Winifred has been lovingly nagging me for two weeks to bundle up against the cold weather in preparation for my birthday. I turned 2X today, and am on day two of nasty cold and day four of "Oh my God, I shouldn't feel that woozy when I stand up." Because the worst thing you want to happen at your local dive bar when seeing your friends, who you haven't seen in more than two years because they have real jobs and live in a van that tours the country, is passing out from exhaustion and Mysterious Illness. (And now you know what to avoid!) I heeded this advice--and I was chided by my roommates before leaving my apartment too--in multiple layers of clothes, hates, mittens, scarves, and "long johns." But pre-finals won out, and here I am, a snotty mess on Winifred's hands. Still, I'd like to iterate that I went to two "concerts" wherein I was not only the only person undefined as a "crusty punk" but also the only one wearing more than long sleeves. I also wasn't leather, and that's what the dirty looks were for, but that is not the point.
I am sorry, Winifred and The King. I promise to keep myself properly hydrated tomorrow on Our Grand Adventure with Coca-Cola, quietness, and naps. I also promise to self-administer cold medicine as needed so that when we hit the many pinnacles and penultimates of tomorrow that I am properly irreverent, witty, and engaged. Given tonight's irreverence over ER while eating cake, I think you can believe me when I say my promises are true. I cannot promise I will be quiet for any extended period of time, even when I am sleeping, as sleeping under the influence of germs provides some strange dreams, but I will promise to do my best to behave. Which is more than I'll give anyone else, that's for durned sure.
I feel weird about birthdays. I love other people's--for my roommate's, I decorated the apartments, bought party decorations in a central theme, and baked cupcakes from scratch. I love giving gifts more than I like getting them, and I think going to the bar for one beer in celebration post-21 is mandatory. But I don't like celebrating with anyone who isn't my family (and incidentally, my roommate, but she doesn't really count, right?) I like celebrating with The Quimbys--which includes the brothers-in-law--because I like them. And birthdays it seems, are a good reminder of why we like each other.
For this birthday I was mandated to drive straight home from school. Which I did, when I finished my homework, and when I pulled into The Quimby Drive an hour later, was greeted with a car that looked suspiciously like Emily's. I knew that Emily and The King both have the same type of car. Yet for a fleeting moment I wondered, is this the surprise? But I knew, no, that Emily could not drive from across the country to our small hometown just as I knew that the tags were in-state, and not the Great Pacific Wonderland from where she now hails. And my heart sank for several moments, because the downside of liking your family is the immense loneliness you share when you are apart for birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and mandatory Catholic holiday mass. (Who else will share my irreverent church giggling? I am already in trouble with Winifred for wearing red Chucks to Christmas Eve mass last year. And not because they clashed with the green polo and navy blue pants.)
Emily's Thing every November 15 has been usurped, it seems, by Winifred. The thing about my birthday, that will always make it special, no matter how curmudgeonly or apathetic I become to my birthday is that The Quimbys will re-tell the story of my birth. The TLC Channel version is not a part of the story. You will not find us watching A Baby Story but you will find everyone giving their own account of how I Changed Everyone's Life Forever and how I was (according to Emily at least), "The Best Thing that ever happened to me."
The story, in short, was this: Emily and Charlotte were pulled into the kitchen for a pre-arranged meeting, in which they were told they would have a sister. According to the two hooligans, this was something they'd been hoping for (why is beyond me), and they were immediately "over the moon." From then until November, there was agony for only Winifred, and delight, for Emily and Charlotte, who insisted on my name (which is after our great aunt), and several other characteristics: I would be smart, tall, fun, charming, and special. There are surely more, but smart and tall was definitely in their priorities, which is well known as I've managed to live up to those.
They knew what day I would be born. Winifred packed lunches that morning with notes that said, "When you read this your sister will be born." There were pretty pencils with pencil toppers, Hershey bars wrapped with pink ribbons, and assorted toys. The sort of toys you look at now and wish were still available in bubble gum dispensers. There is an 80% chance that if I snooped in Emily's childhood bedroom that I would find a small wooden box with the note, the trinkets, the pencil topper. There's probably an equal chance that it is in her underwear drawer in the Pacific Northwest. I'd snoop, but I'm afraid she'd know as soon as I crossed the threshold that I was not looking for a University of X State sweater but seeking something more private.
That night they had McDonald's for dinner, something oddly special as we aren't much of a Shut-Them-Up-with-a-Happy-Meal family. We're a meat and potatoes around the nightly news as a family group. And not what Lindsey Lohan has done family, what's going on in the Middle East family. We're those people.
Winifred's excitement to tomorrow's grand adventure has included a countdown. As an example, she sent on Tuesday:
Only ONE more day to the big birthday! Twenty [X] years ago today Charlotte and Emily were too excited to sit still. Hershey bars were beribboned in pink. The next day was a glorious day!
I think most people wait their entire life to meet one person who might think, even marginally, that much of him or her. Maybe the reason I've never being concerned with finding a guy that would think that of me is that four people already think the world of me, so why bother rushing now?
In their style, the Quimby Parents have packed a pink knapsack with bite-size Mr. Goodbars and an invisible ink coloring book (among other things) for the three hour drive to tomorrow's Destination. Some things never change, and I like it that way.