Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Title TBD as subject matter all over the map


Most people, when they go on vacation, do the same sorts of things. Lie on the beach, eat out, do a couple tours. Let me tell you about my last holiday.

I have to give this story some context though, so please forgive me as I back up a little. It was my 40th birthday last year, December 24, to be exact. I need to tell you a bit about that first before I tell you about the holiday.

December 24 sucks as a birthday, followed only by December 25 in terms of worst possible birthday dates. Pretty much the whole month is a write off, so it isn't as though I don't have sympathy for all the other December birthdays, and if I'm being realistic, the first few days of January are pretty shitty too.

December 24 is for family gatherings, for last minute shopping, for kids excited for Santa to come. What it isn't for is a birthday dinner, or a cake, or any sort of party. It isn't for wrapping things up in happy birthday paper, or beautiful birthday cards. It isn't for waiters singing happy birthday, handing you a piece of cake with a sparkler in it, because likely the restaurant is closed. It isn't for birthday parties at your house or someone else's house or for anything other than a tacked on, sort of "oh, it's your birthday!" from someone who is genuinely happy and thoughtful person who really is happy it's your birthday, but mostly because everybody's frigging happy on Christmas Eve.

Obviously this is nothing new. Obviously this has been my birthday my entire life, ground zero for Kristen McLeod, so I'm pretty used to it. The way I've handled it varies, however,  most of the time I feel apologetic about it. I tend to feel as though just by having my birthday on such an awkward day I've caused trouble, I've forced people to take time from what they would rather be doing, to acknowledge that this day is special for another reason. Gosh, even writing that the day is special for another reason feels like I'm asking for too much. I really need to sort this shit out.

My family was pretty good, we always had cake and I got to choose my special meal (pretty much always spaghetti, meatballs, ceasar salad, and garlic bread). My presents were wrapped in birthday wrapping. We celebrated me. My mother even gave up her family tradition of opening up Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve, since it had been coopted by what perhaps a thousand people have called her "greatest gift ever." It was back in the day before the elaborate children's birthday parties, thank god, so I do recollect having my grade 2 birthday party at a bowling alley, and I believe grade one had a piƱata. There are photos.
In my early twenties, when my life became more my own responsibility, I went out for about a thousand birthday celebrations. I think I had one, and periphery friends came, not close ones. It's hard, to vocalize this, because I feel ashamed that I care, I mean, it's just a birthday, right? And I get it. I really, honestly, do. It's Christmas Eve, for heaven's sake. And this isn't a story about how no one ever cared, or no one every got me a birthday card, or said happy birthday, or anything like that. Rather, it's more like when someone said happy birthday to me, I was always glad to deflect with merry Christmas.

When I got married things continued, meaning, I still had birthdays, they were still on an awkward semi-holiday, but somehow it felt better. My husband was really good with celebrating, and his family is massively into birthdays, so I did feel like the occasion was marked, and often, more than simply marked. We have a kind of tradition that works for me, where we go to Earls for a late lunch, and that's become the thing we do for my birthday.

I've noticed; what started as a story about a trip to celebrate that went awry in an obviously necessary discussion of some birthday shit. Which is not finished yet. Apparently this will take a few posts to work through. Hang on!

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