No one has been able to crack the mystery of why I tear up when anyone sings Happy Birthday.
When I was little, I would cry every time the candles were lit, the lights dimmed and the song sung. It made no difference whether it was my birthday or someone else's. And I have no idea whether they were tears of fright or sadness.
Tomorrow I'm going to scan in one of the pictures my family has taken of me crying to the song. Judging by the candles on the cake, it was my sister's 10th birthday, which would make me 3.
My brother (the one who wants to dig up his dead dogs now) is pointing at me with a smirk on his face. My sister is smiling so hard her eyes are closed. I am holding my head in my hands, mouth awail, nestling into my brother, who I probably thought would give me comfort. (How naive!)
This penchant is completely at odds with my feelings about birthdays. I LOVE my birthday. Until our most recent union contract, we were able to take our birthdays off from work, and get paid for it! Now that's a cool perk.
It's not just my birthday -- if I find anyone at work is having a birthday, all day I'll be saying things like, "Guess who's having a birthdaaaaaaay?" in a truly annoying fashion.
Last year, when I was leaving work the day before my birthday, I said to my boss, "Now, tomorrow is my birthday, so don't forget to wish me happy birthday!" "I'll forget," he said. And he did.
This year, however, my attitude has inexplicably changed. Well, maybe not inexplicably -- I'll be turning 39, for one thing. And even though I've read that "60 is the new 40," which would have me turning 19, I'm bummed about it.
When TV talk show host Mike Douglas died recently (if you're saying to yourself right now, "I didn't know Michael Douglas died!" you're probably too young to be reading this blog), the question came up at our news meeting of how important a story it was. Everyone (and most of these folks are older than I) began shaking their heads dismissively. I couldn't help myself. "Oh, man!" I burst out. "I grew up with Mike Douglas! Him, Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore ..."
For the rest of the day, my colleagues kept calling me old (like I said, most of them are older than I, so I think they were enjoying a little bit of Schadenfreude at the thought of me hurtling toward my 40s.)
The other factor that I'm sure is at play is the estrangement of two brothers and a sister following my father's death.
The one in the picture below is not among them. This is a photo of us on my 6th birthday. (Don't you love the mumu? My Aunt Lib, the traveler in the family, had brought one back from Hawaii for each of us.) I'm sure this picture was staged after I had opened the gift, and I am displaying a typically goofy look. And D. is assuming the role she wouldn't be able to shake for the rest of her life: being my tireless, enthusiastic provider -- of gifts, of money, advice, support, love, etc. That was a good birthday -- just days before I would start first grade. It's all been downhill from there. (I'm kidding! I'm not that pathetic.)
P.S. Regardez les balons, preparing to pounce on my unsuspecting mumu-clad, bebraided, uneven-banged 6-year-old goofy self.