Thursday sort of caught me by surprise this week! Here's a birthday trip down Memory Lane.
My birthday is September 1st. My maternal great-grandmother's birthday was August 31st. My cousin Scott's birthday is September 2nd and he is my age.
What I'm telling you, here, is that I never got to have a birthday celebration just for me until I was into my early teens.
When Great-Grandma was still alive, we would always have a big reunion for her birthday. Great Grandma lived less than an hour away from us, but it was like visiting a foreign world. We were small-town; she was rural. I loved playing there when I was very young. Their grounds were endless - you could just run and run and run. When I got a little older the charm sort of wore off. Most of my mother's cousins lived right around Great-Grandma. There was a sort of complex, actually, with her old farmhouse at it's hub. They were a big extended family. We were visitors there.
When they would bring out her cake with all of it's candles - 91, 92, 93 - in truth, we didn't know EXACTLY how old Great-Grandma was when she passed away, because she had attempted to erase her date of birth from her birth certificate. She was not a vain woman, by any stretch, so I'm not exactly sure what prompted this, but there it was. We knew she was well into her nineties. You'd think that at SOME point age would become a source of pride - a badge of honor - but not Great-Grandma. She never looked a day older than 88.
In any case, they'd bring out the cake and Mom would sort of push me to the front of the throng of cousins and second cousins and cousins twice removed and tell me to help Great-Grandma blow out her candles since it was my birthday, too.
This would usually result in her saying something like, "Now who's this one?"
"That's Nancy's girl, Grandma."
"Oh. Nancy's girl, y'say?"
"Yes, Grandma. It's her birthday, too."
"Now what do they call her, Nancy's girl?"
"They call her Tame-y, Grandma."
Less than an hour away, but there was a whole different dialect. Believe me. Tame-y was not a nickname anyone would've come up with for me. I had cousins (all sorts of twices and removeds) out there who I called Brine and Dibbie all through my childhood and teens. When I received an invitation to Brian's wedding, I had to think for a moment. I don't know any Brian - oh! - BRINE!!! I guess I don't have to tell you there isn't a birth certificate in my family that reads 'Dibbie', either.
"Tame-y. Well she's just fine."
Just fine was about as much praise as Great-Grandma was gonna dole out. That was pretty high praise, actually.
"Tame-y, you go get you one of those pink lozenges, if you want one."
"No thank you"
"They're right over there, honey - g'won - go."
The same conversation or some reasonable facsimile thereof would occur the following year. And the year after that. I guess when you're at some indetermined place in your nineties and have 'leventy 'leven great-grandchildren it's hard to remember. When you're under ten it's considerably easier.
Then we'd go home and celebrate with my paternal relatives. You know, the side of the family with Scott. At least I KNEW everyone at this party. And they all knew me. This one was all aunts and uncles and first cousins. Most of us lived within a 5-mile radius of my dad's homestead. My dad had only ventured two blocks away. This was OUR complex.
Mom would bake cakes using ideas from her women's magazines. In the early sixties it was a very popular and clever idea to make several large cakes and then cut them into shapes and put those shapes together like puzzles to resemble things and then frost the new shape. Mom loved making those things, because people would say, "Oh, Nancy, you're so clever." Who doesn't like being told they're clever? They always said, "Happy Birthday Tammy and Scott". My name was always first, because I was the elder by twenty-four hours, and because it's always ladies first, and because my mom made the cakes.
I was very satisfied with this until I started going to school and being invited to birthday parties. Whoa. Hold up, here. People get to have parties just for themselves? They don't have to share them with nonagenarians or (gasp) boys? Well this was a fine little howdy-do. Just fine, as my great-grandma would've said.
I started lobbying for my own party in kindergarten, but didn't get one until Jr. High. I was so excited. I mean, just over the top excited. The anticipation was as delicious as the cake my mom would've made for me if I'd wanted a cake - which I DIDN'T, because cakes are for babies (How's THAT for misguided logic?) and I wanted a cool party - would have been.
When the day of the party arrived, I was too nervous and excited to eat.
I just picked at that bowl of plums my dad had left out on the counter.
As my guests started to arrive, I greeted them with the sort of glee reserved for pubescent girls unaccustomed to seeing each other in a non-school setting on a non-school day.
There was much squealing and hugging and jumping up and down.
And they brought PREsents!
I'd always gotten presents from my mom and dad, but the parties I shared with Great-Grandma and Scott were always gift-free.
Guess what excitement plus presents plus a lot of plums equals?
Did you guess?
Do you remember Jr. High math?
Excitement plus presents plus lots of plums equals a birthday girl on the hopper (as Great-Grandma would've said) while her friends party on her brand new deck.
Well that's just fine.