Summer Camp Day 5

July 5, 2011

Day 5 of blog summer camp at Creating Motherhood!

Today’s prompt: What do you prefer to do on your birthday?

When this gray world crumbles like a cake
I’ll be hanging from the hope
That I’ll never see that recipe again
It’s not my birthday
It’s not today
It’s not my birthday, so why do you lunge out at me?
–It’s Not My Birthday, They Might Be Giants

Birthdays were all about duality when I was a kid. As an only child, I was very much the center of attention any day of the year, but on birthdays it was over the top. At the same time, my mother so often seemed to pick my birthday to be miserable to me. I don’t know what baggage my birthday stirred up in her, but especially as I made my way through the teen years, I could count on my mother supplying an unnerving combination of hundreds of dollars of presents and endless hostile harangue.

My first year at college, there was a startling change. There was no drama from my mother. There was also no fanfare. Actually, there wasn’t really any acknowledgement. My RAs had decided to combine my birthday with two other birthdays in that month, at the time of the other hallmates’ birthdays, 3 weeks after mine. My parents didn’t send me any presents, maybe assuming that we’d go shopping the next time I saw them, or that I’d treat myself on their dime. I received zero presents. There was no drama from my mother, but there was plenty of drama from me. Oh, the fit I threw to them on the phone.

Then there was the year I had to work at the Worst Job Ever on my birthday. Special highlight: I finished my shift covered in bruises.

My snubbing continued further when I got my first job after college. I became the in-house baker, and for everyone’s birthday I baked a fabulous cake, exactly the kind they liked best (angel food cake for the dairy-free girl, Black Forest cake for the German, a rum cake for the boozer, etc.). Each person got their own cake, even when it fell the week after someone else’s. I lugged every one of those cakes on the subway! When my birthday came, just like in college it got combined — with three other birthdays. Three others! Spanning two months! Since I couldn’t bake my own cake, the secretary purchased… a sheet cake from the grocery store… a yellow sheet cake with disgusting white icing and inedible flowers. Not only was it horrible cake, but it wasn’t even a flavor of horrible cake I like! Outrageous! “The cobbler’s children have no shoes.”

Since then, my birthdays have thankfully been free of drama and filled with proper cake. There’s a shirt I like to wear on my birthday; nothing special about it, except that I’ve worn it on almost every birthday for almost 20 years. I often seek out marvelous desserts, sometimes beloved favorites and sometimes exotic new treats. I don’t care about presents or balloons or fanfare. Just don’t make me cry or beat me up, and give me some good damn cake.

I don’t know if it’s anyone’s birthday, but I bet the other campers will share some cake with you!

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7 Responses to “Summer Camp Day 5”

  1. TwoKayaks Says:

    I like learning all these little details about you. Very interesting, indeed.
    As a total introvert, I am happiest when I can spend my birthday out of the limelight and with only my husband and children. Like you, I don’t want/need gifts, but I always order my own cake from my favorite bakery and eat too much of it in one sitting.

  2. St. Elsewhere Says:

    Reading and then re-reading your post. And a little stunned. I kind of did not expect to read what I read.

    I am so glad you have better birthdays now.

  3. Heather Says:

    I also hate store bought cake. My mom can’t bake and my birthday is the day before St. Patrick’s Day, so every year she’d buy a cake from the store and it usually had green icing. And it was usually yellow cake instead of chocolate, because my brother didn’t like chocolate cake.

  4. a Says:

    Ah – the combined birthday celebration! It has ever been the bane of my existence. Why? Because yesterday was actually my birthday and for every “celebration” I remember, it was less about me and more about “when will we be lighting the fireworks?”

    I’m glad you’ve gotten to the point where your birthdays are enjoyable. I’m still not there yet, as I got into an argument with my husband while I was trying to write my summer camp post last night. Oh well, it would not have been a happy read anyway! The internet is better off without it. 🙂


  5. I don’t know which is worse: bruises or store-bought yellow sheet cake.

    I’m a sucker for a good rum cake.

    I bet you’ve enjoyed birthdays with your twins. Have they “helped” you blow out candles yet?

  6. Quiet Dreams Says:

    I’ve had a couple of horrid birthdays, as well, and, though I like presents generally, a birthday isn’t a birthday without a cake. Here’s to many more happy ones for you.

  7. strongblonde Says:

    you got beat up on your birthday? that sucks!! 😦

    my parents never made a huge deal out of bdays…and i kind of feel the same way about mine. but b’s and my kids’ bdays seem so important. totally weird.

    …what WAS the worst job ever?


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