Copyright 2005 Ben S. Pollock
Monday, November 7, 2005. Now I can understanding the irritating habit of young brides to have everything “perfect” on their wedding day, the heck with the confused groom and the beleaguered parents. Birthdays are like that.
At least for me, every year I want my birthday to be perfect, a celebration of myself — not by others, that would be an ego thing and in a superficial sense — but of myself for myself. It’s very ego-driven, in the Freudian ego sense, though. The baby, who cannot see, cannot sense outside of himself, wants all good for himself.
If I want to sleep soundly the night going into my birthday morning, it should be so. If I say I want to not be alone, after years of bachelorhood, the spouse should make every effort, and succeed. If I want a perfect pizza for supper, by gosh, it has to come from the local joint and no franchise outlet.
I never have had a perfect birthday, by these lights.
Maybe it stems from my 10th birthday. It was a schoolday the morning of Nov. 6, 1967. Mom and Dad had presents for me and as our tradition I opened them in their bedroom. I already knew that in a few weeks an Australian terrier would be flown from a breeder in St. Louis, my first dog all my own. (George was purebred but had the wrong proportions for showing so he was not expensive, the breed chosen because my dad enjoyed an “Aussie” owned by an English officer with whom he served in Afghanistan, in WWII.)
The toy and clothes are unwrapped and delighted over, and it was time for a quick breakfast before school. But Mom takes me aside a moment: During the night the nursing home called to say Dad’s mom had passed. Mom strongly suggested I give Dad a big hug and say, “I’m sorry.” I did.
I’ve been confused about birthdays since, never got the hang of them.
They’re so much like regular days. You have a good meal and conversation, you have an excellent bike ride in unseasonably warm weather, and there went three or four hours (a half day, virtually) of your precious birthday, the annual celebration of oneself, spent. As a grown-up, most years you have to work on your birthday, where with luck, no co-worker remembers so neither you nor they need go through the motions of sincerity. You finally have an extended conversation long-distance with a sibling after too many months, and that is so welcome, yet bittersweet: You’re not children together anymore.
Maybe that’s all there is to it. All too soon, it’s the seventh of November. What a relief. -30-