Monday, January 10, 2011

Happy Birthdays...

Today is/was my birthday. It’s been a good day so far despite falling on a Monday. I had no expectations, in all honesty. Having a birthday in January has never guaranteed a smooth, fun-filled birthday. Too many times, my birthday has fallen during a period of horrible weather and it’s been hard to get out and about. As a child, people had a hard time finding gifts to give me because my birthday falls in that period after Christmas where stores are clearing their shelves of the crap they couldn’t sell.

Still, thanks to friends and family over the years, I’ve had some good birthdays in spite of bad weather and the time of year. Thanks to Facebook, I’ve found my birthday is more acknowledged. Some people find it tacky that people use Facebook to say happy birthday. Me, I find it flattering. All those people who posted on my wall took the time to acknowledge that it was my birthday and to send me a little message. That means a lot even if it doesn’t take much time. Given that my brothers forgot my birthday this year- which isn’t really that unusual as they’re not really very good with birthdays anyway- it’s nice that friends both close and casual do take the time to look and see whose birthday it is and then take the time to send their good wishes your way.

Those Facebook messages were fun to get at work. They came throughout the day and it was nice to feel ‘special’ as I read every greeting. My coworkers were also very thoughtful. They got me a very cute birthday card with dachshunds on it which made me smile the minute I saw it. That’s the type of card that was chosen specifically for me and I appreciated it. I also appreciated my boss taking us out to lunch to celebrate. At my last job, we did birthdays very casually- always a group of us would take someone out. It was never my boss who would initiate and invite. So it was a pleasant change when my entire office acknowledge it was my ‘special’ day.

And of course, the nice thing about birthdays is that they come with gifts. I got some nice ones this year, even if they were a little unexciting. My parents gave me a drill/screwgun. It doesn’t sound exciting but having my own house requires tools and the next time I go to IKEA, putting the furniture together will be much easier. Granted, I’m sure having cool tools won’t stop me from putting it together backwards the first time as I inevitably seem to do but at least it’ll mean I can get the screws/bolts out a little more quickly when I have to dissemble it.

I also got a lovely thoughtful gift from Saz who gave me a gift card to Williams Sonoma. As a budding cook, Williams Sonoma is one of those stores I love to peruse but when it comes down to it, it’s hard to justify wanting a fish spatula/turner for $15 when there are more necessary things I should buy such as groceries and dog food. However, with a gift card, I now have the power to buy that fish spatula with zero guilt. It may seem like a weird thing to want to buy but if you watch as much Iron Chef America, Top Chef and Food Network as I do, you start to realize that there is a significant difference in spatulas and there’s a reason there’s a special one for fish. Either that, or I might buy the chef’s knife I’ve been wanting for a while. The possibilities are endless. Gift card=power. I love that.

It’s not just about the gifts, of course. It’s about having one day a year that’s yours, that makes you special. Ok, so there are other people born on that day but within your inner circle, that’s your day. It’s the one day of the year that gets to be your celebration day.

The only problem with birthdays as you get older is that they’re far less exciting than they were as a child. When you’re a child, birthdays are a big deal. I was never the type of child to want a huge birthday party. I always thought I did but when my birthday came around, the idea of having that many children around just didn’t really appeal. I much preferred the alternative- inviting my friend over to ‘tea’ and being able to have whatever we wanted.

I inevitably always wanted fishfingers and chips. That’s fish sticks and French fries to you American readers. It may sound rather an odd choice for a child but when I was a child in the UK, fish fingers and chips was the equivalent of hot dogs or pizza in the U.S. nowadays. In other words, it was child-friendly food. My mum would make chips and we’d have them with peas and fishfingers. Malt vinegar was, of course, a big player in the meal. For ‘pudding’ (translation: dessert), we’d have ice cream and jelly (translation: Jell-O) or we’d have little tea-cakes and Viscounts. Tea cakes are these cookie like things with a layer of jam with a mashmallow filling on top of that and the whole thing was encased in a thin layer of chocolate. They were my favourite. Viscounts were mint filled cookies covered with chocolate (of course) and wrapped in a foil wrapper. They were a big deal to a child because we only had them on special occasions.

That was it, really. Now I look back, I realize that even as a young ‘un, I never really wanted to do anything truly exciting for my birthday. When I got older, I got to go to a movie and/or dinner. That suited me fine. I had a surprise party my first year in college thrown by my roommate and our next door dorm neighbour. That was so much fun because I had no idea they were planning anything. A few years ago, friends took me out to a fancy steakhouse in L.A. That was a good birthday because I didn’t realize I was being taken out and it was a wonderful treat.

This year, my friend took me out to dinner. We didn’t go anywhere fancy- just the local BJ’s Brewhouse. Yet it was fun. I ordered fish tacos which, really, when you think about it isn’t a far cry from fishfingers when you stop and think about it.

It just goes to show that no matter how much you think you change, in some ways you stay the same. That’s not such a bad thing. In fact, it’s rather nice. Happy Tuesday!

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