Happy Birthday!!

Recently, I discovered it was a friend’s birthday- via Facebook, of course, which, sadly, is where I get a majority of my information these days. I opted to send Misty a text rather than post on her wall. How this is better, I’m not sure. What I really wanted to do was mail her a card, but it was too late for that.

I sent a text that said, “Happy Birthday! I hope your day is as fabulous as you are.”

It rang hollow to me even as I hit send. Because Misty is fabulous. She’s the kind of fabulous who will always send YOU a card, which will arrive on time, regardless of the weather.

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Misty’s Valentine, which arrived in between blizzards on February 13.

My lame-ass text was not even a Hallmark. More like something from the 99-cent section of greeting cards next to the tampons in the grocery store.

Then I looked at her Facebook page and discovered that three other people had posted that exact same message on her wall!

I sent another text: “I take it back. I hope your birthday rocks balls.”

She gave me credit for sentiment, but marked me down a point for lack of originality. Which got me to thinking, how many ways are there to say Happy Birthday?

I’m a chronic birthday forgetter.

Facebook giving me a reminder and the opportunity to write “Happy Birthday!!” on someone’s wall lets me do fully 100% more to observe that birthday than I would have otherwise.

The problem is that I want to be more than that, and I’m not.

If you see a friend in-person on their birthday, you simply say, “Happy Birthday!” No need to be witty. If you have a gift, it’s even better, but not necessary. Sending a card or a gift across the miles brings joy, if you remember to do it.

Facebook reminds us of the birthdays of close friends, relatives, and acquaintances. We feel an obligation to observe all the birthdays that pop up in our sidebar, regardless of the closeness of the relationship.

You find yourself wishing happy birthday to someone with whom the only thing you have in common is the the same second grade teacher, or the job at the car wash that summer before sophomore year, or the fact that you both shut down the same bar every night for six months before one of you went into rehab and the other one didn’t notice.

Is it possible to send pithy, heartfelt, electronic birthday greetings?

Happy Birthday!! Are you bringing cake to work?

Thanks for letting me copy your math homework in 4th grade. Happy Birthday!!

When I quit that horrid place we worked at together, I swore I’d never speak to anyone from there again. Happy Birthday!!

I hang out with you only to steal your Altoids. Happy Birthday!!

I have no idea who you are. Happy Birthday!!

I’m the one who ran over your cat. Happy Birthday!!

Your parents pay me to be your friend. Happy Birthday!!

*****

#1’s spring break this year happened to coincide with my birthday and she was coming back for a visit. She mentioned she had a birthday surprise for me…

And that she had to go to five different places before finding one that would accommodate her wishes…

And that she told my mom about it and my mom was appalled…

I must confess, I never saw it coming, and I’m so damn proud of her for pulling this off.

See, this Christmas, #1 wasn’t able to make it back to New Jersey. We packed up a trunk with a gift for her to open each day in December leading up to Christmas. My favorite gift of all was a very… special… picture of Jack that I framed and wrapped. I couldn’t imagine that this gift could be topped, ever.

That’s because I failed to imagine the photo topping a cake.

Every place she went to get it made had refused, saying that the photo violated their corporate policies on decency. When she went to the last place, she handed them the picture upside down because, as she says, “Upside down, it kind of looks like a ferret, so they thought it was a ferret and then we both signed off on it before they figured out that it wasn’t a ferret.”

I’ve looked at this picture- and at the subject in real life- a lot, and I don’t see a ferret.

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Finally, with this photo of a cake with a photo on it, I have my pithy, heartfelt electronic birthday wish for everyone’s Facebook wall.

Now, where do we put the candle?

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They Work Against You In Ways You Never Expected

Unless they were saints, your parents at some point said to you, “Just wait until you have your own children!”

You probably thought (not said, because you knew better than that) Well, when I DO have my own children, I’m going to be cooler than you! I’ll let my kid stay out til dawn/listen to heavy metal/smoke pot/eat ice cream for breakfast/not do their homework/(fill in the blank with the opposite of whatever patently uncool thing they wanted you to do).

Here’s the thing that your parents knew that you can’t possibly understand until you are raising children yourself:

Kids work against you in ways you never expected.

True, on occasion, your kid acts exactly like you did, and you suddenly understand how freaking annoying you were to your parents and marvel that they didn’t kill you.

Then they act the opposite of you. Remember the Keatons from Family Ties? The hippies who birthed a Republican? Yeah, like that.

You envisioned  being the kind of parent who would not censor the music your children wanted to listen to, and promised to not overly scrutinize it for profanity, unsavory characters, the expression of strong emotions, screaming, or screaming guitars. Your children like Justin Beiber and anime theme songs.

You decided at age eleven that you would never pull a book out of your child’s hands because it was deemed “too old” for them. Your kids would rather clean their rooms than read a book.

You promised yourself you would not give any girls you had a hard time about wearing skirts with a hemline above the knee.  Your girls almost never wear anything other than sweatpants and consider jeans to be “dressed up”.

Even when parents differ on certain issues, kids have an innate sense of how to execute a maneuver that will get to both of them.

Early on after the kids came to live with us, #1 asked me if I would go with her to get her first tattoo when she turned 18. I said yes. Her father rolled his eyes, hoping we would both grow out of it.

But when the time came, she no longer wanted my input.

She came home one day with the words “I now walk into the wild” tattooed on her ribs, in gangsta script.

Her father was apoplectic.

CC: A Christopher McCandless quote? Are you serious? You got the words of a loser tattooed on your body forever? What is wrong with you?

#1: He’s not a loser, he’s awesome!

CC: He went into the wilderness completely unprepared and died. That’s the very definition of losing.

#1: Nuh-uh!

Me: Where did you get it done?

#1: That place at Willowbrook next to Hollister.

Me: You got a tattoo done at the mall?!?! What is wrong with you?

CC: Wait, let me see it again. Did you read this? It says “I no walk into the wlid.”

#1: Daddy!

CC: Hmm, maybe if he had put it like that, he would have lived.

Me: Please tell me they didn’t actually tattoo the quotation marks.

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 2.39.51 PMAt least none of the kids want to be clowns.

Yet.

How do your kids get to you?

My D-Day.

My actual birthday, the day I turned 40, was a two-show day. My mom had been in town helping take care of the kids so I got to see her on my birthday for the first time since I don’t remember when. Both CC and I were working a lot of overtime so I wasn’t expecting a big to-do from anyone.

I was holding out a hope that at some point in the day, there would be cake. It was really all I wanted.

Right before I left for work I was presented with this cake, made for me by #1:

She also got me a gift certificate to MAC cosmetics which I plan on trading in for something extravagant.

So my day was already pretty great before I even left for work.

At the theater, we were programming the console, making changes, and all of a sudden some friends from my old show (across the street) came in.

Then some more showed up.

With cake.

And then more friends.

With gifts.

And I was in the middle of working but my bosses made me stop and open gifts and have cake while they kept working.

Now, nothing can truly compare to a dark chocolate box cake made by your eldest child topped with your age in bacon. But the cake that my friend Michelle made me is a close second.

She’s made this cake for me before and it’s nothing short of divine. I should also point out that Michelle is the one friend I will never bake for. That would just be embarrassing.

The cake:

Cinnamon cake, with  ancho chile chocolate butter cream frosting. You don’t notice it at first, but gradually you become aware that the piece of cake you’re eating is totally kicking your ass, and you want nothing more than to eat the entire rest of the cake and then roll around naked in the leftover frosting.

Well, maybe that’s just me.

Michelle also strong-armed our friends into chipping in on a gift.

 A really big, outrageously generous gift that I totally don’t deserve but happily accepted anyway.

So big, I was rendered speechless.

I’ll give you a little hint:

No?

How about this:

Still no?

Okay.

The Marlene Deitrich Mont Blanc.

!!!!!

I have really good friends. Who are afraid of Michelle.

So we shared cake and my amazed expression.

I look confused in the picture, but actually I was asking if I could stab somebody with the pen.

As a parting gift, I got a list of instructions from Michelle:

The list of what I was to bring continued:

Advil

Toilet Paper

Metro Card

1 can of tuna

Bus/train pass to get you back to New Jersey

An open mind

I was further informed that my husband was aware and in full support of these plans.

Any time someone is telling me to bring an open mind, that’s an automatic red flag. The whole Advil/can of tuna/toilet paper thing was especially disconcerting. I truly had no idea what I was in for. That’ll be my next post.

Oh, I nearly forgot the other big gift I got. When #1 had dropped me off at the train station that morning she was returning home to pick up my mom to take her to the airport. She got about a mile from home and the transmission on our twelve-year-old minivan went out.

Sweet. Sweat!

Anyway, it all got me thinking about birthday gifts. For #1’s thirteenth birthday, we wrapped up our shovel very elaborately and gave it to her. Then after she unwrapped it we made her put it away, where her real gift was waiting for her: a guitar. This year in December I called the school and told them that #3 had a dentist appointment that I forgot about, and asked them to tell her and get her ready for me to pick up. It was especially mean because she’d just been to the dentist like two weeks prior to this. When I got her out to the car I gave her a hot chocolate and then we went and got mani/pedi’s, followed by the eye doctor to get fitted for contacts, the ONLY thing on her Christmas list.

I have a couple months left to plan for a unique gift with clever presentation for #5’s birthday. Any thoughts?