Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Birthday Reflections--the Good, the Bad, and Oh, Yes, the UGLY!!

As I grew up, it seemed that every birthday celebration was the same for each family member--a gathering of the entire clan of grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and close neighbors to feast on cake and ice cream while watching the "birthday girl" open her presents. There were no sleepovers, no swimming parties, no McDonald's parties, no pizza parties, and definitely no parties at Chuck E Cheese.

The birthday cakes were usually identical every year, a homemade 13 x 9 chocolate cake, the only difference being the number of candles to blow out. I could say the same for the presents, usually a cute birthday card with money enclosed (hopefully, a $5 bill, but more often than not, a dollar or two). I didn't complain, though, because I loved shopping for my own gifts.

After having had so MANY birthdays, most seemed to come and go so quickly, leaving only a few memorable ones to reflect upon, though at the time, each was the best day of my life. (with the exception of the most UGLY birthday ever!)


For my 13th birthday, the milestone of becoming a teenager, my parents abandoned the "ritual" and treated me to a birthday dinner at what was considered the fanciest restaurant in town. The only other family members invited were my grandparents. This was the first time I had ever dined out...a luxury for my family...who were not wealthy by any means. I ordered fried chicken...I LOVED fried chicken! My father ordered a special drink for me that day, my very first "Shirley Temple." How grown up I felt at that moment...a moment I would never forget.

My 15th birthday wasn't exactly "good" considering that I was in the Shrine Hospital for Children six hundred miles from home, I hadn't seen my parents in six weeks and didn't know when I would see them again, and I wasn't able to talk with them on the telephone. However, I had the BEST party ever!! As my 35 "inmates" and I entered the Sun room, my eyes immediately spotted my birthday cake, a 3-tiered white with pink polka dots cake. We all laughed so hard!! "Why?" you might ask. Because my favorite dress from the communal clothes closet was white with pink polka dots! Oh, and the music was blaring! All of our favorite tunes from the Monkees to the Beatles played throughout the afternoon. The nursing staff and the doctors on call that day danced and partied their hearts out for us...just as they did on EVERY child's birthday. They definitely knew how to throw a party!

My 16th birthday was undoubtedly my most AWESOME birthday! My family had never taken a vacation other than going fishing for the weekend or riding snowmobiles on the Beartooth Pass switchbacks during the winter months. However, for this "rite of passage" birthday, they sent me to California for six weeks. I spent the entire time traveling and exploring every tourist trap from Sacramento to the racetrack in Caliente, Mexico. Eventually, I was able to send my parents on numerous vacations, thanking them for the many sacrifices they had made for me.


For me, a "bad" birthday is a forgotten birthday...

I failed to count how many years of marriage passed before TC was able to remember my birthday. Oh, he would eventually remember--a day or two later. His excuse was, "Well, I know what day your birthday is, but I just don't know WHAT DAY it is." *looking confused* Hmmm...he knew it was the 18th...just didn't know if the 18th was on a Monday, Tuesday, etc. Give the fella a calendar!! (He eventually burned it into his memory--not wanting to hear another "WHATEVER!" from me as he tried to explain his forgetfulness.)


It was the evening of July 17, 1999, and we were spending the night in a hotel in Fredericksburg, MD. Tomorrow, my birthday, we would be moving into our new apartment in Herndon, VA. I was elated to say the least. A few months prior, we had traveled to the east coast to visit my new place of employment and to search for an apartment. We had decided earlier to live in the area for a short period of time before purchasing a family home.

Oh, how naive I was back then! I actually thought that the "model" apartment we viewed would actually be what lied ahead for us, but I was sadly mistaken. Upon arriving at the apartment and walking through the front door, words could not describe how I felt. I was totally devastated!!!

It stunk like mildew from a water-soaked carpet in the kitchen/dining room area. The entire apartment was filthy dirty, including the mini-blinds that hung askew. It was totally trashed!! And I was raving mad!! Eventually, big fans were brought in to dry out the carpet, which added to the 100-degree heat outdoors and the soaring humidity that I hated even more! That's all I needed!

As the fellas and my daughter Janelle unloaded the U-Haul, all I could do was cry...and cry...and cry even more. Janelle's meltdown several days ago was NOTHING compared to mine that day. It was by far the worst birthday EVER!

BEERS, JEERS, and TEARS!! best described that day!

Beers--TC had more than his fair share of beers after moving in that day, and who could blame him?

Jeers--Well, they were more like "daggers" being thrown at the management.

Tears--Need I say more?

And for my curious readers... Yes, we did break our lease with management and move out...none too soon for us.

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