In light of my birthday coming up, I’ve been thinking a lot about the basic silliness of even celebrating birthdays. So you were born. So was everyone else who has ever lived. Is it a good excuse to demand that you get your way for a day, that people must make you cakes, give you gifts, sing you songs?
Growing up, birthdays were frustrating. Since mine was “too close to Christmas,” few kids ever could make it to my parties. I often had one girl friend who I wasn’t even particularly close to who could come over for dinner while the rest of my closer friends had some family commitment or play or whatnot.
In college, my birthday was always in the midst of finals. I would give it a solemn nod as it rolled in at midnight and I was still up finishing an essay or studying or practicing for juries. And I was usually sick.
I had a lot of bad birthdays. I hated that special attention was given to those days that I always connected with so much misery. Maybe I wouldn’t remember them so much if they weren’t on a day that was supposedly “special.”
Last year I had an appointment just a couple of days before my birthday and the doctor acknowledged that my symptoms suggested that my baby would be born “any day.” I was 24 weeks pregnant at the time. I spent the weekend of my birthday dissolving into tears, not ready for my tiny baby to come right then. He didn’t, of course, but it really shook my already-scarred views of birthdays.
Then my son died on his birthday, a fact that I was already vividly aware would likely take place. After that, it seems like all the demands that come with celebrating birthdays is like rubbing in my face, “I survived my birthday, so I’m better than your kid. Give me stuff.”
This is all very negative and hyperbolic, but I feel a deep aching towards birthdays and can’t see myself yelling at everyone to acknowledge that I’m “special” because I was born so many years ago on this one day.
I received a card in the mail from the director at the library wishing me a “happy birthday.” Not very heartfelt, not much time had been taken to find the card or send it (it was signed with the director’s name as easily as a warrant), which are all of the things I despise about cards. I thought two things as I slipped the card back into its envelope: 1) After two years of working at the library, this is the first time anyone bothered to acknowledge my birthday (we have endless parties and card-signings for select other folks), and 2) how much more meaningful it would have been to me to have received a sympathy card following my son’s death instead of this birthday card.
I guess you could call me the Scrooge of birthdays. I just am not that excited about them, especially the closer my little boy’s birthday gets.