Bittersweet birthday

Posted December 18th, 2005 by Penny Wise

Made it through another birthday this week. I didn't expect a present from Noel and true to form I didn't get one. Mind you, he really did try - in fact he spent about three afternoons trying to find me the perfect gift and came home frustrated and empty handed each time. The problem is now I'm so frugal and practical, he doesn't know what to get me. He even consulted the advice of his colleagues, who suggested lingerie, but he couldn't follow that up because he didn't know what size I took. Just as well because I would have thought he had gone mad getting me something like that - particularly when I told him all I really wanted was a worm farm! Undies not forthcoming, he then visited the local chemist, who told him there were all kinds of perfumes to choose from over by the Red Door. When he wandered around and couldn't find what he was after, he asked the assistant to repeat what she had said and again she said 'over by the Red Door'. He did another circuit of the shop to no avail before asking again in a low voice - 'Excuse me, I've been around the whole shop and I can't see a red door anywhere!' The assistant fell about laughing as she explained that Red Door was in fact an Elizabeth Arden fragrance, not part of the building structure. At least he tried, bless him!

So, I awoke on my birthday to no presents. The kids slept in late and forgot it was their Mum's birthday as they raced off to school. A dear old friend died suddenly the day before. My microwave decided to do the same. I had left my make-up on from our outing to the school concert the night before and in my haste tried to remove it with nail polish remover instead of eye make-up remover - well they were both in blue bottles. We had planned to go and stay at the beach for the weekend, but the rain was torrential, forcing us to abandon our plans. The town Santa Parade was on that night and I had heaps to do to prepare for our school float, making posters and flyers, printing t-shirts and recording the appropriate music. The t-shirt transfers kept printing out back to front, then they wouldn't iron on properly so all the wearers had little flapping bits hanging off. I burned the music on to the CD and then found it wouldn't play on my sound system. I cut a chunk out of my finger when trying to trim my mother's wig into a Willy Wonka style for her Lions club Charlie and the Chocolate Factory float. On top of all that, I spent the morning tripping, jamming, stabbing, banging and generally injuring myself wherever I went.

By the time the afternoon came, I had had enough. I'm not supposed to drive yet but I decided to head into town to post some Christmas parcels and get out of my jinxed house. I decided to treat myself to a solitary panini in the caf and was just sitting down to eat it when my mobile rang. 'Where are you?' came Maxine's voice down the phone. 'You're not supposed to be out! Rochelle and I have been sitting outside your house for ages like a couple of idiots with your birthday cake, waiting for you! We've had to start without you, sorry!' Typical. In my efforts to escape my own bad luck, I had inadvertently missed my surprise birthday tea. We agreed that there would be just enough time for me to race home and stuff a lump of chocolate cake in my mouth before we had to pick the kids up from school. My lovely kind and thoughtful friends not only treated me to some delicious cake but they had got together to present me with a beautiful ring I had been admiring for months. Finally it was starting to feel like my birthday!

The Santa Parade went without a hitch and I had a blast waving to everyone from my decorated wheelchair as I was pushed from one end of the town to the other. Everyone wished me a Happy Birthday and as we reached the end of the parade, my father in law was kind enough to buy me a couple of celebratory drinks at his local bowling club. These were going down very nicely as we stood on the veranda, until a woman appeared from inside and told me one of my sons had had an accident. I rushed inside, wondering what terrible mishap had struck my little boys down, until she pointed me in the direction of the men's toilet. Oh - that kind of accident. While it would be distasteful to go into too much detail, suffice to say Liam had left me one heck of a present. Not that he could help it, poor thing, he ended up being unwell for the next four days, but that really put the icing on the proverbial cake.

So, that was my birthday for another year. Even with all the mishaps, it was the best birthday I had had for a long time, because it ended up giving me a lot to laugh about on what is usually a very sad day for me. Technically, I stopped celebrating my birthday when I turned 22 - not because I have an aversion to getting older! My birthday eleven years ago was an amazing day, because it was also the day our first little boy Luke decided to make an entrance. The timing was somewhat unexpected to say the least, being seven weeks early, but we were delighted to welcome him into the world. Unfortunately it wasn't to be; he contracted a deadly infection called Strep B and we lost him the next day. So you see, from then on, it kind of stopped being my birthday and became Luke's day. Part of me feels honoured and fortunate to share a day with him, but it's also a day that I dread approaching each year, because every birthday that passes is one year further away from him. The last eleven birthdays have been full of gifts and expensive outings in an attempt to try and 'keep my mind off things' but all that does is make me feel guilty for enjoying myself on a day that I should be thinking of Luke, not me. The unexpected gesture of my friends this year was a timely reminder that good friends really are priceless. My hilarious chocolate cake episode meant more to me than any expensive gifts, parties or outings could have - even if I missed half of it!

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