Today is my 42nd birthday. I planned to write something lovely and fun. However, as it always does, my life made a turn for the weird and unexpected. I should have known better, really. Birthdays are thought of as celebration days. At the very least, they are days when the birthday guy or gal doesn’t have to wash dishes, do laundry, mow the yard, etc. Unfortunately, my birthdays never seem to cooperate with that notion.
My kids live in another state, my husband works out of town, and something in or around the house always breaks on my birthday. It’s never anything easy like, say, a busted blowdryer. It’s never been as simple as broken doorknob. No. This year, my present from the malefic gods of all I observe is a broken sewer pipe under the house. The one that’s connected to the toilet. THAT sewer pipe. I discovered it late yesterday. Can’t wait to grab a shovel and get started on the disaster relief effort under my house today.
Then, before I was fully awake this morning, my mother called. She always calls bright and early to tell me happy birthday, but today she was obviously out of whack. She barely talked above a whisper. I was worried.
“Mom, is something wrong?”
“No. OK, yes. Your dad. He was hateful this morning . . .”
She went on for a while talking about campers and gardens before eventually saying, “Oh. Happy Birthday”.
Well, Howdy-Do. I love being awakened on my birthday by someone who was already in a bad mood before they called. I’ve never understood why people do that sort of thing. By the time we got off the phone, she was angry with me over something I can’t quite my put my finger on, but imagine is related to the fact that she and my dad had a disagreement over their morning coffee. She is usually very chipper on my birthday, so their disagreement must have been a doozy. Aren’t birthdays fun?
Last week, before the plumbing incident, I decided that this would be a fantastic birthday. I’m comfortable being in my forties now, my husband has an incredible job offer that he is getting ready to accept (if they will ever send him his contract), and winter seems to have finally gone back to sleep. Life was good last week. I should have known better.
I called my younger son for one of our bi-weekly two hour talks. All I ever want from my boys, as far as birthday gifts go, is a phone call. I decided to drop a hint.
“So, guess what next Friday is.”
“Um . . . lemme think. Oh! It’s Good Friday!”
“Um . . . oh! Good Friday is in April. It’s somebody’s birthday. Is it Nana’s?”
“Good guess, since we have at least a hundred birthdays in April, but no. Guess again.”
“It’s not your birthday, is it?”
“Yes. My birthday is on Good Friday this year. You’re going to call me, right?”
“I can do that. Oh, wait. Will you send me a text to remind me?”
“Why would I be joking?”
“You want me to send you a text to remind you to call me on my birthday.”
“Was that a question?”
“Oh. I hoped it was a question.”
“Please explain to me why you think I should text you to remind you to call your MOTHER on her birthday.”
“Um. Because I am forgetful?”
“Was that a question?”
“Mother (He always calls me ‘Mother’), seriously. Being in college makes a person stupid. You should know this.”
“That’s not what I meant. I meant that being in college requires a person to remember so much that normal stuff doesn’t fit anymore. So please, would you send me a text so that I can remember to call you?”
“Nice try, and no. Get a pen and write it down.”
A pen and paper. Write it down on a piece of paper.”
“I don’t use paper.”
“You don’t use paper.”
“Was that a question?”
I doubt he will remember to call me until tomorrow when his brother asks, “Did you call Mom?” and he responds with the proverbial head slap.
This will not be a good birthday. I am certain of it. I sent the pity party invitations out yesterday when the sewer pipe broke. Mind you, I’m not really planning for it to be bad, I just know that it will. My birthdays are always lame. One year I decided to bake myself a cake, but I forgot it was in the oven until it was too late. I really wanted cake; I got a giant chocolate hockey puck. Another year, I colored my hair and it turned orange. Yet another year, I stepped on a nail and ran it completely through and out the top of my foot. (Tetanus shots are not good birthday presents, no matter how hot that male nurse happened to be, but on the upside I didn’t have to have one the next time I stepped on a nail.) Still another lamentable birthday found me cleaning up loose fiberglass insulation all over the laundry room. My dog fell through the ceiling (don’t ask), landed on top of the dryer and knocked himself out cold. Ok, so maybe that birthday was a little worse for him than me, but still.
Considering my bad luck with birthdays, I could have just stayed in bed today. However, something besides Gypsy’s wet nose on my cheek made sure I couldn’t fall back asleep this morning. It was the eternal hope. Everyone has hope about something. Even I have hope for birthdays, and that’s saying a lot. This morning, as I sip my coffee, I fantasize about getting a real bakery cake. I imagine someone singing Happy Birthday because they want to, and not because someone is pinching the tender flesh beside their elbow. I think about someone -- anyone -- saying, “Put your feet up; I’ll handle the dishes.” Some day, that will happen. Today, I get to shovel.