For example …
For her 50th birthday dinner, my mother, the diva, requested that my father to take her to Long John Silver’s for chicken planks and french fries. For her 77th birthday, my Oma took one look at the balloons I had hung up for her and said, “Vell, dees is the first time I’ve had balloons on my birthday.”
“The FIRST time?” I asked.
“Ve didn’t have balloons in Germany after the var.”
This was delivered with such a mix of melancholy and hardness that I felt at once glad and guilty for having hung them.
My Nana has bemoaned her birthday for years. Earlier this year, when I mailed her a container of homemade brownies, she told me to save myself the effort because she’s “an old crow” and the brownies were “all mush” by the time they arrived.
My sister PK has such severe birthday anxiety that as a child she refused to acknowledge the date. However, like any young ingrate she still liked receiving presents, so to ensure she’d still be gifted but not celebrated she invented a new birthday; an unbirthday for those of you who are into Alice in Wonderland. The date? May 11, the same day as my parent’s wedding anniversary. This was obviously a strategic move so my mother would be less apt to forget it. It worked. At 28 she still gets presents on this day.
Having said this, I do not come from a family of party poopers. Under different circumstances these people are SUPER fun and celebratory. It’s birthdays that bring out the Eeyore in them. Unlike me, this apathy stems less from a fear of mortality and more from a fear of ATTENTION.
My husband on the other hand is exactly the opposite. He’s a birthday whore.
He lives for December 8. Truthfully, he lives for the WEEK of December 8. For Joe it isn’t so much a birth DAY as a birth WEEK. He counts down to it like a child counts down to Christmas. (For the record, he counts down to Christmas too because I think he views Christmas as an extension of his birthday.)
December is Joe’s birth MONTH and he’d lay claim to all 31 days if Jesus’ big day didn’t get in the way.
Sometimes I enjoy his birthday whoriness. When you come from a family of limelight dodgers, it’s refreshing to see a grown-ass man get bitchy when you break tradition and unknowingly cut the first slice of his birthday cake. (“What’s wrong with you? It’s my birthday. I’m supposed to make the first cut.”)
Joe doesn’t open a bag of LJS chicken planks and call it a day. In the fall he types out a long list of things he’d like for his birthday and emails it to me in a Word doc.
This year he failed to send the September wish list. Probably because he’s been so busy supporting our family, being a superb dad to Hank and a patient, understanding and bighearted husband to his sometimes high-strung, sometimes neurotic, sometimes surly wife.
So on a weekend that kicked off Dec. 6 with my dear friend Gabriel’s wedding in Safety Harbor, Fla., I planned a two-day celebration that involved a surprise hotel stay at the Safety Harbor Resort & Spa, a surprise boat ride from the hotel to Hula Bay Club and a surprise dinner attended by a rotating cast of family and friends.
Here’s a little look at how it went down:
→ First there was a wedding.
→ At which we got happy and schnockered – Joe on vodka tonic, me on BEER.
→ After which I had a pretty awful hangover and could not function without dark sunglasses.
→ So I walked through adorable downtown Safety Harbor in search of a store that sells Advil.
→ After that I felt much better and pranced merrily back to our room, where I whispered in the ear of sleeping Joe, “Keep sleeping. I got us a second night.” Which meant I was free to mosey around Safety Harbor taking photos of Spanish oak trees.
→ For lunch we ate lunch at The Sandwich on Main and took this dumb photo in front of passing cars and pedestrians.
→ My favorite part of Project Spoil Spouse came at 4 p.m. when our friends – a fun-loving husband and wife duo from St. Pete – arrived outside our hotel (surprise No. 2) and while walking along the water, I randomly hopped on a boat with Captain Jared Simonetti (surprise No 3). Our friends followed suit. Joe figured out pretty quickly what was happening. “Uh, you chartered a boat?”
→ Simonetti, a Florida native, gave us a gorgeous two-hour ride around Tampa Bay on his new 23 Dorado, on which we drank
Cristal Barefoot Bubbly and behaved like rappers well-mannered parents happy to be away from their children.
→ After which we were dropped off for dinner at Hula Bay Club, where Joe was met with birthday greetings from family and friends at a long table befit for The Last Supper, if the Last Supper were held at a beach bar in Tampa (surprise No. 4).
→ As an impulsive procrastinator I’m accustomed to flying by the seat of my mom pants, so you can imagine how pleased I was to see the night unfold according to plan. The layered surprises made me feel like I was on a one-on-one date with The Bachelor, until we bummed a ride back to our hotel in a friend’s station wagon and immediately passed out on the bed.
Romance when you’re married and have a kid sometimes takes a back seat to sleep.