The One in Which I Turn 24

I remember when birthdays meant something. When we used to hand out invitations bathed in glitter. When our parents would assemble treat bags for the guests and a cake would be put on order or baked lovingly the day before. Sometimes we would rent a karaoke machine and sing our hearts out, the basement pumping 90s hits until the sun went down. Sometimes we would have castle building contests in the damp sand by the sea and I would build towers topped in seaweed until they toppled down, collapsing back into the waves. The patted-down battlements succumbing to the gray-white tide. My favourite part was always when it came time to blow out the candles. The heat against my face as I held the deep breathe for just a second before blowing to glance quickly up at my Mom.

“Don’t forget to make a wish.”

The chant of my friends when I cut that first slice of cake. The blush that covered my cheeks when I pulled the knife out with stripes of icing light against the silver blade.

“Ooooooh! Lindsay! Now you have to tell us who you like!”

Chocolate frosting licked from my fingertips and a sugar coma, presents piled in a corner of my room, curling up satisfied. Another year gone, a whole new one spread before me like an empty road leading anywhere.

These days the birthdays are planned by myself or not at all. The guests don’t think twice about canceling at the last minute. The birthdays of my youth bounce in my head when sick with wine I wonder where they’ve gone. The chanting of friends reduced to the rumbling of Facebook. I bury the day at the bottom of the trashcan beneath herb& spice dip containers, Lays lightly salted, diet Pepsi bottles, and chocolate wrappers. I eat my disappointment and chase it with hard pear cider and when the morning comes I stop pretending. If this is all we have, is it enough?

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11 thoughts on “The One in Which I Turn 24”

  1. You’re asking for a little too much, I think. You got gipped, yeah. But a lot of things don’t compare to childhood memories. Kids don’t have many worries or obligations–nor do you the sort of memory and sight needed to see maybe everything *wasn’t* quite as you wanted. It’s a day that’s supposed to be all about you, but people can’t swing that sort of focus anymore. I wish it had turned out differently for you, because I know the feeling. I’ve plotted out my share of parties, for myself and otherwise, that fell flat. I know it’s horrible timing for you, but the best way to swallow it I’ve found is to cling that much tighter to the people who did come through for you, and to let the rest go slack.

    1. It’s not about wanting to be the center attention. It’s about growing up and traditions falling to the wayside and life changing. It’s not about recreating childhood memories, it’s about paying tribute to what used to mean something. The fact that people can’t seem to slow down and focus is what is so sad about it all. Maybe it’s just me, but I haven’t lost sight of these things yet. When one of my friends has a birthday I try to make it a little bit more special for them than a regular day and that doesn’t necessarily mean the parties of our youth. But, it isn’t hard to offer something more than a Facebook message. Mostly it is just growing up and growing apart, but it doesn’t make it any less sad.

      1. Life does change, and people change. And their opinions of traditions change with them. Not everyone is going to feel the same way about birthdays. I grew up in a household where they weren’t special. You got your choice of a meal, maybe a present or two. At most I think, after that initial five or six years, I got to take a friend out to eat with me. So to me birthdays aren’t a big deal. It is sad that that’s how things are, that people grow apart, but it’s a simple truth and all I can offer is that it happens to everyone. You hold onto what you can because trying to hold on to everything means you lose it all.

  2. well, happy birthday 🙂

    i just wrote a poem about someone’s “24th year” alluding to a birthday, which is a coincidence because i had no one in mind when i wrote it.

  3. Unfortunately I think things like Facebook distance us from the significance of birthdays, of friendships on the whole. We’re all so wrapped up in ourselves, in what we have to do day to day — writing “Happy Birthday” on a Facebook wall is what it has all come down to (hell, writing “How are you? I miss you!” is what it has come down to). And if a friend doesn’t do just that, I’ve noticed that I feel gipped. It’s a paradox — on the one hand I regret that is what a birthday wish means today, and on the other I feel hurt when I don’t receive it.

    Themed birthday parties, slicing the ice cream cake covered in candles…these are things we should hold on to, treasure and revive in our own lives. Whether someone else is going to do it for us or not.

    I wish you a happy birthday and I hope you were/are able to find the special celebration wherever you can.

  4. Ah, your candles and birthday cake took me right back to my birthday party, back when I was five. Right there, BLAM. Thanks; that was pleasant 🙂

    As people have hinted at already in the comments — the infinitely wise Hez and Eric, even (both of which I have the pleasure of hosting, fancy that) — times passes. We grow up, for better or for worse. Our focus changes from our birthdays to the birthdays of our progeny. The money spent on our presents lessens — we get socks — while the next generation get the shiny treat bags.

    Man, I remember those bags… haha. I’d forgotten all about them. I remember trying to make the best ones for my parties.

    Jesus… time flies.

  5. Miss,
    I’m really sorry and offer…empathy. I’m discouraged at times myself at the disconnect and changes in our society with regards to your observations.

    Kindest Regards

  6. Well, this is a little late, but Happy Birthday! I stopped having birthday parties or celebrating my birthday since I was 13. It’s more of a day when I look back and think about the year that has past and eat chocolate cake. I think you should choose the best way to celebrate your birthday, the way it makes you happy right in that moment. As much fun those birthdays were, I really doubt you’ll ever have as much fun, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun.

    My God, I have a long comment. Anyway, thanks for visiting my blog.

  7. I remember a few years in my 20’s when I faltered over anti-climatic birthdays, too. Even in college, birthdays are a big deal, but that’s more to do with you friends wanting any reason to party than to do with your actual birthday. But after college, birthdays are less socially significant and it takes a few not-so-fab ones for the disappointment to fade. Now, having just had my 31st, it was a ton of fun. But not because of a party or friends gathering around me. I’ve decided to be as spontaneous as possible on my bdays. This one, as a friend and I were driving into NYC, we made a last second detour to Coney Island. Literally, the exit was before us and I said “exit!!!”
    It was sooo fun. The kind of fun I can feel even now, a few weeks later. The kind of fun that no amount of party planning can create. You’ll find a new way to enjoy these days, too. But for now, it’s just a little sucky. Happy birthday!

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