(WARNING- 35 years of pent up petty bitterness and resentment ahead)
I imagine that for most people the date of their birth is not such a loaded topic as it is for me. But then again, I don’t really care right now, what normal is, because it’s not my experience and I can’t speak to it.
Fuck, this is already starting to sound cranky.
See, the thing is, I’ve had a hate/hate relationship with my birthday for most of my life.
My birthday is April 20 and that is also the birth date of Adolph Hitler.
I’ve known of this correlation for as long as I can remember.
It was often mentioned on the news when I was a kid so as long as I can remember, I’ve felt my life lay along some disturbing parallel to fucking Hitler’s.
It wouldn’t have been such a big deal if it wasn’t for the ever increasing list of bad things to happen on my birthday. And the ever small list of good things to happen to me in my life in general.
I was raised religious so I feel like it was in my wheelhouse to believe in something invisible and irrational as luck.
And the older I got, the more it became apparent to me that I was either born without any or the only luck I had leaned toward the bad sort.
I was born the 3rd of 4 children. I was the second of three girls. So I held neither distinction of first girl or youngest child. I was just the middle.
My two elder siblings were heinous trouble makers. I strictly followed rules with only a slight tremble of rebelliousness. My younger sister was and remains to this day, a model of perfection. So I was often over looked, as neither squeaky enough to deserve the grease and not far enough from the troublemakers or good enough to deserve lavish attention for my worthiness.
By the time I started junior high, my hellbeast older sister had gotten in so much trouble that my parents decided they shouldn’t risk exposing me to the corruption of public school so they homeschooled me along with my older sister for 7th and 8th grade. I have a whole post to write about how I acquired debilitating shyness during these two years at home. And then of course, who was it that started me smoking when I was 12? And made me complicit in drugstore shoplifting at 13? My own dear sister. My parents couldn’t keep me away from her and she was the real bad influence.
This was compounded when at the beginning of my high school education (arguably some important formative years) this same sister got pregnant and my mom got depressed. Like heavily medicated and didn’t come out of her room much except to take care of the baby depressed. I think things returned to normal slightly after my high school graduation (which was terrible and deserves it own post). That was when my sister got married and moved away with my niece (who I love dearly btw).
Most of my childhood was being overlooked or treated in a way that my personality and behavior didn’t actually deserve.
And for most of my post pubescent years, I was dangerously depressed and suicidal. No one noticed.
I think, subconsciously at first, that I thought I was cursed because of my birthday. Good things just didn’t happen to me. I imagined myself with that iconic dark cloud following around over my head. The sun shining on everyone else.
It wasn’t just my birthday but the week surrounding my birthday is just historically full of shit.
The day before my 13th birthday, Timothy McVeigh bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City. The news of the bombing mostly overshadowed any festivity of my birthday, especially due to the fact that my dad had been across the street from the bomb site just days before it happened. It was a pretty harrowing time.
It seemed like every year some small tragedy would happen or people in my immediate vicinity would die on my birthday. I remember waking up on my 17th birthday, morbidly thinking who would die today.
April 20th 1999 turned out to be worse than I could imagine. My whole school spent the day watching the aftermath of the Columbine high school massacre.
That was the worst birthday ever. But for many people it was the worst day ever period, so I feel a bit shitty for complaining that it ruined my birthday. But that’s kind of the point of this post.
I’m having a petty pity party.
2 years after that, a woman I spent a week with for job training just a month before, was killed by a drunk driver on my birthday.
A year after that, a colleague of mine, who’d been the one to hire me, was killed in a motorcycle accident, on my birthday.
I think it was my 21st birthday, that I just stopped acknowledging the day.
It started to feel like that bad things were happening specifically to those around me.
For a few years, I don’t remember anybody dying on my birthday. One birthday the worst to happen was my car was broken into, a window broken, my ipod, and my stereo system (sub and speakers etc.) were stolen. I actually thought that was a pretty good day, considering. By this time, I claimed atheism and didn’t believe in luck anymore. I didn’t have a new word for this attraction the negative had for me but I still knew it was a thing that was part of me.
In 2009, on April 17th, I was 9 1/2 months pregnant with my daughter who was due on May 5th. I just knew, however, that she was coming early. And I swore on everything I could think of that I would not give birth on April 20th and pass on this whatever it was to my daughter.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry because she was born the very next day. April 18th. And, as one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever had, I got to bring home my much anticipated and longed for baby girl home on my birthday.
So nowadays I spend the time before my birthday, celebrating my daughter’s birthday. And that has lent a sheen of happiness to my own day that has never really been there before.
Yesterday, I woke up with my darling daughter, who just turned 8, and sang her her own little happy birthday solo, and took her to school. We brought cookies for her to share with her class. I spent 3 hours making her birthday cake and then made her the birthday dinner she requested, silver dollar pancakes, sausage, ham and eggs. She opened her birthday presents and grinned like crazy as we sang her happy birthday and she blew out the candles on her bunny cake. She played with her presents and then we lay in my bed and watched an episode of Supergirl before she went to bed. She had a great birthday. It’s important to me that she does.
And today, I slept til 11, got up, drank 4 cups of coffee and got back into bed and started writing to keep myself from falling asleep.
Tomorrow is my 35th birthday.
Though my birthdays in the last several years have been personally less eventful than in previous years, I still do not look forward to them.
I don’t mind getting older at all. That’s never bothered me yet. It’s just I’m still not past the ominous feeling I get on the 20th of April, every year.
I’m not sure I’ll ever associate my birthday fully with good things.
At this point I do my best to emotionally prepare myself for my birthday. I prepare for a spectrum of emotions from horrified to bitter disappointment to exhausted relief that nothing terrible happened. I know by now, not to expect anything better than that.
Not much good ever happens on my birthday. The best I hope for is a lack of anything bad happening.
I haven’t had a birthday cake in 6 years because that’s when I stopped making my own. Most of the time, I buy myself a small gift (and a bottle of anti aging eye cream because I can justify the expense for my birthday) and then have my husband wrap it.
For a few years there, he’d wake me up with coffee and donuts but that was a couple of years ago now.
If I’m particularly lucky, my in laws agree to watch the kids for a couple of hours (one of the 2 times a year that this happens) so I can go to dinner and a movie with my husband.
Not even that will be happening this year. Due to the devastating disappointment with my husbands disability case, we are broker than normal. No dinner for us. No presents or coffee or donuts. I’m anticipating nothing happening tomorrow and still feel like I’m going to be disappointed.
The thing about my birthday is that I’m torn about it. Historically my birthdays have been crap. I feel like if I celebrate and try to enjoy it, bad things tend to happen.
But I’m optimistic and proud of the fact that despite my 25 year death wish, I am still alive to celebrate being another year older. So if I don’t celebrate it, I feel like I’m doing myself a disservice by not appreciating what I have and what I have accomplished. And I get bitter about it.
So there’s not really anything I can do to avoid tomorrow sucking.
If it doesn’t, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.
It’s always that little bit of hope that I can’t stamp down, that always bites me in the ass.