My family always celebrated birthdays in a big way. The birthday “newborn” woke up to cards and presents, hugs and kisses. All day long the “baby” got teased and coddled – no chores, free valet service, little surprises. The day ended with a special dinner cooked by my grandmother and a delicious cake baked by my mom, then Mom, Dad, or both tucked the lucky birthday child into bed with more hugs and kisses.
Who wouldn’t look forward to a special day like that?
The day I turned ten, I woke up to nothing. Thinking maybe my family was waiting for me to whine so they could pounce on me and tease me about it, I kept quiet. I went off to school thinking maybe, they were planning a big surprise that afternoon, but when I got home, I sniffed the air and there was no hint of my grandmother’s delectable enchiladas or my mother’s mouthwatering chocolate cake. We sat down to a one-pan "guiso" (a casserole) and a package of stale, store-bought cookies.
To say anything to them at this point would only add insult to my injury. I was forgettable to the very people who gave birth to me.
After dinner, my dad called his mother and wished her a happy birthday. Yes, my paternal grandmother and I shared the same birthday, something my father said made me special. I didnt feel so special that year.
The next morning my mother called her brother and wished him a happy birthday, and we all lined up to take our turns yelling wishes over the phone. She remembered her baby brother, but she forgot about her own baby - me.
When she hung up, my mother announced that we were done with the December and January birthdays, but not to forget hers two weeks later, and that was when she turned to me and remembered.
Everyone tried to make it up to me but they were a day late. There are things that cannot be undone - words that cannot be retracted; actions that cannot be rescinded, regardless the compensation. The older me understands that what happened back then was unintentional, but my special day had come and gone.
The ten-year-old in me still remembers that day.