Depression sets in every year around my birthday.  It’s not about my age, growing older or the past, it’s that I come from an aggressive family who practices excess while TC comes from a passive family who practices moderation.  One year he had to choose between two presents – tickets to (magician) Doug Henning’s show or a backgammon set.  He chose the backgammon set, because he’d have it forever whereas the show would last for only one night.  I also once had to choose between two presents – a senior trip to the Bahamas or the $2,500 umbrella cockatoo I’d visited in the pet store every Saturday throughout high school.  I chose the senior trip, because the memories would last a lifetime.  I never regretted the decision.  (I’m filled with images that still make me laugh including me flying backward after being hit by a bus and emerging from the bushes with a hand raised in victory, clenching the drink I’d managed to save.)  The value of a dollar was never really impressed upon me and no matter how grand a birthday celebration I might receive, it’d probably fall short of my expectations due to my extravagant past.   

My favorite birthday was when TC surprised me and took me to see Harry Connick, Jr. at the Wiltern Theatre.  It’s important to note the seats were amazing, because I’ve made it clear I’d rather stay home than sit in bad seats (seeing the artist’s facial expressions a crucial part of my experience).  It was the best present ever.  We agreed that every year he’d take me to a show, but sadly Harry Connick became my first and last birthday concert.  My funniest birthday was when we’d just relocated from Los Angeles to Vancouver.  Having let go of a lifetime of dreams, I was feeling utterly alone and terrified we made the wrong decision.  TC was acutely aware of my depression and went out of his way to make a plan.  He provided party hats, noise makers and treats (for just the two of us).  We went to Sauvie Island for a picnic.  But it was freezing cold and it was hunting season so all around us were gunmen in plaid flappy hats carrying gaggles of dead birds.  It was so terrible, all we could do was laugh.  But most often, my birthdays consist of me making sad consolation plans which include me cooking dinner (cooking: that which I despise most about domestic life).  And even though there’s always a sentimental acknowledgement from TC (and a card with copius words of appreciation), I’m usually disappointed that nobody’s called in a marching band, stilt-walkers and trick ponies.  I know myself well enough to realize that even if I were furnished with gestures of grandeur, I wouldn’t be satisfied.  I might then want for street closures, hot air balloons and sky-writers.  Growing up, the birthday kid always got to pick her/his favorite dinner, order people around and was lavished with mountains of expensive gifts.  Moutains.  TC and I saw this for what it was when our niece received a new 24″ television for her 5th birthday (“This way she’ll always have it,” they said).  We knew it was wrong.  It went against our values.  We vowed to be different.  Yet, here we are, another birthday approaching and again I fret that someone forget to call the jugglers and acrobats.  Meanwhile, TC’s birthday is the day before mine.  He’s entering a whole new decade, but you’d never know it.  A spray of Ready Whip in my hand and a used candle would be satisfying to him – which is fine, because I’ve burned-out on planning clever surprises for him.  So I’m keeping it simple: a big 40th birthday sign, four sparkle hats, a Happy 40th centerpiece, birthday pancakes, a few gifts, but that’s it. 

***This post was interrupted by the arrival of my parents’ birthday gifts to us – four live Maine lobsters, a six-container chowder sampler and a dozen longstem roses – YIPEE! ***


6 responses to “Depression

  1. Well, I’m glad someone called in the marching band and stilt walkers (i.e. the arrival of the lobsters).

    As TC’s sister I can’t believe my parents made a kid decide between two gifts! And his birthday is so close to Christmas…couldn’t Santa have brought the backgammon set?! This is disturbing information. I’m laughing, but I’m disturbed.

    Well, I know what you mean about birthday disappointment. For our graduate school years Jamie and I were always too broke to really celebrate and sometimes couldn’t afford any presents at all (thoug we’d find trinkets). It’s sweet, yes, but there’s something about a surprise. Last year I was talking with one of my friends about our favorite gifts we received as kids and she went into elaborate detail about a puppet theatre she and her brother and sister got and how she was so thrilled and couldn’t believe it. Then she sadly remarked, “I was so much better at being a kid than I am at being an adult.” It was that pure joy she’s missing.

    Well, happy birthday. I love you. Sorry there’s no hot air balloon arriving.

  2. Well, I spent 13 years with a man who never once remembered my birthday on his own. I know all about birthday dissapointment. Literlly, one year it was 5 pm and he finally asked what was wrong with me? I had to tell him it was my b-day.
    Oh and once just a couple years ago, I was allowed to pick out a bunch of flowers at Safeway. I mean after all, there we were,and he had nothing else and we were walking by the flowers. I was thouroughly devestated and embarassed.
    So, over the years of having the life sucked out of most of my holidays I have learned that most times the band won’t play and the angels won’t sing.
    I have learned to live with that. Now that I am on my own, I often dream of the day when someone will stike up the band for me.
    Tony-C does allright by you Shannon. Just remember, his ways will never be the same as your families and that’s ok. He’s keeping you humble.
    But how awesome to get lobsters in the mail!!!
    Well, here’s to a happy birthday to you both anyway……

  3. Wow, I might need to refer to you as the UPTOWN GIRL from now on! You know honestly I too had the mother who was lavish at birthdays and Christmas, so much so that it created a tremendous amount of stress for our family. Too much spending with out the thinking it through. That marriage lasted 23.3 years…. I am much different from two other siblings, they both adore money, fancy cloths, lavish new cars that drive really fast and look cool. My sister and brother hate driving in my beat up old mini van that smells of rotten milk. Honestly, they never say it, but I can see it on their faces and the way they avoid me driving them anywhere. I am very proud of my car, bought and paid for, even with the smell! It also is a way to keep my family at bay. I have some control being the white trash side in our family, no one really expects much from us at Christmas. It is my image I am proud to keep and hold.
    I at the age of 19 ran as far away from all of this as I could, packing my honda full and driving in mid December to Mn. Holy freaken cripes the weather sucked, but I made it, struggled and had two hundred bucks left over after first and last months rent. I honestly dug through the neighbors garbage for our funiture. And you know what, it was the happiest I have ever been! Living pay check to paycheck, heart beating for him to get home, and living on top romen noodles. Nothing has changed much in twenty freaken years, we still have no money but we really have learned to love our health, our kids and one another more not having a pot to pee in. TC is a fantastic hubby, he is your marching band every day he goes to work, carries home that pay check and sticks by your side!
    Okay, so the monkey’s with the tamboreens marching by your house would be so cool! But lobsters and the whole shebang…….. wow not bad!

  4. Isn’t it rich, aren’t you a pair……….SEND IN THE CLOWNS.

  5. HAPPY (late) BIRTHDAY Shannie and boyfriend.
    There’s an extra special print coming your way…
    Should be there this week or next.
    Hey–I got an idea.
    Consider it a bday gift since my over 40 brain spaced on your big days this year.


  6. I love presents. I told Laurent he didn’t have to get me anything for Christmas and he actually laughed out loud for a good 30 seconds nonstop and then said “you are so funny! Can you imagine if I listened and didn’t buy you anything! I would be dead.” I said it wasn’t true but secretly I was pleased by his belief that no present equals death.

    It’s not about the money it’s about being adored and thougt of! It’s not what’s in the package but the excitement of opening the package, the prospects….the anticipation…the surprise…..that is what makes presents fun! I get it Shan.

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