An unofficial participant of the Blogging A-Z Challenge,
in which I share of 26 events or perspectives that took place this past year.
I am not a birthday person. I don’t mind them, particularly, but I’m not really a huge fan of the fuss. That being said, I’m not sure how it happened – this birthday goal this year. I want to get better at showing value to people, and one way to do this is birthdays. Maybe it started with the Kendra and the cards. Or maybe it was my favourite hobby – procrastination tactics. I remember both being involved.
Yet, I think there was something more to it than that – could it be the bittersweet phenomenon of growing up? I think of my favourite crew of cousins, and my Upstairs-Family Kids with their ever changing, growing faces, and yes, I think it might be that one.
But it STARTED with Kendra and the cards.
See, my friend Kendra quite likes her birthday. She’s odd like that.
The trouble is, when something like birthdays is quietly important to someone, and birthdays are NOT on your radar, it’s really hard to be a good friend and remember them! Not only remembering which specific person belongs to which random date, but to to remember ON that date…. well, that’s where my struggle really lies.
Thankfully, I don’t actually have friends who seem to hold any birthday blunders against me. But I notice my forgetfulness, and regret. Even with the yearly chance to practice, I have made little progress in this department over the years. I figured it was just the way it will always be.
Until one sloppy wet day in March a year or two ago, that is.
I was at the dollar store, procrastinating. Avoiding homework at the end of a semester, I was lolly-gagging in the card aisle. As it turns out, they have decently amusing cards in the card aisle! And while I do not approve of $6 cards at a grocery store to write three lame words for an event I’m going to forget anyways, I do appreciate snail mail, quirkiness, and being thrifty. So does Kendra, as a matter of fact. A dollar, I could do.
And suddenly, I saw an answer to my yearly birthday problems.
As long as I sent my friend something and acknowledged her ever-elusive day, that would count for birthday points, right?
Never mind her day being in May, March was close enough!
So I picked a funny card, stuck stamp on the envelope, and decorated the outside with a million warnings such as
“DO NOT OPEN UNTIL MAY 10, or ELSE!”,
adding stick drawings of cake and candles and birthday hats and fun. It was so obviously birthday you couldn’t help but get excited.
All for a birthday still 6 weeks away.
Kendra would hate it.
I was stoked.
I’m talking about the girl who, as a child, snuck to the top shelf of closets, under stairwells and into stored luggage to find wrapped Christmas presents with her name on them 4 weeks early, systematically peeling the tape and unwrapping the most coveted gifts. She would quietly play with these treasures for an hour or so before wrapping the gift up again, resealing the same tape, and her parents never knew. Until we told them, years later, of course.
But she is much more grown up now. I pictured the bright birthday envelope sitting on her mantle, taunting her with the knowledge there was something special inside, just for her, but knowing her birthday had not yet arrived. She would have to wait. She would not dare dishonour her birthday by opening early, now. Yet the curiosity would kill her; I knew it. It was a test of honour, and a smug win for me. I was off the hook for remembering the special day, and she had to wait in agony as it mocked her every day for weeks. I was thrilled.
I knew exactly when it arrived, as I was gifted with reactionary texts with exclamation marks and all capital letters to mark her anticipation and frustration. I grinned. Her reaction was worth so much more than the dollar. This would have to be a yearly ritual, I decided there and then.
I did this again the next year, and remembered other family birthdays in the process. Off a card might go, 6 or 8 weeks early. No pressure on me, and still care felt for the receiver. It’s a good system.
But for kids – kids need a little more than a card. Well, technically, they don’t need anything, but there’s a handful of kids with a special place in my heart, particularly those cousins of mine and my landlord family from Upstairs. I’ve been around both sets for long enough to see kids grow from diapers to trousers to hip haircuts and skate shoes. From preschool to reading and beyond. And while I’m not one to buy into entitlement or consumerism in a big large way, I do think, kids know their birthdays. Finding the simple gifts that fit each kid, preferably linked with experience, relationship, or learning, is a challenge I enjoy.
I won’t do it for every kid I come across, but I tell these parents I don’t have nieces and nephews to spoil. So they’re it for now. And really, they only turn 11 once! Or 8. or 5 or 6 or… well, you get the point. Childhood goes by fast, and birthdays are kind of a big deal. And so far, it’s been kinda fun.
That is, until last week.
When guess what showed up in MY MAIL?
A card, with the words
I’m LATE crossed out, and penciled in their place…
Along with a beautiful note written by my stinky friend Kendra.
My birthday is in June, I’ll have you know.