Tuesday, 5 January 2016

The Birthday Thing

Birthdays just have not featured large in my life. As others whose birthdays are so close to a major holiday know, a birthday isn't a big day. Don't get me wrong. Our birthday was marked as special and it was never forgotten but it was not a big deal inside my head. Well it is, but it is a quiet and intimate kind of thing.

When your birthday happens far away from Christmas, there is a little build up when you are a kid. "What do I want for my birthday?" "What will I get?" The dreaming of presents plays large in the minds of children but I suspect the build up to a birthday is what remains with you all your life. Your birthday is coming up and you are excited because that is how it always is.

When you have a birthday right after Christmas, you don't ever feel that birthday build up.  Ever. Your build up is Christmas and as a kid you are still too satisfied with your Christmas stuff to worry about birthday presents. Generally. Even if your Christmas didn't get you the specific thing you really, really wanted (Lego), you did get things that were wonderful like the dollhouse which I am sure I wanted just as much.

This exact dollhouse in fact. (The picture is stolen shamelessly from an expired ebay listing but the picture remains, floating forever on the net) My sister and I got one like this for Christmas. My brother got a barn. Best Christmas ever. Ranks high in the family memory for many reasons but mostly that my dad made cow pies for the little plastic cows in my brother's barn. This kind.

See? Cow pies. It was a farm kid thing. For an embarrassing number of years I did not know what regular people called these. They were cow pies to me.

What birthday present could ever come up to that memory? None that ever stayed with me, though I am sure that they would have, had my birthday not been so close after Christmas. It was not at all that I didn't get a birthday or a present at all. It was just that it really was hard for a birthday to live up to Christmas.

Without that buildup, you have an entirely different relationship to your birthday. My birthday became a day that was very personal to me, a day where the best part is doing what gives me great personal satisfaction.  

I am not quite sure how that happened, but it is possible that it is connected to how I felt about doing the dishes. I hated doing dishes. On your birthday, you didn't have to do the dishes. All the other kids had to and you could go watch TV with dad or you could get a book and read, or you could play with that wonderful aforementioned dollhouse and your brother's barn. He couldn't stop you. He was drying dishes.

Birthdays were a day where you could do something special, just for yourself, something that you really wanted to do. And that is still how I see and celebrate my birthday, doing something that I really want to do. Some years, I baked bread for my birthday. Some years, I played games and read out loud to my kids. Some years, I knit. Some years, I recovered love seats, well a love seat. Some years, I play in my yarn stash. Some years, I read a good book and some years I just play with them, moving and rearranging my library. What I never ever do on my birthday is dishes. Seriously. Never.

My birthday just means something different to me. It is deeply personal and intimate, this quiet sense of satisfaction, the quiet sense of accomplishment, the quiet sense of delight, of joy. It isn't anything weird like I am trying to hide from my number of years. It is just that I feel a little uncomfortable when other's acknowledge such a personal day. 

And all because my mom and dad gave me the gift of not needing to do dishes on a birthday. Seriously. Big. Gift.

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