Saturday I turned 23. That seems rather adult. And why not? I’ve graduated college and I’m engaged. But there’s a part of me that feels so childish. I’m the same person I’ve been all my life, a person that remembers being a little kid, innocent and carefree. A middle schooler, angsty and emotional. A teenager, ready to take on the world. A college kid, so sure and so unsure. Now here I am, nearing my mid-twenties. Still the lifelong question stands: what am I? Still I don’t quite know.
For fun, I’ve decided to reminisce about birthdays past.
Ten years ago, I turned 13. It was the largest birthday party I ever had (at least invitation-wise. Probably not attendance-wise). My dad lived in a condo with a big outdoor pool for residents. I invited the entire seventh grade at Zion Lutheran, about 40 kids. Handing out the invitations at school was exciting and a little nerve-wracking. 13 is an age where other kids’ judgments of you are paramount. The invitations requested rsvp’s, but most people didn’t call. The day came and it was a little cold for swimming. Missouri weather is pretty unpredictable in September. A decent number of kids showed up. It was far less than half the class. I was disappointed that none of the really popular kids came. I hadn’t yet figured out that things like that don’t matter. Neither of the two boys I liked at the time came, even though both of them told me they would. To be fair, we couldn’t drive yet and my dad lived kinda far away. Maybe parents didn’t want to drive that far. Some of the least liked boys showed up. Who could blame them? They probably didn’t get invited to many parties. I didn’t particularly like them, but I was glad they got to be included in something. Kids can be so clique-ish at that age, especially at a private school. But for one day, we all had fun together. The guys had a great time dunking the girls whenever we were in the deep end. Sometimes it was fun, depending on who was doing the dunking.
The jacuzzi bubbles on the hot tub were broken, but the water was still hot so we crammed in there anyway. I was very aware of who I would and would not sit in the hot tub with. Rumors started easily and died hard in seventh grade. Michael did come to my party. He had been my boyfriend for most of sixth grade, but I finished out that year by dumping him via letter. It was bold of him to come. Neither of us had had an ex before and we didn’t really know how we were supposed to act. It was awkward at first. Then he started a splashing fight with me and by the end of the party I could tell that he still liked me. I started wondering if we should get back together then, but it would be five months and two boyfriends (both the losers I liked who didn’t come to my pool party) before I’d ask him out again. Good thing he came to my thirteenth birthday party or who knows if we’d be getting married ten years later.
My fourteenth birthday party had a more exclusive guest list. All my best friends were there. I had about 20 best friends at that point. It was held in the basement of my dad’s girlfriend at the time. We stocked up on all of the best sodas and perfect party foods. In those days we would get hyped up on mountain dew to help us party like older kids use beer. I don’t even like mountain dew, but it was what everybody drank at our parties. I probably had cream soda and peach soda also. Slim jims and skittles were other must-have items, along with an assortment of chips and dips and munchies. We were rocking to Blink-182 on my sweet stereo system that I’d brought from my room at my mom’s house. The supervising adults stayed upstairs and did very little supervising. We played Twister with the guys and it was a big deal.
It was the first time Michael and I were in a house together. We’d been “dating” (although we weren’t actually allowed to date) for seven months then. He gave me a gorgeous sapphire and clear cubit zirconium bracelet. I was enthralled. It was the first piece of jewelry he gave me. For Christmas, he would add a sapphire necklace and matching earrings. Sapphire is not only my birthstone, but it was also my favorite color: blue. When I opened the box, Michael put the bracelet on my wrist. He later told me he had the moment all planned out and had practiced clasping it at home. That night we had our first real kiss. A quick, nervous peck on the cheek followed by a quick, nervous peck on the lips constituted our first kiss back at a sixth grade dance. But this eighth grade kiss was legit. Apparently Michael went outside and spit in the grass afterward because he was afraid of getting sick. Never mind the fact that I wasn’t sick. It’s a good thing he didn’t tell me that until years later or I would have been pretty hurt. As it went, it was a perfect night. I don’t remember what the rest of my friends did at my party. I was too lovesick to notice much else.
Ah, memories. I’ve had eight more birthdays since then, with various celebrations. But nobody wants to read about each of them. The above two were during some pretty formative years of my life. I succeeded at having a mostly normal childhood. Now to see what can be done about adulthood.