It’s been a pretty normal week for me. Low side of normal, maybe, one of those weeks where I had plans to do stuff but they fell through so I’ve made my own dinner every night and even watched a little TV with my housemates. Treasa and I discussed birthday party plans yesterday evening, when all three of us were squeezed up on the couch in front of their impossibly huge TV while we searched in vain for some sort of Law And Order/ CSI show to halfway watch. I have been reliably informed that some variant of Law And Order or CSI is on TV twenty-four hours a day but we were unlucky nonetheless. I was telling them that a friend of ours…who’d responded Yes to my birthday evite within five minutes of my sending it out…sent me a very nice email inviting me to…a party…on Sunday…which is when my, uh, own party is. Anyone else I would think that was sort of mean, but with this friend I know it’s just because he’s crazy. (I responded I wouldn’t be able to make it, seeing as I will have thirty people eating waffles and bacon at my house that day).
John has told me that I can’t start freaking about my going-away party (in July! You’re invited!) until this party right here is actually over with, so I’m mostly confining myself to worrying about waffle batter and whether or not my new octopus shirt will arrive on time. I’ve received some nice cards in the last couple of days, which I’ve opened, and some nice packages too, which I haven’t. Today one of my coworkers asked if any kids are going to be there.
Chiara: I don’t know. Maybe. Why?
Coworker: Because we’re getting you a present that’s…unsuitable for kids.
Coworker: So there need to not be any kids there.
Chiara: Not be any…it’s a strap-on, isn’t it?
Coworker: Maybe the kids could just go in another room.
Coworker: It’s probably fine if there are babies there because they won’t be able to remember anything.
Chiara: Or is it maybe just a stripper? Or another seatbelt bag? It’s a stripper, right? It’s totally a stripper. Male or female? But a stripper, right? You guys? Right? A stripper?
Coworker: The kids can just go in another room. If there are any kids. It will be fine.
Chiara: JUST TELL ME IF IT’S A STRIPPER.
You know what I just thought of, telling you about my horrible mean sneaky coworkers? This other birthday party I had when I turned ten. Birthdays were a really big deal among my friends when I was a kid. We always went to the Dade County Youth Fair or had big slumber parties or something and I remember giving and receiving really nice gifts and having a lot of anticipation about the parties and planning them for weeks and so on and so forth. Not much has changed for me, actually.
Anyway, I was turning ten and having this party and we were going to make jewelry and it was all very exciting and I’d stressed for weeks about it and I think I had the idea that it would be a costume party but that I would assign the costumes that everyone would wear. I think the invitation was cut up to be a jigsaw puzzle and you had to put it together to find out what you were supposed to be and I remember that I specifically wanted Marah to come dressed as a rapper…remember this is 1985 so she basically would have had to come as RUN DMC…and she was not pleased. At this time in her life Marah had waist-length blond hair and wore a lot of pink, hence the hilarity. I remember this being kind of an issue, actually, that I’d decreed she had to come to my house as a rapper when she didn’t want to (because she wore so much pink?) and everyone thought I was so mean and awful, which I kind of was. You’d think I’d remember if she actually did dress up but the ensuing horror of the party has wiped such details from my mind.
See, what they did was show up at my house (in costume? I totally can’t remember) and make jewelry and eat cake like they were supposed to, like good little mid-eighties ten-year olds. I don’t think this was the year Mom stayed up all night making me a Print Shop birthday banner on our daisy-wheel printer but I’m sure she was there and I’m sure she’d ordered Sir Pizza as required by law and I’m sure my poor sister was seething about it not being her birthday, the way you do when you’re a kid and it’s so difficult that it’s not your birthday every day and you don’t like to be reminded of it, especially when it’s your smarty-pants older sister who always has to have everything her way, especially when it’s time to open presents.
Can I just say how glad I am that I don’t do that anymore, open birthday gifts in front of everyone with a lot of pomp and circumstance? I never see how people stand it during their wedding or baby showers. Everyone’s all in a circle and you have to pass everything around and what if you give a suck present, or what if someone gives a really great present that makes yours look sucky even if it isn’t sucky? You know? Or, what if you’re ten years old and it’s time to open your birthday presents and you’re so excited because presents are so great and all your friends are there with you and you’re full up with Sir Pizza and they all gather round and you rip off the first wrapper and it’s!
A bag of gummi worms! Huh?
A eraser in the shape of a flower. A ballpoint pen. A goomie bracelet. A fruit roll-up. It was like my friends had gone through their Rainbow Brite backpacks and wrapped up whatever was in the bottom. We were more used to giving stuff along the Beach Party Barbie and Ranger Rick subscription lines and I just didn’t get it, I kept tearing off the wrappers and my friends kept wearing the normal “Do you like it?” expressions and my mom raised her eyebrows at me when I looked up at her, sort of shocked, and I had to go “Oh! I’ve been really needing to…erase stuff!” for each thing and they’d all go “Wow, those paperclips are soooooo pretty,” the way you’re supposed to and I did not get it. I think my mom had to actually take me into the other room and give me a pretty stern talking-to about being a gracious hostess and being thankful for whatever gifts I was so lucky as to receive and so I went back out there, chin all a-quiver, and made my jewelry and ate my Sir Pizza and admired my troll doll pencil topper thing. I just didn’t understand
It was slumber party as well as a jewelry-making party, and we had one friend Annette who was never allowed to sleep over and always had to go home. We all loved this friend very much and were always sad when her mom’d come and get her because obviously the slumber party part of the party is really where it’s at and we wanted her to stay for the whole thing. Her mom came to the door and I dutifully thanked her for the pack of Mead wide-ruled she’d given me (“Oh, this will be…so great…for when I need to…write things!”) and we opened the door and her mom! Was holding a bag! FULL OF MY REAL PRESENTS!
They were good, those little girls. They didn’t crack, not one of them, and just sat back and watched me freak out. They got back at me for insisting they come to my house dressed as Jam Master Jay but they still ponied up and got me the latest Sweet Valley Highs anyway. Certain Key Girls still like to remind me of the stunned insincerity with which I thanked them doggedly for the packet of Nerds wrapped nicely with a curly ribbon, and to tell the truth I have always lived in fear, since then, of a repeat of that party. I mean, seriously, what was I supposed to do? At least if something similar happens for this birthday (I bet you anything it’s a stripper) I’ll have had twenty-one years to recover.