As I write this blog post, I am just a few hours shy of my 37th birthday. (Ssh. Don’t tell my daughter. When she asked me this week if I was going to be 26 or 27, I replied, “Twenty-six.”)
But alas, I lied to her. I am about to turn 37. Funny, though, I don’t feel 37. In fact, I still feel 17. But, the date on my driver’s license (which I will have had in my possession for exactly 20 years come tomorrow) says I really am.
I’ve already experienced 36 birthdays. I have to say that most of them have been really wonderful. At least, I think they’ve been. While driving the car today, I tried to come up with as many memories as I could of past years. It’s not easy to do – try it sometime. I did, however, compile a list of what I will call my “Top 8 Birthday Memories” (I couldn’t come up with ten!) and I hope you’ll indulge me as I share them with you.
1. I will never, ever, ever forget my 8th birthday. My childhood best friend, Jen, and I both received our first sleeping bags the Christmas before and we were anxious to try them out. My parents agreed to have Jen come over for a sleepover. The most exciting plan for the evening, though, was that we were going to go to a drive-in movie (a first for both of us). The film? ET.
I’m sure this initially seemed like a good idea to my parents, but it ended up not turning out quite as they had planned. Though ET wasn’t particularly scary, when you are 8 and sitting in a dark car in a field watching it on a big screen – and people are searching for ET in the dark woods - well, let’s just say that it frightened the living daylights out of Jen. From my recollection, she sat in the front seat between my parents crying her eyes out (while I sat in the back) throughout the whole movie. Then, when we finally got back to our house, she was so scared, she wouldn’t sleep with me on the floor of my room in our new sleeping bags. She ended up crying most of the night in my mom’s bed, my dad ended up in mine and I slept on my hard bedroom floor – all alone - wondering how this had happened.
To this day, I (of course), being the “true” friend I am, always make sure to tease her about it at least once a year – usually when my birthday rolls around.
2. On my 32nd birthday, my husband was in Iraq and I was visiting my parents in NJ. It could have been a very sad day, but turned out to be quite wonderful. My mom took me to a spa for the day (while Grandpa watched my two year old at home!) and then, as we ate lunch outside on a beautiful patio, my cell phone rang. Phone call from Iraq! What perfect timing. When I got home, there was a package from Amazon.com waiting from me – Rob had ordered my gift online and it arrived right on time.
3. My 24th birthday was celebrated at Ft Riley, KS. Rob and I were newly married and I had just become friends with my-soon-to-be best friend, Renee. Neither of us knew each other’s husbands very well, since they had both been away on different military adventures. Renee decided that my birthday would be the perfect time for she and her husband, TJ, to have me and Rob over for dinner. In those days, Rob was always incredibly exhausted from his Army work and my birthday was no exception. Though we barely knew Renee and TJ, Rob literally fell asleep at their dinner table during my birthday party! (And Rob wants me to clarify for him that he wasn't even drunk!) :-) To this day, Renee and I laugh hysterically every time one of mentions him dozing off.
4. My 30th birthday is memorable to me because it was the first one I spent as a mom. I remember going out to lunch with two of my close friends and their children (all much older than mine) and then, afterwards, we went over to my friend, Michele’s, house to swim. This birthday is particularly special to me because Michele’s sister, Marilynn (a dear friend of mine), came to join us at the pool. Marilynn would pass away just a few years later and so that would be one of my only birthdays spent with her.
5. The thing I remember most about my 26th birthday is that Rob and I had just moved to Austin two weeks earlier and I did not know a SOUL in town. No one. Rob went to work that day and because the school year had not yet begun (and thus, I wasn’t teaching), I had no one to spend my day with. I took myself to the Texas Governor’s Mansion for a tour and then spent the rest of the day shopping at the local mall (which I found after much trial and error). A few hours later, I called Rob at work to tell him about “all the great things he had just bought me.
6. I think I need to lump all of my childhood birthdays into one. That’s the great thing about tradition. Every early birthday, though uniquely special, was also comfortingly familiar. Every year, on the last day of school, my mom threw me a big party in our backyard (at our pool) for my entire class. The strongest memory? All the kids lined up on the edge, legs splashing in the water, posing for our yearly photo together. And, because my birthday is so close to the 4th of July, we always celebrated with a “family party” on Independence Day. I grew up thinking every kid got fireworks to celebrate that they were one year older!
7. In New Jersey, you cannot get your driver’s license until you are 17 – and so, on July 2, 1980 my dad took me down to the NJ DMV to get mine. I don’t remember the test much, but I do remember immediately dropping off my dad at home and heading over to pick up my 80-something year old grandmother, Mimi. She was the first person I wanted to take for a drive. I took her out to the lunch, to the local “Windsor Diner.”
8. Last year, my 36th birthday, was a particularly sad one. I flew to California the day before because our close friend, Major Jason George, was to be buried on my birthday. Jason had been killed in Iraq. Though, it was a terribly sad way to spend the day (not to mention being away from Rob and the kids), it was also a very special birthday because I was reunited with so many incredibly dear friends from our days at Fort Riley.
And now, here were are, just two and a half hours away (as I write this) from my 37th.
I was hoping to spend the whole day with my kids, still under the guise of it being my 26th, but my mom “outed” me today.
When she came over, she said to my daughter, “Thirty-seven years ago today, I was very uncomfortable and pregnant!”
“With who?” Jordan asked.
My mom looked at her with a odd expression.
“With your mom,” she said.
Uh oh. I forgot to tell Grandma that I’m only going to be 26!
Happy Birthday to me!
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