Friday was my birthday. I'm not good at birthdays. Getting older doesn't bothers me. It's more about expectations and leftover childhood resentments. And, it feels like pressure. Pressure to be joyous, to feel loved, and to be entertained.
As a child, I only remember one birthday party. I was turning twelve (?). It was a sleepover birthday party and my mother made me a fabulous butterfly birthday cake.
For my thirteenth birthday my father bought me a baby blue princess phone. The following day my mother cut the cord after I was caught shoplifting at a local department store. I was grounded and spent the weekend smoking lemon cigarettes out my bedroom window.
That bust put a fear in me so deep that, till this day, I can't sample a grape in a grocery store, and I often think merchants are thinking I'm thinking of steeling something. Which I swear to you, I am NOT!
I don't like the birthday spotlight. I know you don't believe me, but I don't. Because when its on, I have to perform. I'm not good at remembering my lines or acting buoyant or gracious. I'm more of a spontaneous kind of monkey.
And, I suck at receiving gifts. It doesn't matter if I like it or not. I'd rather NOT get a gift but then, when I don't get any gifts, I am disappointed.
My favorite gift, hands down, was a personalized, green tackle box with "SHANNON E. KENNEDY" inscribed on a small brass plate - perfectly centered on the lid. It was a gift from my boyfriend, now husband, during our first year of dating. We both enjoyed fishing. That box told me we'd be spending more time together. After all, you wouldn't give a women a tackle box and expect her to fish alone, right?
My second favorite gift came the following year. It was also from my boyfriend, now husband. It was a basket of fruit. Nothing says I love you like a basket of fruit, right? Who gives someone they HOPE loves them a basket of fruit for their birthday?
When I asked my boyfriend, now husband, why fruit, he said he thought I liked fruit. Years later he confessed that he was out of ideas. Many, many years later he confessed that he felt pressure to get the perfect gift and choked.
The reason the tackle box and the fruit are my two favorite gifts is because they turned into stories that I have told over and over again. And today, I am writing about them.
This year, I wanted to keep my birthday simple and do what makes me happy. For me, that meant writing and running. Running is not a good idea at this stage of my recovering so I was content to walk 3 miles. And yes, blogging does count as writing (at least it does to me).
This blogging and walking strategy was due to take place first thing Friday morning, but I got a call from a client and I needed to leave the house quickly, without a shower.
I spent the next 4 1/2 hours semi-stressed, in the sun, trying to make someone happy. I was miserable.
I arrived home exhausted. All I wanted to do was take a nap.
It's lovely, but I'm afraid to ride it. The streets near our house are narrow and besides, I don't want to be one of those women who wears bike shorts and a helmut. My ass is too big and my head is too small.
After a much needed shower, Miss Pegged, Mark and I had lunch on the deck. It was a beautiful day. And then, I took a nap.
I woke in time for (my grandson) Jackson's 6:00 pm performance in Shakespeare's, Taming of the Shrew. He played a servant to Baptista, as well as Grumio, Petruchio's servant. He was magnificent.
Afterwards, we had dinner at Jackson's favorite restaurant - a Japanese hibachi restaurants where they bang pots and pans together while singing Hall pee Bird day! And then there is cake, and a candle that you must blow out. And then they tell you to smile while they take a family photo.
I didn't smile. I (sort of) wanted to smile but I was convinced I had a piece of broccoli stuck between my teeth.
A retake was requested. This time, after confirmation that there was no broccoli, I smiled.
Whats interesting about the first picture is that, although you can't see it in this picture of the picture (did that make sense?), in the original, you can clearly see an ORB above my head. No, its not that light, on the top, towards the right. That is a reflection from the light on the wall.
The orb is absent in the second photo. To me, the orb is my father's spirit. It is my first birthday without him and I miss him and of course he wouldn't miss it. Not the food part anyway. He always loved to eat. That's how I knew he wanted to die. He stopped eating.
After dinner I came home and talked to Ricki. Like me, Ricki was disfigured by DICDOC, the head plastic surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Together we strategized and vented and most importantly, bonded. Finding Ricki validates the injustice that DICDOC did to me. To us. What a wonderful birthday gift that was.
As soon as the clock struck 12:01, I felt a deep sense of relief. My birthday was over.
The rest of the weekend was spent doing not all about ME, things. But of course, it was still about me.
I visited Amy at the flower shop and bought more flowers for the deck.
Jackson stayed the weekend. Boris joined us for dinner on the deck and then I painted everyones toenails. It was dark on the deck. I was drinking. It was silly, simple, fun.
The next day, I bought myself a birthday present. My very own, two ring, inflatable pool.
It matches my bike.
There is so much in my life to be grateful for. Today, I'd like to thank YOU for continuing to encouraging my joy of writing. Thank you for recognizing the goodness in me and for making me feel comfortable enough to express myself, honestly. And mostly, thank you for loving me.