Another upside of turning 40 is that you get to stop caring so much about what other people think, I hope…
The morning of my 13th birthday started out like any other morning. It was a school day, just a couple of weeks into 8th grade. My mom opened my bedroom door and shouted in that it was time to get up. She worked full time all throughout my childhood, but would often drive me to school before she headed off on her own commute. I knew she wouldn’t want me to make her late by oversleeping (this had happened before and it was not pretty) so I jumped right up and started getting myself ready. Besides, it was my birthday and I was excited for the day ahead.
It was a tradition in my school for friends to bring in mylar helium balloons for each other on their birthdays. You got to carry them around all day and then everyone knew it was your birthday and wished you well and was nice to you. It was cool. I always hoped for a respectable amount of balloons so I would look well-liked. I knew I wasn’t going to break any records as far as numbers, but too few would be embarrassing. I was looking forward to seeing how well my clique would represent.
I got dressed and tried my best to make my hair as small as possible. I didn’t yet understand my curly hair. I kept trying to deny it’s curliness. I knew nothing about products and was constantly cutting my hair too short and brushing it out. It was usually pretty huge and hard to tame. I understand my curls now, but I no longer care if my hair is crazy big and hard to tame. I own it now.
When I descended the stair case and made the right turn towards the kitchen I was immediately caught off guard. Our kitchen was decorated with “Happy Birthday” signs and streamers. There were balloons. There was confetti and in the middle of the table in our breakfast nook there was a present!
My birthday had never started like that before. My mom worked all day, five days a week. She never had time for these kinds of weekday morning birthday surprises, but this time she did. I’m not saying my mom didn’t make my birthdays special, just not like this. It was so unexpected, a wonderful surprise. We already had plans in place to celebrate, she just threw this in as a bonus.
My mom yelled surprise and told me to open my present. There were other presents for later she said, but she wanted me to have this one before school. I tore through the wrapping paper and opened the box to find the awesome gray acid wash denim bolero jacket (a lot of descriptors, I know) that I had seen in the store about a week prior. She had told me that it was too expensive then and that I couldn’t have it. I remember being bummed because it was so awesome (it was 1989, bolero jackets were awesome) but obviously she had planned to get it for me the whole time.
I hugged my mom and thanked her profusely. I decided I would wear it to school to show my appreciation. I put it on. Problem was when I got dressed earlier, I had anticipated a jacketless existence and chosen a bulky and long oversized sweatshirt and leggings as my school attire. The bolero didn’t really jive with my outfit choice, but the morning party had already put us a couple of minutes behind. There was no time to change, so I decided to embrace my quirky look. I didn’t want my mom to think I didn’t love my gift. I would be taking it off and stashing it in my locker when I got to school anyway.
The day went swimmingly. I got just enough balloons to look like I had plenty of friends, but not so many that they were a pain in the ass in the hallway. People wished me happy birthday all day. I showed my immediate friends my denim bolero and they agreed on it’s awesomeness.
It was a perfect day, until I got off of the afternoon bus in my neighborhood wearing my giant sweatshirt/tiny jacket combo. Some older girl (whose name I don’t even remember, so – suck it) made fun of my ensemble. She said my jacket looked stupid and my shirt was too long. She said I looked like an idiot. I pretended not to hear her and walked the few blocks home from the bus stop. Then I took off that jacket and hung it on the coat rack in our foyer and forgot about it. That girl had robbed all of my birthday bolero joy and squashed my big shirt small jacket creativity all at once, and I let her get away with it.