Sunday, April 19, 2009

Birthday Viv

Yesterday, it was my birthday.
I hung one more year on the line.
I should be depressed, my life's a mess.
But I'm having a good time
-Paul Simon, Have a Good Time

Saturday was my birthday.

When I was a kid, we always made a big thing about birthdays. I still do that for our kids, and for Dan, though in his family they are quite low-key about it all. I like lighting the candles on the birthday cake, and singing, and then piling a huge slab on the "It's My Special Day" birthday plate before they open their presents. We have pool parties for the kids, or sleepovers, whichever they want. That's their DAY, you know?

But for my birthday this year I kept my own expectations low.

Here's why: last year was really disappointing.

Worst. Birthday. Ever.

First, the Engineer was out of town with the Owl for a Robotics Competition in Atlanta, so it was just me and the Rhino on the actual day. And then, when they both came home, we were sick with sore throats and coughs the Rhino had picked up at school, and they were just exhausted, so I said, hey, no big deal, we'll do it tomorrow.

So we had the cake the next day, and you know what presents I got to open up?

None. Not a one.

My parents, of course, had taken care of me (they always do, they're wonderful that way), but I didn't get their presents until later, when I visited them in Tampa.

And the Rhino had been with me, so he couldn't really shop for Mom's birthday. And the Owl had been with the Engineer, and the Engineer...didn't get me a thing.

I had asked for just one thing. Sappy as it sounded, I just wanted a kitten for my birthday.

Our own little kitten, Leo, who I had fought fiercely for because the Engineer didn't want a cat at all, had passed away when he was only 5 months old from FIP.

In the end, the Engineer, despite his hard crusty "I am not a cat person" persona, had actually spoonfed Leo when he was dying. I still get choked up thinking about that.

So, Leo was gone, and I was lonely. The boys are gone at school all day and the Engineer was travelling, gone every other week on business, and I had a real Empty Nest feeling, home all alone each day.

The , always logical, thought we should wait for a cat until after the summer, as we were going to Wyoming for a Family Reunion and would need a cat sitter.

I could see where he was coming from, but I really didn't want anything other than a cat for my birthday.

So...he didn't get me anything at all.

As I said, that birthday sucked.

A few weeks later, I picked out TWO kittens at the shelter, the Cheezits, Colby and Cheddar.
(It really wasn't as intentionally spiteful as that sounds; I had looked all over for weeks before I found them, and they were just what we were looking for. Also, they were together at the shelter and I didn't want to separate them.)

So. After that birthday, I kept my expectations low this year.

And I did have a good time. I let them all know that what I wanted to do was to see a movie as a family, and have a meal out, so everyone knew what I expected going in.

We have a really bad habit of bickering over what movie to see (the Owl is an introvert like his Mom and usually has to be cajoled into going anywhere), and then running out the door at the very last minute. And I was really clear that I wanted to have some time to spare this time, not arrive just as the movie was starting.

So, they looked up the time, and told me the movie was at 10:40 (remember that, 10:40), and we agreed to leave after I opened my presents.

Yes! I got presents! The boys each gave me a DVD I'd wanted (I really do like movies).

And The Engineer even bought me a Time Capsule, which is like a Mac router with a backup hard drive built in, and it's fantastic. True, I don't have Leopard (the latest operating system) on my Mac, so I can't use Time Machine (love that name!) to back up my files automatically, but I do have all this space for backing my hard drive up, and the Time Capsule lets all the PCs and my Mac work together seamlessly. I can get a fantastic connection to the internet from anywhere in the house (before, if I was in the bedroom, The Engineer would laugh at me as I held the laptop under the bed or over my head, trying to connect).

So, I had a great time, opening my presents and reading the funny, hand-made cards the kids gave me and the very touching card from the Engineer, and we left the house at 10:15, a little later than we'd planned because we were all talking about the cool presents, but still twenty-five minutes to get to the movie, plenty of time.

So, we get to the theater at 10:30, and The Engineer, who usually walks so fast we all have to run to keep up with him, is taking his time and for once is the last one out of the car. Now it's 10:34 as we step up to the cashier--still pretty last minute for a 10:40 showing, but doable, as there wasn't a crowd--only to find that the movie had started at 10:20!

They'd remembered the times wrong.

So, the previews were just ending, and we rushed in, last minute as usual. We did see the beginning of the film, though, so it all turned out all right.

They let me pick where to go for lunch, and it was a beautiful day, so we went and just had some pizza on the boardwalk at the beach.

Now, there were some folks visiting from England that are old acquaintances of the Engineer's family, and we knew they were visiting, but it was on my birthday so although the Engineer had told me earlier in the week, we'd all said we probably wouldn't get together or anything. They're nice folks, but I really don't know them at all, and they were coming to Tampa, and we were staying home on the East Coast, since we'd just driven all the way to TN and back for Spring Break the weekend before.

But then the nice English folks came over to the East Coast to visit our in-laws, and of course they came over on my birthday. And when the Engineer talked to his brother, being the friendly sort, he suggested they all might want to come over for a swim in the pool.

And I felt awful, because I wanted them to be able to do that, as I just know they must never get a chance to swim over there in England, with the weather and all, but the house was a mess and I just wanted to have a nice birthday at home with my family, so I was torn.

Since the Engineer had already floated the idea to his brother, I felt that if I said, "Well, you know, this isn't a good time. I kinda just wanted to spend my birthday at home with our family," then I would have come across as being the bitchy, anti-social one.

Which I think the Engineer's family already think I am. I really am (believe it or not) pretty introverted and shy IRL, and although I love to go out to a movie or dinner, crowds overwhelm me. I'd just as soon stay at home with a good book then go over to BIL's, where it seems like there are always tons of people. They always have people staying with them, SIL's relatives are all there, they have all these neighbors that hang out together (which is nice, but I don't know them), just lots and lots of people, all the time.

Plus, the BIL always comes up with plans last minute (or at least The Engineer tells me about them last minute..hmm), and as you know, I don't like everything being last minute. It comes from being so disorganized myself, I guess. I need more notice.

So a lot of times I just opt out, and The Engineer goes over to BIL's house himself.

And as I said, the house was a mess, because we'd only been home from our Spring Break vacation in TN for a week, and we'd been sharing one car because mine was in the shop, and I was trying to catch up on so much, and the Engineer was so busy at work, that we'd kinda just let everything go to hell (which, honestly, is my usual method of housekeeping anyway: let things slide and then hustle like mad to get the place presentable before people are coming over).

So the Engineer did something really great, and he cleaned the bathrooms and mopped the floors and just generally made the place presentable. Which was awesome.

And so disaster was averted, and the nice English folks came over. And after greeting them and hugging and all that, I subtly disappeared with the kids, and Dan and BIL and the English folks all hung out in the pool, so I think that worked out all right.

Except, of course, we had no plan at all for dinner. I'd figured we would eat dinner out for my birthday, but we'd already had pizza on the beach for lunch, and I guess the last-minute guys didn't think any further than that.

So after they all left, we just had a Birthday supper of: cheese and crackers.

But, what the hell, there was birthday cake for dessert. And as we were all sitting there, eating our cake, they even remembered to sing to me!

So, much better than last year's birthday.

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