Saturday, March 28, 2009

Family Tradition

My in-laws moved into their first home on my mother-in-law's 30th birthday. Tom and I have been together for about nine years, and I've probably heard this story a couple of times a year. I don't mind actually; it's a cool story. It's come up more frequently with our home buying excursion. Why? Well, my birthday was on Monday. (No, not my 30th.)

I have complex feelings about my birthday. When I was a kid it was easier for my parents and grandparents to have a combination celebration for my mom, sister and me. My birthday is first, then Mom's on the 6th and Shelly's on the 21st.

The thing is, Shelly's birthday would often come right after my parents received their tax refund. So we'd have some sort of family only group thing, then there would be money for a trip to Farrell's, and Shelly could bring a friend or two along. I've never been upset with Shelly about this. She and I are the same age, and neither one of us tried to win out over the other. Still, it was hard not to notice. One year I did get to invite friends, but I froze. I invited my best friend, Mary, who was like part of our family and probably would have been there anyway. I didn't invite anyone else.

And when it came to gifts... I know I received them from my parents. I know I liked them and appreciated them. But I also remember that things were always done at the last minute. I know this because of the countless gifts "wrapped" in a rolled up paper bag. For some reason I often had a hard time asking for anything special. Pretty sure that it comes from my mom. I could tear through the Toys R Us catalog and make long lists, but I couldn't say "I want a Walkman" to save my life. On the flip side, giving gifts that I was sure other people would like was at least as difficult. As a teen I broke up with boys before any gift-giving occasions.

Once I realized that, I tried to work it out within myself. Still, Corey had 10 full years of big birthday parties. He'd probably still be having them, but he was such a butt at his 10th that I vowed never to do it again until he reaches a milestone birthday.

These days I try to take a more pragmatic approach. I think I'm a pretty good gift giver. I do avoid the office birthday celebrations, but that's only because this office has some weird things. For example, the restaurant is chosen based on what's most convenient for certain people, rather than whether the birthday girl likes it or not.

When it comes to my birthday, I tend to revert to my single mom days. "I don't want anything, but I could use XYZ." The problem is that I also resent that I do this and no one else in the family does it. It's not like we're poor and I need to do it; it's a habit. However, when you're buying a home or having a baby at birthday time, it seems especially hard to say, "Please treat me special."

Last year I was more than eight months pregnant on my birthday. My mom gave me a gift card to get my hair done and my mother-in-law gave me a check. I used it for baby stuff that we needed. I honestly don't recall what Tom got me. I just remember that it was Easter and I made dinner for my family and my mom without any help.

For his birthday I arranged for us to see a Cubs/Dodgers game... it happened to fall on his birthday, so that was extra cool. But you can't just show up at the stadium on game day and get three good seats together, so I bought those tickets a couple months in advance. The year before I happened to hear that Prairie Home Companion was taping at the Greek Theatre, also on his birthday. I believe I purchased those tickets several months ahead.

So my birthday was on Monday. Tom had frequently pointed out in advance that I was getting a house for my birthday just as his mom had long ago. I reminded him that he was also getting the house, and that having a major event happen right before one's birthday shouldn't mean that a person's birthday wasn't celebrated. I had asked for the soundtrack to Juno, so not exactly extravagant.

By noon that day, the only people who had wished me a happy birthday were my coworkers. They offered to take me to lunch, but I declined. Things had gotten a bit screwed up with the move, so I ended up spending a lot of time Monday cleaning the apartment with my mom and Corey. Tom was supposed to meet me there at 3:00 to wrap everything up. We spoke at 10 'til, and he was just getting ready to leave work. Over 90 minutes later, I was pissed and out of there. We spoke on the phone and he complained about having so much to do still... as if we hadn't done everything but load the remaining crap into his truck... we'd even pulled up most of the carpet since I knew it was being replaced! I "thanked" him for the lovely birthday and he whined that he was out running an errand related to my birthday and that was why he was late.

And what was this 90 minute errand? (Okay, I exaggerate a little... it was probably a 40 minute drive from work to the apartment.) He bought me a card, in which he did write a lovely note and not one, but two packs of TIC-TACS! The only saving grace is that they were the Cherry/Passion Fruit packs, not breath mints. And then he didn't have the nerve to hand them to me. He left them with the card at the bottom of the stairs. Instead of making dinner for everybody, I had a couple slices of cold pizza by myself.

Disappointed is not the word to describe my feelings. Pissed scratches the surface. And the thing is, I don't care how much money he spends on me. Again, Juno soundtrack. Not asking for a lot here. But you have to figure you're not going to walk into any music store that still happens to be standing and pick it up. You have to put a little effort in... special order it, or buy it online. Think ahead a little.

Here's the thing, too: Tom used to give wonderful gifts. They were well-thought out and lovely.

We haven't spoken about it. I probably won't bring it up, either. And as much as I'd like to, I just can't see handing him a couple boxes of Altoids for his birthday in a couple months.

1 comment:

Loud Spirit said...

Shan..happy belated birthday!! Sounds like your life is full of excitement - and challenges. Sometimes the two go hand in hand unfortunately.

You seem to have navigated all of the pitfalls much better than most would have - I might have needed medication if I'd had to move into a house I didn't own yet. Yipes.

I feel your frustration with the gift giving (I have similar frustrations) - but the love you and your hubby share comes through in your blog. He like totally digs you - he just can't help being a guy (LOL).

Wishing you peace...

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