Sunday, March 04, 2007

I HATE Birthdays

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My sister is caught up in her Sunday night t.v. viewing and I'm trying to catch up on posts...

As I hiked in the creek early yesterday - my 43rd birthday - I was pondering why I hate my birthday so. I really don't think it has anything to do with the fact that I'm getting older or I'm not where I think I should be in life. No, I attribute my dislike of this annual event to my strange childhood.

I only remember spending two birthdays with my father and one of those is my earliest memory is of life. My second birthday party wasn't so terrible. We ate in the dining room. I remember thinking that we had never done that before. My sister, (future) brother-in-law, aunt, uncle, mother and father were all dressed up... which I now reason that it must have been a Sunday and not my actual birthday.

My father clapped his hands together to get my attention and held out his arms. I ran to him. He lifted me into my high chair. There I could see a cake with a clown face on it.

My mother was urging everyone to sit as she moved around the table pouring iced tea. She filled my father's glass and he took a sip. He looked at me, smiled and leaned in for a kiss. His lips were cold and moist and sweet. I decided I like iced tea from that kiss.

I guess I didn't really start to hate birthdays until the age of seven or eight. My mother decided I didn't get along well with several neighborhood girls - 2 sets of sisters - (who weren't even in my class at school) and thought she would remedy this situation by inviting them to my birthday party. These were girls I truly disliked. And to make matters worse, I was not allowed to invite my friends to the party!

I hoped somehow that it would all be o.k. as most of my friends did not live right in our neighborhood and the party was on a weekend. Only, one of my friends was the daughter of one of Mom's friends and they just happened to stop by as the party was going on!

I was horrified as this girl stood there in our den absolutely shocked to see me having a party when she was not invited. She just glared at me. I took her to my room and tried to explain. But it did not work. I knew she would tell my other friends. Plus, I had not realized the girls who were invited would be telling everyone at school that they were at my party.

It made the rest of the school year really rough as my "real" friends no longer liked me since I hadn't invited them. And I still didn't like those neighborhood girls.

In the end, my mother was dead wrong on that one. (I've always been damn near psychic when meeting people for the first time. If my gut tells me not to like you, I won't...EVER. I have NEVER been wrong either. Sooner or later, some truth will come out and I will be justified in that snap decision.) Of those four girls at my party, one was knocked up at 14, one dropped out of Jr. High and never returned to school, and the S sisters were in jail by the time I was in college. THIS is what my mother wanted me to befriend...

My ninth was no picnic either...literally. My two best friends, were going to throw me a party, just the three of us. We were going to picnic in one of the girl's huge backyard that ran along the backside of our neighborhood church. They were making all the food, including the cake. I was overjoyed as I had worked hard to make new friends and this would keep my mother out of it.

Only, my mom woke up the morning of my birthday with one of her fanciful flights on her mind. I was never allowed to play little league or do any activity that occurred on a weekend because mom liked to run the roads to Louisiana visiting various friends and relatives. Whenever I would ask to join some group, Mom would always ask, "You don't really want to do that, do you? I mean, you couldn't go see your cousins and we'd be here in McComb all the time."

It was always painfully clear that my answer should be, "No, I don't want to do that."

So, March 3, 1973, we set out for Baton Rouge early in the morning. I begged my mom to leave me at home.

"I could go to church with my friends and then I'm supposed to be there all afternoon anyway for my party. Can't I please stay???"

No, I could not. Mom wanted to spend my day with me. So I called my friend's house to tell her I would try to encourage my mom to get me back home as early as possible.

We made it home around 4 and I called my friend's house. Her mom answered. She had just dropped the girls off at the picture show. I asked if I should come over after they got home - to cut my cake and all. Her answer crushed me.

"Oh hun, when you couldn't make it, they just went out back and had a picnic, jus' th' two of 'em. They sang Happy Birthday to each other and traded your gifts with each other. We all ate the cake. It was real good."

But that too worked out. I really never trusted those two very much after that and got to know another girl who had been in my class since second grade. D and I are still the closest of friends all these years later.

The next birthday, is the other one with my father. My tenth had me very melancholy. I was so depressed that I was a double digit in age. (What can I say - I was a weird, introspective kid.)

I remember walking along the top of the rock wall that separated our property from the neighbor to the west, lecturing myself. "You're almost a grownup. You have to behave better. You have to take care of yourself." (God, what a weirdo!!)

But I was also excited my father was coming. Due the screwed up circumstances of my birth, my father lived elsewhere. But when he showed up that day, there was a very large man in his Olds 98.

It turned out to be a client. My daddy was a plumbing contractor specializing in large government buildings. He often entertained big-wigs. He had promised this client he would take him to the races in New Orleans. And since my mother was the life of the party, she was expected to join them.

I rode to New Orleans, crunched in the corner of the backseat, absolutely terrified of this large man beside me. When we got there, I was mercilessly "dumped" on my sister and brother-in-law, who were thrilled to have me for the day.

They tried so hard to make me happy. My brother-in-law tickled me and played with me and their dog, rolling the floor, trying to get me to laugh. I barely noticed. My sister spent the day suggesting fun things to do: the zoo, eating out, Ponchartrain Beach. With every idea she pitched, I always gave her a pathetic little "no."

She finally insisted on going to Ponchartrain to ride the rides there. All I could think was that my parents didn't even love me enough to spend the day with me. There was a definite emotional shift away from my father that day. One we would never recover from. Just over a year later, his death would shatter my childhood and send my life down a completely different path.

Since then, most birthdays are just disappointing...I feel like they should be special, but they're not. I have to work, pay bills, deal with ignorant people and the daily grind just like any other day. I guess in all these years, I've stopped expecting them to be anything at all.

My favorite birthdays of these past few years are when I can disappear from life. I call my mom and thank her for giving birth to me, 'cause if I didn't she'd kill me. Then, I take off somewhere. I don't answer the phone or email or return calls. That was last year.

This year was amazing, probably my best birthday ever, thanks to my sisters (the real one and two borrowed ones). It was super fantastic fun and relaxing...but that's a wob. (whole other blog!) I promise to tell you all about it real soon. But my sister and I are spending tomorrow in one of our favorite places on the planet: Laguna Beach. She'll be heading back to Baton Rouge on Thursday and I'll be posting again shortly.


Linda@VS said...

Well, Holly, happy birthday, two days late! I hope this year's birthday was good enough to make up for a few of the not-so-good ones through the years. Sounds like you had a rough childhood, but you certainly got lucky in the sister department.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

Velvet, Yes, I did get very lucky in the sister department. I have five very dear girlfriends that I can call on for anything. I also have about another half dozen "backups" in that department.

I also got VERY lucky in the Dad department.

Thanks so much for the good wishes, Velvet. I really appreciate it!

Anonymous said...

Wow, Holly, I can see why birthdays are not your favorites. But, guess what, girl? That was in the past! I'm so glad you had a great one this year - and wish you nothing but happy ones from now on. Do what I do...subscribe to the thinking "it's never too late to have a happy childhood" - and make your own birthdays FUN! (God, aren't you glad we survived those 'well meaning' adults'?????? I was 58 on the 5th (I'm 23 INSIDE) so I'll trade you! LOL

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday Holly - I'm glad you are finally getting the birthdays you deserve to have. Carmon