My birthday is cursed. It really is. I'm turning
forty seven twenty-twenty-seven this year and I admit, despite my happy new life, I am dreading apprehensive about the day. While "nothing good ever happens on November 27th" isn't a totally accurate statement, looking back over the years, I remember my birthday as a time when I was either sick and/or something bad happens, or had just happened. There were, however, a handful birthdays that were healthy and disaster-free, but those were few and far between.
My first awareness of this is when I was turning 4. These are among my oldest, though badly fragmented, memories. My maternal grandfather had lung cancer and my mom took me to Yonkers, NY where we stayed for three weeks, when he was dying. My dad stayed on the Cape to work, and came back down for Thanksgiving/my birthday. I missed him horribly and my Uncle Joe, bless him, did his best to step in as temporary dad during that time. I remember laying on my grandmother's couch, crying for my daddy and Aunt Lee sitting next to me, talking soothingly, reassuring me that I'd see him soon. My grandfather passed away and was buried the morning of my 4th birthday. Grieving, the family had to put on a brave face after the funeral, so as to have a party for me at Aunt Lee & Uncle Joe's house.
Here's me at my grandmother's apartment, after that party. Mom made me wear the Maryjane shoes...to at least show that this was a photo of a 4 year old GIRL child...instead of letting me wear my new, red cowboy boots, on the footstool (further cementing the fact that I would resist all attempts at femininity for the rest of my life).
When I was growing up, I got sick a lot on my birthday, and always with bronchitus. There were very few birthdays and/or Thanksgiving holiday weekends that I didn't have it or came down with it. It got to be a joke. Everyone knew I was gonna get sick at some point, and I always did. This carried through college and into my 30's. Mom always insisted on taking a birthday photo each year, and a few of them feature me in pajamas under a blanket, or looking miserable and feverish. 1978 was particularly bad....I was off school for 3 days following the 4 day weekend. 1981 was bad as well, and that was a Thanksgiving birthday. My sinuses were so stuffed up that I could neither smell, nor taste, the turkey dinner and birthday cake. I was huddled on the couch, miserable, wrapped up in my punk rock army jacket. My 30th birthday in 1994 was a complete bust because I had a fever and horrible bronchitus. We couldn't go out the entire weekend, and I was off work into the following week as well. I was just getting over pneumonia in 1988. I was just getting over the flu/strep/bronchitis in 1998.
I will never forget my 1st grade birthday party (1970). I was coming down with the annual creepin' crud and was absolutely miserable. My mom had me outside in my party dress for photos before my friends came over and I was so cold and tired and cranky. She could not get me to smile. The party itself was a disaster because I had a fever and felt so awful that I was crying nearly non stop. All another child had to do was to look at my stack of gifts and I had a meltdown.
My 2nd grade party the following year (1971) was a lot of fun. I wasn't sick, I wasn't cranky, all my friends were there and it was fun. I thought we were gonna get through the day unscathed. We were almost there, too; the party was a success, almost all the moms had come to pick up their kids already, and I was up in my room, with my cousins Sharon & Diane (the 2 blondes in red) and my friend Sheila (brunette in dark blue next to Diane).
I actually didn't see what happened next, but all of a sudden Diane let out a blood curdling shriek that was probably heard for miles. She'd had her fingers on the door jamb under one of the hinges and Sheila shut my door, crushing them. Diane is screaming and crying, and rightly so because I sure would have been and would be now. Sheila felt awful because she didn't see her hand there and is now crying too, afraid she is going to get in big trouble. Confused and badly startled, Sharon & I are just caught up in the mayhem of adults who are rushing up the stairs. As I recall, Diane lost a couple of her fingernails over the next few weeks, and they were still badly bruised when they came back up from New York for Christmas. Sheila still apologizes to Diane to this day, well over 40 years later. The edict came down from above that there would be no more birthday parties where friends were invited. It would be family-only from that point forward.
1985 was another banner day. My parents were so angry at me that I wasn't taking the bus down from Emerson that day, after class, to spend my birthday with them. It was a Wednesday for crying out loud. I'd just gone back up to school from Thanksgiving vacation, only 3 days before, and finals were coming up. It was my senior year of college. I really didn't want to go down late in the afternoon and have to take the commuter bus back up to Boston before my early class the next morning. I thought they were being selfish, they thought I was being selfish, so they didn't even call me, but I believe I received a 'Howler' letter a few days later telling me off (mom was the queen of Howlers....I've gotten a lot of them through the years). I remember sitting in the dark of my dorm room that birthday night, weeping. My fiance at that time tried valiantly to cheer me up that night but I was inconsolable.
No such request had been made in 1984, when my 20th also fell after the Thanksgiving break. And 20 was the milestone back then because that used to be the legal drinking age in Massachusetts. I never understood why my folks got in such a twist the following year about my not going down to the Cape in the middle of a school week when I'd just seen them just a few days earlier. Speaking of 1984, we had a pre-birthday disaster when I ate a chocolate pudding pie made by my cousin Dickie's girlfriend, and ended up in the hospital on Thanksgiving night in anaphylactic shock from the pure chocolate she used. We'd all assumed she used Jell-O pudding mix like most normal people would have, but she cooked from scratch. While I can eat chocolate products as long as they processed & sold as semi-sweet and milk, I am severely allergic to pure baker's cocoa. Giant welts appeared on my back and neck, and my throat and sinuses started closing. My parents rushed me to the hospital at like 9:30 p.m. so that I could get a shot. I was some sick the rest of that weekend.
1986 wasn't a banner birthday either since I had to go into work at Channel 58 in Hyannis. Alas, the TV industry is a 24 hour one, and that meant working on holidays both at 58 and 56 in Boston. What was even worse, my fiance had broken up with me in October and I was shattered. I took it really, really hard and knowing that he wasn't around for my birthday for the first time since 1983 was a bitter pill to swallow.
In 1988, one of my so-called 'friends' at Channel 56 initiated a little party for me at the station. He arranged for the cake and got the card signed by the engineering department. I remember thinking it odd....that he of all people would have done this for me. We'd graduated from Emerson in the same class, but I didn't consider him to be a good friend....there were many others on our crew who I was much closer to. I'd always thought he was a major league kiss ass and suck up, both at school and work. Still, I appreciated the gesture and thought perhaps maybe he was making the effort to be a friend to me. A couple days later the other shoe dropped when the Production Manager informed me that I was being made alternate Technical Director, and this 'friend' was taking over as weekend TD. He was threatening to file a union grievance because he had seniority over me by a whopping 2 weeks, so the station caved in and kicked me to the curb. The fucker set me up and stabbed me in the back. This event started my first descent into sheer and utter depression. That someone could fuck me over so completely like that just blew my mind. I knew the industry was cut throat, but I never in a million years thought someone could or would do that to me. This was also the beginning of the end of my brief television production career.
Because American Thanksgiving falls on the 3rd Thursday of the month, my birthday has fallen on Turkey Day a few times: 1969, 1975, 1980, 1986, 1997, 2003 and 2008. The one in 1975 was pretty memorable because again, it was spent in Yonkers, due to another family emergency: My grandmother had a serious heart attack right after Halloween, and was in the hospital for almost the entire month of November. This time when mom stayed in Yonkers for a week or so, I was on the Cape with dad because I was in 6th grade and couldn't miss school. She came back after a couple of weeks, but we were going back down there as soon as I got out of school for the holiday weekend. The day before we left for New York, (taking ALL the Thanksgiving and birthday fixin's in the trunk so that no one would have to cook), I came home from school, went into the livingroom, and turned on the lights to find a shiny, new red 3-speed bike in the middle of the floor. I yelped with shock. Mom and dad thought that was a hoot. I stayed at my Aunt Gloria & Uncle Steve's, and my parents stayed across the street at Nana's apartment, since Nana was still in the hospital. Sharon & Diane came up from Long Island the day after Thanksgiving/my birthday, and we played together in the school playground just down the street from Nana's.
There were quite a few birthdays since the year 2000 that have totally sucked out loud. Brian and I got into a wicked fight on my b-day a few years ago. I don't even remember what it was about, but it was bad. Then there were a few times we tried to go out to eat but were thwarted by one thing or another. He was usually in a pissy mood after work, and acting whiny and impatient, which ruined the night for me. He couldn't even suck it up to have a pleasant dinner without acting like a jerk. In 2008, another Thanksgiving birthday, everything was going great till Brian's friend Derek called. He and his wife were separating and he was devastated and didn't know where to go or what to do. I didn't want to, but I told Brian to tell Derek we'd set an extra place at the table for him if he wanted to come over. Derek showed up later that afternoon, but didn't want to stay for dinner. What he DID do instead, however, was go into our downstairs bathroom and snort a bunch of cocaine off the vanity. He was in the bathroom a long damn time, and when I went upstairs to get a drink, I heard him sniffing. I fucking KNEW what he was doing and I was livid. One of the reasons his wife was leaving him was that he had a raging drug problem. I'd told Brian before Derek showed up that he'd better not whip out the cocaine in my house. I was reassured that would not happen. While I am completely pro-legalization of pot, the white powder drugs are just plain evil. After he came out of the bathroom, he was all wired, and I saw the powder residue next to the sink. He yammered on and on for awhile, eyes bulging out of his head, till he finally took off. I was exhausted just listening to him. Brian apologized and said, "And the birthday curse continues...."
2009 was the year that Brian thought it'd be a good idea to give me Battleship and 2 other games, and which were returned the next day, and about which I blogged HERE, last November. It was a depressing day overall. It blew my mind that someone I'd been with for 20 years at that point could still not know me at all.
As for 2010, that one was one of the few that went well and nothing eventful occurred. I'm glad to have that good birthday memory since it was my last in my former life. Last birthday, I sure never expected to be living back on the east coast with the love of my life come this birthday, that's for sure.
Needless to say, with a track record of crappy birthdays like mine, I'm more than a little bit nervous about what this year has to offer. I have a new life and new relationship, both of which are great and I'm extremely happy. Still, Mercury went retrograde on November 23rd. At this point in my life, I've acquired so much stuff that I don't need more stuff, so if I get no gifts today, it's truly no big deal. Being with my squeeze is the best present I could hope for anyway, and it's not like we can afford anything major. If he has to go on the road on my birthday, we'll celebrate early or when he's back in town again. The celebration doesn't need to be on the exact day.
A nice dinner out would be good. There are a couple of holiday-themed events on the Cape that I'd love to check out too. The Sandwich Glass Museum is having a Glassblower's Christmas, and you know how much I love glass. Maybe he and I could get our first ornament as a couple there or something. Heritage Plantation (I refuse to call it by it's new name, "Heritage Gardens") is doing their annual Gardens Aglow Annual Celebration of Lights which I would also love to see, weather permitting. There are, apparently, a ton of holiday themed events in Sandwich throughout December too.
So we'll see how it goes this year. If I can just make it through the entire weekend without any disasters or illnesses, that will be gift enough!