Few things in this world change so completely as one’s view regarding the date of their birth.
Children love to “grow up” and they certainly don’t mind a day that’s all about them (although many parents would argue that every day is all about their children). After 21, the prospect of birthdays begins to take on a rapid decline in popularity where our attitudes start with apathy and graduate to full-on dread. I mean, who really gives a crap about turning 25 and finally being legally eligible to rent a car? Woohoo. Turning 35 and able to run for President? Yippee.
As I am sure you can probably imagine, Southern Belle birthdays can—on occasion—get pretty unique. When I was little, the “cool” birthday venues were the roller skate rink and Showbiz Pizza (now Chuck E. Cheese) and Putt-Putt. There are probably more, but I have blocked them out. Would you like to know what I did for my ninth, tenth and eleventh birthdays? I had slumber parties where the main attraction was a showing of Gone With the Wind. The miracle is that I had any guests willing to attend the second and/or third parties.
When I became a parent, I quickly learned that kiddie birthday parties definitely aren’t what they used to be. Film productions are put together with greater ease and less elaboration than a 5th birthday party. There are pink limos and spa treatments and rented out movie theaters (I practically have to take out a second mortgage to take me and the Baby Belles to the movies, so I can’t begin to fathom how much a whole theater sets a parent back). There are caterers and live bands and birthday cakes that look like they were made on one of those TV shows in constant rotation on the WE Channel.
Although crippling expense is obviously a concern with today’s child birthday parties, a few perks do happen to come along for the ride. First, with the world being what it is today, parents tend to hang around to keep eyes on their own kid rather than leave one or two utterly frazzled parents with the task. The case could also be made that the parents want to enjoy a little swank themselves because “damned if they had birthdays like this when they were growing up!”
Thus far, Scott and I have remained lucky in that we’ve been able to keep our birthdays nice and quiet. Thirty passed with barely a whimper and—hopefully—forty will do the same...although Scott is facing the big 4-0 two years sooner than his beloved bride. (I had to do it, babe. xoxo)
I certainly can’t speak for Scott, but the birthday parties that my parents and their friends threw for each other in my youth forevermore sealed my preference for nice and quiet gatherings. I believe I alluded to it in a previous post, but when Mom turned forty, the entire front yard of our house was rolled with toilet paper, there were pink plastic flamingos stuck all over the yard and there was a porta-potty trucked in with a signed poster of some dude in bikini briefs taped to the inside of the door. The coup de grace occurred when about two hundred Domino’s Pizzas were delivered to our house and Dad was stuck with the tab.
When my father turned forty, his friends posted a photograph of him in the newspaper. In the photo, Dad was clearly startled as he had just come out of the shower and he wasn’t exactly expecting company. His hair was sticking up all over the place and the banner underneath said something to the effect of “The Muskrat is 40.” I’m sure that there is a reason for the nickname of “Muskrat” and I am furthermore sure that I don’t want to know what that reason is.
My parents and their friends were also inexplicably fond of giving cakes to each other featuring what I can only describe as well-endowed ladies of the evening. The boobs were made out of icing, so getting one was kind of equivalent to scoring a flower on a normal cake if you like icing. Again, I have no doubt that there was a reason for the borderline x-rated culinary masterpieces and, again, I don’t particularly want to know.
With such bawdy revelry over a milestone birthday, it isn’t too hard to see why other “big ones” would be spent in a dark house with the shades drawn and the telephone off the hook. Yes, that happened, but a big flashing sign was erected in the yard nonetheless.
In spite of all of the aforementioned horror, I can happily report that there might be a light at the end of the birthday tunnel! Although it barely amounted to a drop in the bucket, my father was tickled pink when he became eligible for Medicare—he was finally getting something back!
Also, my Grandma Willie was so impressed with turning ninety that she did it twice. On her first ninetieth birthday, we went over to her house where she took great joy in saying that she’d had the same fingers and toes for ninety years. It wasn’t until my parents went over to wish her happy birthday that that they did a little math and realized that Grandma was a little too eager with her progress: She was only eighty-nine. That made turning ninety the next year all the sweeter.