Celebrating birthdays is pretty important to me, given my childhood ones weren’t the best. Now, with a family of my own, I relish making birthdays special.
Munching on ham and cheese toddler left-overs at the park, I was asked by a mommy friend recently what I was planning for TJ’s fourth birthday.
Huh? TJ’s b-i-r-t-h-d-a-y? It’s in November. Summer’s not hardly over. Am I thinking about an event three months away?
Since becoming a mom, the topic of birthdays, how to celebrate them and who’s having one is like reading the daily news.
Birthdays are interesting in that they are both a personal and communal human experience. Yet, how we all like to celebrate birthdays also vary because of family cultures.
In our family, Hubby and I have a tradition, that started back when we were dating. We have a week long celebration of the birthday boy/girl, starting with the weekend.
The VIP gets to choose the weekend activity and video of the week. Meals that week are chosen from the birthday person’s fave picks. On the day of, the guest of honor gets the spotlight, recounting highlights from the past year and what to look forward in the new year.
Then, it’s cake time! Presents and cards get fussed over, with pictures snapping every minute.
Boiled Egg Birthdays
What a big contrast for someone like me, who grew up with a mommy, who would recite her long tale of woe, whenever she got me a birthday cake.
“When I was a little girl, all I got was a boiled egg. And that was if I was lucky to even get anything!” Ah-Ma would lament of her days back in China.
All I wanted was to have some balloons and streamers, with a pinata and party favors to give out. Just like my friends at school. This was only to be a pipe dream, until I was sixteen years old.
And guess what? I threw it myself, with the money I made from my summer job. Happy Birthday to me!
I actually got close to having Ah-Ma throw me a birthday party when I was twelve years old. I told her twelve was really, really important. PLEASE! I begged her day and night. Day after day. Just three or four friends.
Money was tight in our single parent household, so mom was devious. She laid out the terms of the deal.
“Okay, you can have a small, little birthday party, if you don’t get any detention after school from now until the day of your party.” I swore allegiance to the contract with all the might an eleven year old girl could muster. It was two weeks before my birthday.
Now, before you think, “Girl, you’ve got it made. That’s a piece of cake!”, I’ll let you in on some 411.
I had graced the detention halls after school since I could remember. On every report card from K-6, I never failed to bring home bad marks for talking in class. My teachers would even move my desk away from the rest of the class and put me in the corner. That was peanuts for this talker. Detention, here I come!
I wanted this birthday party so bad, I actually made it detention-free for nine days straight. I was so psyched about having my first birthday party that I wrote a note to tell my best friend how excited I was to finally have one.
Until I got busted for passing the note to her in class.
To this day, I have the pain of my canceled twelfth birthday party seared into my heart and soul. It was the cruelest act anyone could inflict on a little girl named Bonnie. I think I’m allowed my pity party on this one, don’t you think?
This year, as I drive home with a bazillion helium balloons blocking my rear view mirror, I will do so with joy bursting in my heart, with a birthday song humming in my car. I will ice the cake that I would’ve baked for TJ and cover it with a thousand sprinkles.
And as I serve his little friends some cake and ice cream, I’ll tell TJ, “Happy Birthday, Sweetie! ..You know when I was a little girl, all I got for my birthday …”
Naw. Just kidding. I’m just gonna sing Happy Birthday and help him blow out the candles.
“May your father and mother be glad; may she who gave you birth rejoice!” Proverbs 23:25
What are your childhood birthday memories?
What birthday traditions do you enjoy now with your family and friends?
Do you want to throw me a birthday party… sounds like you really know what you’re doing!
Awesome! This was like reading my own history. I never once had a birthday party growing up (unless you count the surprise cake I got from a friend when I was 16 because he thought it was just plain wrong that my family didn’t celebrate my important day). I, too, spent a lot of time in trouble. I actually remember making it a goal to end the day with all three marks behind my name in 4th grade so I ‘had’ to go sit in the office. I guess that is the perils of being ADHD :o)
Like you, I make a big deal of birthdays with my kids, and as a family we meet and celebrate everyone’s birthdays. I think it’s important to make sure they all know how happy we are that they were born!
Thanks for sharing this!
Growing up in Connecticut, we lived out in the boonies (our block was 1 mile to travel around!) Birthdays were always just family affairs…and pretty low key (we were financially challenged as a family of 6). I grew up feeling loved, nonetheless. When our children came along, Don and I would put out a red-birthday-cake- with-candles placemat. It was there at breakfast and lasted all day on the table. I just put it out for Don’s 63rd birthday last month!
I always limited invitations to the number in a package… I knew my limitations with more than 8 guests! Of course we mailed those invites and never distributed them at school.
What a great way to celebrate! Things were very tight in my home growing up as well. A big deal on my birthday was for my mom to make Rice Krispies Treats for me and maybe have a few friends over to help eat them.
They did the best they could and luckily there were no stories of getting a boiled egg 😉
Oh Bonnie! Even though my mother would absolutely scoff at the notion that Japanese people are anything like “those other Asians”, you and I sound very much alike!
You forgot about the part where your mom had to walk barefoot in the snow (uphill – both ways) to get her boiled egg…
A very happy birthday month to TJ!
@Peter: I would! I’m guilty for trying to take over planning other’s bdays 😉
@makeadiff21: Ah ha! I knew something was linking us together. We’ll sit in the corner together!
@that Carol!: Ooo, can I steal that idea? I love the bday placemats. Good tip on mailing those invites too. I don’t think I can handle more either.
@Bridget: Rice Krispies treats. Yum. That’s one of the first things I made for TJ when he could chew! They’re the best. What a wonderful mommy!
@katdish: Yowzers! We are very alike! Probably could chalk up stories growing up scrambled (white & yellow all mixed together).
awww, Bonnie, if I had known, I would have thrown you a bday party!!
I think it’s safe to say that we’re all going to get together one day and throw you one mama of a birthday part, just like you deserve.
@foreveryoung: Wow. That is so sweet to say. I don’t doubt I would’ve been the envy of all my friends!
@Billy: Aw, shucks. Now that, I didn’t expect. Thanks, Billy.
I love making birthdays special too. We have a red plate that we bring out for the “birthday person” every birthday. It’s a lot of fun. Your cake is darling, by the way. 🙂
@Genny: Ah. There is that birthday plate again. Gotta find me one. That cake was the first cake I ever baked TJ. You can tell from my squiggly “H”, things started a bit shaky. But, I committed. 😉 Thanks, Genny!
I just found your blog today and am enjoying your posts. My most famous birthday memory is that of my 16th. We had moved to a new state that year, and in the Fall I started 10th grade knowing only one other living soul at the High School I attended. That was my older brother. And he would barely look at me if we passed in the hall…
As I am known to talk a bit too, I made friends right away and felt confident inviting a dozen or so to my Sweet 16 party on Friday night. That brother of mine helped me move my stereo downstairs for music, Mom made a cake and I spent 3 anxious hours ‘doing my hair’ . . it was 1974 after all and we all ‘did our hair’ then.
Time for the party came and went. Went terribly wrong somehow. NOBODY showed up. Not one living soul. No one called to say they couldn’t make it. I couldn’t understand how all of those people could have possibly forgotten it was my most special birthday.
That night after everything was put away, I went to my bedroom alone for a pity party instead of the birthday party I’d envisioned. A knock at my door revealed my dear Daddy home from his business trip. He’d gotten the news downstairs from my Momma about my dreadful experience. Sixteen is tough for that kind of rejection.
Daddy would have a big hug for me and then he invited me out for pizza. He and I jumped in the car and we went together to a restaurant across town with the music blasting from my 1973 Gremlin. His love was lavished on me and I felt like to most precious 16 year old there ever was. He made everything all right. And in his company that night I witnessd a Father’s love for his child when she was hurt beyond words.
These many years later, I still love that man like crazy. His love for me is one thing that made it possible for me to accept the Love of My Heavenly Father so completly. I am ever grateful to Him for my sweet Daddy and even that sweet Birthday.
@Kathleen: Wonderful to have you here at FaithBarista! I finished reading your story with a happy sigh of relief. You are blessed to have such a loving daddy. Thanks for sharing a precious memory being the apple of your daddy’s eye.
[…] home, though, my Chinese Ah-Ma never really “did” Christmas. I don’t remember having a Christmas tree until […]