Birthdays are rarely an extravagant affair in our household. In fact, the celebration depends on the person. Everyone chooses to sleep in if the day is on the weekend. (This does not make any sense to me. I wake up early, thus extending the hours spent on the special day.) My family members dismiss present-giving and surprises and forbid me to bake on the day. Perhaps I have stirred batter for too long once and baked a cake tougher than a football. Maybe I have substituted confectioner’s sugar for regular granulated sugar and ended up with crunchy frosting, thinking the two only differed in name. Despite the best of intentions, every holiday I am limited to menial tasks such as setting the table and washing dishes.
When we were little, we threw costume parties, tea parties, parties in the park, slumber parties, and any other type of party you can imagine. I used to send out hand-written invitations to classmates, sports teammates, people who invited me to their birthday parties (whom I was thus obligated to invite to mine), and lastly my actual friends. My mom would direct the activities which followed this order: wait for and greet guests, observe them destroy board games, seat guests with difficulty and supervise craft-making, shoo them outside where they will hopefully burn off some of their energy, set up a movie and enjoy the brief respite, serve dinner, and finally distribute goodie bags and say goodbye, vastly relieved that birthdays were annual and not monthly events. Afterwards she would dig marbles, Monopoly cash, and decorative plastic jewels from under sofas and bookshelves.
My birthday, February 16th, is the most convenient holiday for my friends and family for several reasons. It is during the school year and oddly enough, just about always on a weekday. As a result, while those lucky summer birthdays relax all day, on February 16th I sit in a classroom or in front of a computer for nearly the whole day. This spares my mother from throwing a party on my actual birthday in the midst of the chaotic school year. Two years ago, my two friends and I celebrated my birthday in November, reaching a new record of nine months late. My brother would joke, “Happy 14th, 15th, and 16th birthday!”
Last year, my father visited the grocery store and purchased a beautiful bouquet of flowers. I was initially delighted with them until I saw the red-white pattern of the wrapping: “XOXOXO.” I glanced at the receipt and confirmed my suspicion: my birthday blossoms were on-sale Valentine’s Day flowers. Additionally, friends unaware of my birthday distributed Valentines that doubled as presents. I would return from classes laden with store-bought Valentine cards, one or two lollipops, and hundreds of cheap chalky candy hearts. Everything except the lollipops tumbled into the trash bin.
Despite struggling to spell February when I was little and even now rarely without a typo, I enjoy having a birthday in the second month of the year. I would argue to my brother that it is no coincidence that Washington and Lincoln share my birthday month. The logic is simple: God ordained that all great people must be born in February, including me. Maybe someday my face will be on coin or a bill! Furthermore, I don’t mind sharing my sweet sixteenth birthday with the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Happy Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, and my 15th and 16th birthday!
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