Friday, November 02, 2007

Go Stefanie. It's your birthday.

Today's post is brought to you by the letter B. And no, it is not my birthday. But in the Encyclopedia of Me game I'm playing, that's what B will be about. Incidentally, it is my friend Dale's birthday today. You know, Dale of the "Dale and Jenny, who give perfect gifts" pair? So let's take a moment of silence to send a few good vibes his way. Happy Birthday, Dale. You check my blog three times a year; let's hope today's one of those days.

B could stand for a lot of things in this open-ended "this is your life" list... Books... boys... beverages... banter... Bob Collins (the 50-something MPR news editor on whom I have an apparently not-so-weird crush*). Since whatever I pick for today has to be a five-item list of some sort, however, birthdays seem to be a pretty good choice.

* Not so weird because if the listener letters they've been reading on air during this week's fund drive are any indication, I am not the only one harboring this crush. I can't tell you how many times I've thought I found an underappreciated gem, only to discover a gaggle of other girls were smitten with the same nerdy or awkward soul. But that is a post for another time. Or, a post in a footnote, as it were.

Birthdays tend to get less eventful every year, and while the grown-up in me understands that's the way things go, the child in me cries "No fair!" Birthdays are the one day a year when it's OK to say it really is all about me, when I go through the day imagining that I'm surrounded by a soft glow, that there's a special neon sign above my head informing the world, "Smile and treat me nice today. It's my birthday, and it's my day."

I actually love my birthday. I love making at least a teensy bit of a big deal about it, even if I feel slightly guiltier and more self-absorbed about doing so each year. I don't particularly relish getting older, but if I have to do so anyway, I'd rather do so with all my nearest and dearest rallied around and cheering me on. Adding another year to my age isn't so fun, but if good friends, good food, and good wine are involved? All that, plus cake and presents to boot? Frankly, what's not to like about that?

So in honor of birthdays (and of the letter B), here are five of my most memorable birthdays to date. (Incidentally, I am stealing this topic from Pam, who did a similar list several weeks ago. So go check hers out as well.)

  1. Age 6 - My younger sister was born four days before I turned six, and my parents brought her home from the hospital on my birthday. While I was probably a bit reticent about giving up my place as the youngest child, I was intrigued by the new, tiny person in our house, and was willing to give her a chance. That night after school, my mother sat me down on the couch, propped a pillow under my arm, and put my baby sister in my lap for the first time. She screamed immediately. That encounter set the course of our relationship for the next 15 years. We like each other now, but all through childhood? Not so much. On a more positive note, four different family friends all feared that my mother wouldn't have time to bake me a cake for my birthday that year, and they each provided one to help her out. I had a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, a white cake with candy clowns and plastic balloons on it, a confetti cake, a German chocolate cake, and the cake my mother actually did make for me as well. It is the only year I've had five birthday cakes, and to my six-year-old self, it was awesome.

  2. Age 8 - My older sister had been hinting to my mother that she wanted a surprise party. Of course, asking for a surprise party sort of makes it harder to surprise the person, so my mother didn't arrange that right away. A month after my sister's birthday, some of my friends apparently came up to talk to her in school about the surprise party my mom had invited them to. My sister was livid. "Why is Stefanie getting a surprise party??" she wanted to know... "It's not even her birthday!" She was right. It wasn't. It was mid-way between my sister's January birthday and my March one. But one random Saturday afternoon in February, we came back from an errand with our dad to find all of our friends (from both our classes) hanging out in our basement with balloons and cake and games. The home movie footage of this moment is priceless. I'm standing on the steps, head cocked to the side, wondering, "What's all this then?" My older sister is screaming at my mother, upset that (A. she lied to her, saying there was no party in the works, and (B. she wasn't properly informed so she could put on a dress. It's still sort of hilarious to me today.

  3. Age 16 - I had a hard time finding good friends in high school. I floated on the perimeter of a few different groups, but never felt fully included by any. When my mom asked what I wanted to do for my sixteenth birthday, I didn't want to admit that I wasn't sure who I could even invite. So instead I invited all of them--the few girls I could legitimately call my friends and the many others who likely only tolerated me. And I invited them all to a roller rink, because that's just how very cool I was not. Come to think of it, I mentioned this during NaBloPoMo last year, too. I still scratch my head at the whole event.

  4. Age 20 - My birthday fell on a Friday, and when I got back to my dorm after class that day, a photocopied picture of Ethan Hawke greeted me in the hall. "Guess who's 20 today?" it said. I walked to my room, grabbing additional copies of the same picture along the way, "Do I get to kiss the birthday girl?" one said. "Time for your birthday spankings?" asked another. When I got to my room, my friends were waiting. They'd decorated with balloons and signs, and they made a ridiculous paper hat that they forced me to wear when we walked the half-mile to Chi-Chi's for dinner. Later that night, when my friend Joe finished his shift at Baker's Square, he brought me a French Silk Pie. We'd also had ice cream cake earlier (paid for with a check my mom sent my roommate to ensure I had a cake), so I guess multiple-cake birthdays haven't been a total anomaly in my life after all.

  5. Age 30 - For the third time, I was given a surprise party, and for the third time, I was completely surprised by it. Either it's really easy to pull one over on me or my friends are just extra crafty. Let's say it's somewhere in the middle, OK? That year, my birthday was on a Thursday, and I'd invited all my friends to join me for dinner at a German restaurant the following night. On my actual birthday, my then-boyfriend said he was taking me to dinner at a fancy-schmancy place near his house. After work and before our dinner, he suggested we go out for a few drinks with some work friends. When we went to his house allegedly just to consolidate ourselves into one car, he instead walked towards his front door. "Where are you going?" I asked. "I thought we were going to dinner." He replied, flatly, "I've gotta take a leak," and he let me follow him into the house. Just as I was about to commend him on his classiness and good manners, the lights flicked on, and all my friends popped up to shout "Surprise." It was a great party, even if it did mean that most of them had lied to me and had no intention of going to the German restaurant the next night and I therefore had to change my reservation there three times. I still had a small group for that outing, and we had a fine German meal, plenty of drinks, and a table-side stump fiddle serenade. We also polkaed in the downstairs dance hall and then went on over to the now-famous tiki bar for fun drinks in Easter Island head cups. All in all, it was a great way to ring in my 30s. I probably haven't had as fun a birthday since then.
It's a good thing this ended up being a Friday Five, because I found it harder to narrow down the list than I thought. I guess I've had lots of good birthdays. I hope you have, too. What's your favorite birthday memory?


lizgwiz said...

I haven't had that many spectacular birthdays. (How sad for me.) I did throw quite a rocking party for myself on my 30th. A friend gave me a half-yard glass as a gift, and I managed to chug a half-yard of beer TWICE that night, as my friends hummed the theme from 30something. (Yes, I was 30 a LONG time ago.) My co-workers presented me with a HUGE dildo (how thoughtful), and there are some...interesting pictures of that particular gift that also involve some ranch vegetable dip. ;)

The only other particularly memorable one is when I moved (briefly) to Texas with my then-boyfriend. I didn't know anyone, and was a little depressed about turning 25 in a strange town, but his friends were on the ball, and threw me a delightful surprise party. I didn't really know anyone there, of course, but they tried so hard, I couldn't help but be touched.

Jess said...

I love this post. Especially five birthday cakes for your sixth birthday. Also I'm intrigued by how you use an open-parenthesis when you make lettered lists instead of a close-parenthesis like I do. Anyway, to answer your question, my best birthday was probably my 8th, when I finally convinced my mother to let me have an ice skating party. I got a treasure troll as a gift from a friend and almost died of happiness. Even though it turned out that I sucked at ice skating.

3carnations said...

I've never had a surprise party...I may be too much of a control freak to be able to handle that.

I did pull off a surprise dinner for hubby last year. We went to his old college town and took our son to a children's museum there, then had dinner at a restaurant there at which he used to work. He was completely surprised when his old college roommate and his wife were there.

Stefanie said...

Liz--If I get weird search engine hits now related to dildos and vegetable dip, you know I've got you to blame.

Jess--OK, did my friend Carrie put you up to that comment? Because she chided me about the parentheses lists as well. I looked it up in the Chicago Manual of Style, and they offered several acceptable formatting methods, but their main point seemed to be there is no absolute rule, as long as you're consistent. For some reason, I don't like the look of a parenthesis on both sides of the letter, and on just one side, it looks weird to me. I also don't like in-line lists with just a period after the number or letter. I think it looks confusing. So "(A." is the way I usually pick. I hope it isn't a visual nails-on-a-chalkboard sort of thing to anyone. :-)

3Cs--I would tease you about the control freak thing, but given the ridiculously thought-out and lengthy comment I just typed to Jess, I'm pretty sure that would be a "pot calling the kettle black" sort of thing. :-)

-R- said...

Your numbering method is somewhat disturbing, but it is your blog, so if you want to put the parentheses the wrong way, that is your choice.

I mostly have bad birthday memories. Growing up, I mostly had slumber parties, and I don't remember celebrating at all in high school or in college.

Stefanie said...

R--My numbering method is disturbing?? Really, I had no idea I was so against-the-norm! Yikes. Fine; I will try to remember to use (A), (B), (C) format henceforth. I'd hate to have you all rally to revoke my grammar and spelling award... :-)

nancypearlwannabe said...

I've had a couple of good ones, but nothing like your awesome 30th! Once in middle school some friends tried to throw a surprise party for me but then told me about it so I wouldn't be mad that they all refused to hang out with me on a Saturday night. I would love a true surprise party!

Jess said...

Nobody put me up to that comment, but it sounds to me like your friend Carrie and I would get along splendidly. Also, if you don't like putting parentheses on both sides, couldn't you use just the close parenthesis like most people? A), B), etc.

abbersnail said...

Love the list! Happy Un-Birthday!

nabbalicious said...

My favorite definitely was my 21st. First, I didn't realize that people bought drinks for you on that day, so I didn't have to spend a cent getting completely bombed. Second, even though it wasn't so funny then, my friend Trish vomited in the limo on the way home and it's something we still laugh about. And third, I was so drunk that after she carried me to bed, I wished my friend Jane a happy birthday and she said, "No, honey. It's YOUR birthday." Fourth, I love that so many people showed up and celebrated with me. We took over the deck of the restaurant in Santa Cruz, and it was so great.

It was just a night of a lot of funny things and great memories. Ah, to be 21 again, huh?

Julia said...

Another excellent post! Your birthday memories are quite vivid.

I too am one of those people who believe birthdays are the one day of the year that's all about you. I usually have high hopes for my birthday, but am inevitably disappointed. Like the time I invited my friend and her boyfriend to go camping with me and my boyfriend for my birthday weekend and all they did was fight the entire time. My best birthday would have to be my most recent one, where I hosted an awesome cookout with a quarter barrel of Spotted Cow (for I am a true Wisconsin girl).

Stefanie said...

NPW--See? Turning 30 isn't so bad. :-)

Jess--Man. It bothers me that I had no idea I'm apparently so wrong on this. Is this what it's like for the people who constantly use "it's" instead of "its"?? For those of us who know the difference, it's like, "WHY CAN'T YOU GET THAT RIGHT??" but for them, they're probably all, "Huh?" Sigh.

Abbersnail--Happy un-birthday? Thanks! :-)

Nabb--I turned 21 in Scotland, and that was a good one as well. Oh, so many of them could have gone on the list!

Stefanie said...

Julia--Sorry; you slipped through while I was typing! :-) Yes, I've had plenty of birthdays (particularly in recent years) that are a bit disappointing just because my expectations for them are too high, but I think it helps just to focus on the fun ones.

One Smart Cookie said...

I LOVE birthdays. I love when they're mine, and I love planning them for someone else. There's no way I could pick a favorite birthday moment... but I'll be turning 25 (a quarter of a century!) on New Year's Eve, so hopefully this will be a good one!

Whiskeymarie said...

The one that stands out, mostly because I was such a pouty brat about it, was my 16th. A la "Sixteen Candles" it was sort of forgotten.
Not so great then, but funny now.
(and I did manage to guilt a totally 80's leather jacket out of it)

Paisley said...

My birthday always sucked. We moved the day after once, my sister got married ON my birthday and Jake Ryan never showed up...the list goes on and on.

BUT my 20th was awesome. I had a surprise party and it was magnificent.

Since then my husband has treated me to spontaneous trips, movie marathons, and a trip to As You Wish where one lady told me I was SO LUCKY that my husband did this stuff with me. Lucky, indeed.


L Sass said...

I was totally loving this post until you mentioned Baker's Square French Silk Pie. Then all I could think about was PIE PIE PIE. So really, I hope 30 was great and all, but PIE PIE PIE

VermontRockies said...

Yes! Someone besides me has fixated on the fact that this post is all about the PIE. Mmmmmmm. Pie.

Every year I get my hopes up around my birthday, and every year it kind of, well, sucks. No great traumas of which to speak, just sort of lame and forgettable run-of-the-mill birthdays. I've always wanted a surprise party but nobody's even attempted the feat. Doesn't help that my birthday is January stinking third, which always seemed to be the first day back at school after vacation, or the first day back at work. Also doesn't help that I was supposed to have been a NOVEMBER baby and my parents never really let me forget about that tax break I stole from them in my tardiness.

I need some comfort pie now. And maybe some vodka.

kerrianne said...

I really like this birthdays of yesteryear idea. I once received a yellow director's chair that my sister to this day insists was gifted to HER. And yet, I know it's mine. I think.

Stefanie said...

One Smart Cookie--You're only 24? My, you're a young'un! A New Year's Eve birthday will be great, I'm sure.

WM--I'm surprised how many people said they've had a 16 Candles kind of birthday. I'm glad my family's never completely forgotten my birthday nor scheduled a wedding that day.

Paisley--Your husband does sound like a keeper. Good for you. :-)

L Sass--Mmmm... Pie.

VermontStefanie--No way! That's the same day as my sister's birthday! She always had the same complaint (about it being the first day back to school). Also, lots of her birthday parties were snowed out, and she hated how many combination Christmas/birthday gifts she received. I suppose you relate to that as well. I'm glad St. Patrick's Day is the only holiday that borders my birthday.

Kerrianne--My little sister and I can't decide which one of us got this Cabbage Patch Kids toy as a gift long ago. She wanted to sell it on eBay a while ago, and we agreed we'd have to split the profits since neither of us remembers for sure whose it was.

One Smart Cookie said...

Yes, while I am technically young in age, I somehow seem to have found myself as a 40 year old stuck in a young person's body. I mean, I'm in bed by 10 most nights. Lame.

VermontStefanie - my parents deliberately had me on New Year's Eve so that they WOULD get the tax deduction!

VermontRockies said...

Oh yeah, don't get me started on that whole combined gift thing! "Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday. We love you!"

Yeah, like hell you love me. One card, one present...and it's not even twice as BIG a present to make up for its solitude. You wanna show your love for me, Grandma? QUIT SHORT-CHANGING THE KID! WRAP ANOTHER PRESENT AND DON'T YOU DARE USE THE SANTA PAPER ON IT.

That about sums up my childhood birthdays. Oh, and your sister may relate to this part as well: if it wasn't the first day back to school, it was probably a travel day spent either in the car or stuck in airports, returning home from wherever we'd gone to spend the holidays.

VermontRockies said...

Not that I'm bitter or anything...

I actually do have ONE really amazing birthday memory. I lived in the Soviet Union for a year back when that's what it was still called, and had my 21st birthday there. My friends took me out on a traditional Russian troika ride, straight out of Dr. Zhivago: tucked in under piles of furs, hot potatoes in your pockets and at your feet for warmth, jingle bells on the harness, and absolutely no other people or sounds in the forest as we rode. Rode for two hours to an old deserted fortress-type thing, where other friends were waiting with hot food and many cocktails involving vodka. And then a sleepy ride home with the troika and my favorite cute Russian boy.

THAT was a GOOD birthday. Not too shabby, considering it's my only really memorable one out of the past 38 years.

Stefanie said...

Ha. Yeah, you don't sound bitter at all. ;-) That birthday in the Soviet Union does sound awesome, though.

nro said...

I also had my 16th birthday party at a roller rink. What? That wasn't cool? Crap. I need to rethink my whole teenage experience. I might need therapy now. ;)