She Loves Me

Today is my birthday. I suppose I'll get a little bit of recognition for it but I really do like to keep things simple. Coming up, it was never a tradition in our family to celebrate birthdays with too much enthusiasm. Though I don't think the lack of fanfare was because of a lack of appreciation. I normally got a card and a little bit of money. It's just that our family was steeped in dysfunction and birthdays presented one more layer of difficulty in our otherwise complicated lives. My mother was an alcoholic, a disease that comes with lots of social stigma. So there was never a party. There was no one to bake the cake, no one to clean or decorate. I don't reminisce of the warm, sweet scents of baked goodies emanating from a happy kitchen. I can't recall twisting lengths of crepe paper for streamers to hang on our walls or even blowing up balloons. There was no one to do my hair, no special dress, no one to wrap the gifts. Her addiction consumed every aspect of our lives. My father worked two jobs daily and also on weekends just to pay the medical bills. As a matter of practicality, birthdays just weren't a priority.

So I spent a good portion of my earliest birthdays lying atop my bed daydreaming of having a party like those of my classmates. In these dreams I became the center of attention for the day. I always looked perfect, not so knobby kneed and my wild hair was a flowing masterpiece of princess artistry. There were balloons. The colors were ultra bright like the hues of film ads - the Kodachrome of oohs and aahs. Best of all, in these dreams my mother was a normal, functioning woman, the lovely one I'd heard stories of from relatives. She and I were the best of friends. I'd linger in those reveries all day long.

On the occasion of one birthday I do recall waking up and making an effort to remind my mother what day it was. I think I had some gossamer hope that her awareness would transform my reality. Little girls are like that. She sat downstairs in her favorite chair, a kind of wing back throne upholstered in a subtle pattern, sipping Mogen David, speaking softly to herself. Her hands were wrapped around one of those hard plastic Tupperware tumblers, the kind that came in avocado and harvest gold. I never liked those cups. Anyway, she stared at me through the perpetual haze of drunkenness that now dominates my memories of her. I had no idea that she could focus past her delusions. We rarely spoke. I caught her eye and piped, "Today is my birthday!". Then struggling against the gauze that separates the sot and the sober, she began the most sorrowful rendition of "Happy Birthday" I've ever heard. It was shaky, thin and really, really off key -- kind of like my childhood, kind of like our teetering family life. The mother of my birthday daydreams was so much brighter but if I ever doubted that my mother loved me... Sigh...something happened to my girlish birthday innocence that day. I got over myself. I still love bright colors, an occasional balloon is also cool but my partying days were over before they started.
cheetah38 cheetah38
41-45, F
Feb 13, 2013