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! ***