When I was 8, my mom bought me a whoopie cushion for my birthday. She bought me other things too, but the whoopie cushion was the definite draw. My best friend, Melissa, and I spent my entire party taking turns blowing it up and then sitting on it. We would then explode into uproarious laughter. Every.Time. There is actual video of this. I flit around the video screen, wearing a purple flowered dress with a lace collar, my hair in a French braid, my face obscured by gold rimmed glasses and buck teeth. I am sublimely happy.
When I was 11, it snowed on my birthday. Buckets actually. My birthday fell on a Friday that year, and my mom has promised me a slumber party. I was determined to have the party. My mom tried to tell me that none of my friends would be able to come because the roads were bad and they could not make it up the hill to our house. I sulked. Within an hour, my mom had negotiated her way out of our driveway, and we were driving down the road in a four wheel drive, picking up my friends. We had to drive up the huge mountain where my husband's parents live now, a huge mountain that is known far and wide for the amount of its snowfall, to get a friend. My mom did it. She secured us all in the back of her Four Runner and headed back down the mountain. We stayed up all night, at one point having a screaming contest, and at another utilizing every blanket/comforter/sleeping bag in the house to make a tent that encompassed my entire bedroom. My mother just may be a saint.
When I was 19, I celebrated my first birthday away from home. I was a freshman in college. Matt did every thing he could to make it awesome--we went out for lunch and dinner, he bought me books and a new journal, every thing was amazing. However, that night, we realized that he had forgotten the "cake" aspect of the day. I told him it didn't matter--I had had a dessert at dinner--but I could tell he felt bad about it, and to be honest, the whole thing made me miss home a bit. We were sitting in my dorm room, studying and talking about this when someone knocked on the door. I got up to answer it, and there stood three girls from my hall, holding an entire pecan pie with a candle in it. I laughed and thanked them. It turns out they had stolen the pie from the UC dining hall, as well as a fork which they then gave to me to eat the pie with. It was amazing. I felt blessed and amazed, and I didn't miss home a bit after that.
Last night, on the eve of my birthday, I made my own birthday cake. I was going to forego the cake this year, given that I am on Weight Watchers, but the kids were not about to let that happen, and I was not about to have shortening spackled monstrosity from the grocery store sitting on my table. So I found a recipe from Cooking Light (that is still like 9 points, natch) and last night I made it. I have to say before I go any further, the frosting is RIDICULOUSLY good. And this is from a girl who has made a ton of frosting in her day. Anyway, after making the cake batter, I looked around. Alice was sitting in the living room, watching Ni Hao Kai-Lan and not destroying something for the first time of the night, Sam was in my bedroom because he likes my sheets (never mind the fact that he has his own flannel sheets), watching something on Cartoon Network and doing a word find he brought home from school, and Gabby was in her room, doing God knows what, but probably something that has to do with using her Kindle to blind a rival girl in her class. It was quiet for the first time all night. So I pulled down the mixer bowl and sat in the floor and licked it up. I had paid special attention to making sure everything got in the pan to bake because I am bad about licking the bowl, and I didn't have the points to spare after a supper of yummy bean burritos and guacamole. But as I was licking, I thought, "It is a good thing I didn't leave much in here, because I could make myself sick doing this." And as soon as I thought it, literally the second it hit my mind, I thought, "Oh my God. That is something my mother would say." Or my grandmother. At least someone well over 40. And, yes, it sounds like something that if I said it to Gabby, she would roll her eyes at my oldness.
And then I looked up from my glinting silver prize, and I gazed around the kitchen, and I thought, "I really need to wash down these cabinets because there is a lot of stuff on them that I never see. The dishwasher, especially, could stand a scrub down."
And at that moment, I realized that I am old. That I am a grown up now. I sat there and stared at the cabinets and resisted the urge to grab my new sponges that Matt had bought the day before and go at them. The old me would have thought, "God, these things are dirty! Good thing nobody sits in the floor of the kitchen to see them!" But me, the responsible grown up, literally sat on her hands to keep from doing something so that I could enjoy the quietness of the house and not start a big project right before the kids' bedtime.
(And I have to admit, that typing this, birthday or not, makes me want to scrub them the second I get home).
I am one of those people who clings hard to her adolescence, who despite the three kids and the job and the closet full of high heels and business casual still sees herself as a young'n of sorts. And that's not going to change. Just the other night, my husband and I sat on our couch and talked dreamily about our "next adventure," what we might want to get into in five years, where we could go and see next. Our voices were hushed, so as not to wake the sleeping 16 month old in the next room, but had all the dreamy quality that we had when we were in high school and discussed the great expanse of life before us. But sitting there, in that kitchen floor, clutching my bowl of reduced-fat cake batter, I felt grown up. And it wasn't all together a bad feeling.
I am 28 now--have been officially for 4 minutes, as I was born at 12:40 on January 18, 1983. I don't know what my 28th year holds for me, nor do I know what the rest of this life holds for me. I don't know where I will live, what I will end up doing, how many degrees I will have. All I know is that I am starting to feel comfortable in my own skin, and if that is what being grown-up means, I welcome it. I see myself today and I am happy with what I have accomplished and what is still out there. And if there is a better birthday wish than that, I don't know it.
*Although, I should note that it is super nice that my coworkers just took me out for a lovely lunch at my favorite lunch spot (strawberry poppy seed salad FTW!) and I came back to a very spring-y bouquet of flowers from my mom. That was pretty rad.