Of all my childhood memories, what has touched my adulthood the most is my absolute love for birthdays.
One of the most wonderful and enchanting traditions was the presenting of the gifts. Dad would go upstairs to their bedroom, and we would sit on the couch in the living room, waiting with anticipation. Mom would stand to the side with the movie camera. Eventually, in a slow procession down the stairs, a tower of wrapped packages with two legs would enter the scene, legs that looked strikingly similar to the pants and shoes that Dad had been wearing. We were thrilled by how my parents made “the take” look absolutely extraordinary, and made us feel we were in a privileged family, wanting nothing.
Cake. Candles. Favorite food. On the rare occasion, there would be a friends party in addition to the family party. For one of my sister’s birthdays, I can vaguely recall standing at a window and watching my sister and her friends outside, while I watched “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” inside. On one occasion I believe a pin the tail on the donkey game was set up. A dining room table with decorations from a certain theme that she was into at the time, and hats, and lots and lots of little girls.
If I really push hard to remember birthdays of the past, beyond my early childhood, I am forced to say that they weren’t all absolutely wonderful, there was usually something that went wrong, typically something to do with my clumsiness. Like the birthday where we went to Denny’s as my selected lunch location and I spilled Coke all over myself. Things like that happened on my special days. The perfect day was an elusive creature that I’d never have the pleasure of seeing. But the ones that come to mind most readily are when we’d have a family vacation planned on or around my birthday — and because we were seeing family members, or going on a fun trip where we’d eat out a lot, or the whole experience was special like our cruise on the Caribbean — my birthday was an important topic of conversation, and would get me free ice cream, cake, songs, attention, and other manifestations of love.
My birthday became a birth-month, and a time for self-reflection, to be sure, but predominantly a time for adoration of Myself. It was the Month of Me.
As an adult, birthdays continue to be the most important time of the year. To not go absolutely bonkers over my loved one on their day is a violation of the deepest laws of humanity. I give a pile of gifts and throw surprise parties and write poetry and songs (or at least attempt to) and generally make a total fool of myself with as little filter over my deep emotions as possible. I willingly lay myself bare in the face of this special moment in that person’s year, wanting what I do and give and say to be of great significance. Because that’s what you do on birthdays: embarrass yourself — er, I mean, give lovingly of yourself. Ahem.
And now that I’m a self-sufficient, divorced mother with a career and a very real hedonistic streak, I remain committed to making sure my birth-months reflect the spirit that at my core I believe they deserve. I give myself the best gifts during August. I’ve taken trips, spent crazy amounts of money on comic conventions to meet my favorite stars, tried skydiving in an indoor center, gone to the best sushi restaurants I know. I almost always, at minimum, make plans with all of my favorite friends and try to do at least one thing I’ve never done. It’s a month-long party, because anything else would be blasphemy.
My August 2020 birth-month was a bit less … grandiose than years past, with COVID-19 disrupting the entire planet’s plans. I had hoped to finally visit Paris, maybe a few days in London. That will have to wait. And as for gifts and parties, everyone was a bit more watchful of finances, and options for going out were severely narrowed. Be that as it may, my birth-month still brought into clear focus the joy of having so many people I love around me. I received thoughtful gifts from family and friends that were absolutely charming and perfect for me. I had four small birthday “parties” on patios, with four different variations on the birthday cake. I saw my inner circle friends from a super-social distance, had several romantic dinners with my amazing boyfriend, and continued the tradition of giving to myself: I fostered kittens for the first time (amazing!), I started this blog, and I got myself a pretty swank Doctor Who themed mask (David Tennant will always be my Doctor). As Snoopy says, “Not bad, not bad at all.”
Thank you, August, for a lifetime of rich memories, and setting the gold standard for all other months of the year. I can’t wait to see you again.