: This is not a reminder for anyone unless you’re the sort of person that needs a reminder, in which case, this is a reminder.]
I was walking around town over my lunch break two days ago, and I got to thinking about birthdays of years past. Birthdays were very, very low-key events in my family. We usually received a gift valued at $20 and a cake made by Mom. Our choice of flavor, of course. I have vivid memories of the year my youngest brother broke away from the norm and elected to have a store-bought ice cream cake. Great story. You should ask him about it sometime.
The earliest birthday I clearly remember was turning 5. We celebrated at Chuck E. Cheese. It was a joint birthday party with some kid whose name or connection to my family I can’t even remember. I do, however, remember refusing to jump into the pen of plastic balls. Years later, I still stand by that decision. Who knows what was lurking under those balls.
I remember turning 6 because I was at the very end of my year in kindergarten. To make everyone feel special, we celebrated summer birthdays every day that month. In this manner, mothers of kids with summer birthdays would get to bake dozens of cupcakes or cookies and not feel left out. My birthday was DURING the school year, but my kindergarten teacher announced it to the class as being during the summer. I made it very clear to her that NO, MY BIRTHDAY IS IN MAY, NOT IN THE SUMMER.
I’m sure to this day Mrs. Verhoff remembers when my birthday is.
Apparently, a lot of nondescript birthdays passed because the next birthday I clearly remember is turning 14. At least, I think it was 14. I jokingly told Mom that perhaps she should just give me the $20 instead of buying me a gift. So, on the day of my birthday, I opened a card that held a $20 bill. I remember looking at her like she had 10 heads.
“What?” she asked. “You said you wanted the money.” Overcome with the urge to break down and cry because I got a $20 bill for my birthday, I channeled the sadness and went shopping. I bought the MOST AWESOME pair of black shorts with Mickey Mouses all over them. What can I say? I was 14. I liked Mickey Mouse.
When I turned 17, I got the Fossil watch I had been openly coveting. I wore it out.
At age 21—an intoxicated milestone for many—my then-boyfriend’s parents took me out for a drink. One drink and six hours later, I was a designated driver for then-boyfriend and his brother’s friends who dragged me out to the Boot Scootin’ Saloon for “a good time.” Puh-leeze. There are few good times going down in a country-western bar.
When turning 24, I was in graduate school, taking a most-horrible class in communication law. Ask Liz. She knows. I spent my 24th birthday completing a horrid take-home exam. And drowning in tears over a breakup. Double whammy.
Twenty-five I don’t remember, but 26. Oh, 26. You were cool. A few weeks before my 26th birthday, my pal Ryan and I were shopping in Meijer. While standing in the checkout, I flipped through a cooking magazine (nerd, say what?) and landed on a “birthday party suggestions” page. For kids. A glorious cake in the shape of a swimming pool adorned the page.
“Now THAT is cool,” I said to Ryan. “If I ever have a birthday party, that’s the kind of cake I want.” Ryan, who was unnerved by the stories of my birthday party-less childhood, decided then and there that I MUST have a party. So, he threw one for me, inviting several of my friends.
On the evening of the party, I strolled into his apartment and happen upon a most beautiful cake in the shape of a pool.
“YOU BUILT ME A SWIMMING POOL CAKE!” I exclaimed in capital letters. “I cannot believe it!” The double-layered round cake was covered in white frosting. The top had a shallow pool of blue JELL-O, complete with candy lawn chairs, candy towels and a candy diving board. Juicy Fruit, I think. It was perfect! As was the entire party.
Oddly enough, I can’t remember what I did for my birthday that was just one year ago. And I can hardly guess what’s in store for this year’s birthday. All I know is that I get to spend my day with Fiancé and maybe some family and friends. And THAT will be great. Swimming-pool-cake great.