Every year I ignore my birthday until people close to me start to annoy me with it.
“What do you want for your birthday?”
“What are you going to do for your birthday? Something special?”
Then, on my birthday, no matter how nice they are, I find something to make me cry. (Does anyone else do this?) I vow to make today different. So I am announcing my birthday instead of ignoring it. Today, July 20, 2013, is my birthday. On my Facebook wall I put up a photo and a video commemorating the day.
And for y’all, I’m sharing a very short story I published on Cowbird a year ago. In a previous post about The Space Race I mentioned this event, but here is the full story.
I was sitting at the end of the dock, draggling my feet through the lake water. Sometimes my toes caught on marsh grass. Behind me, Dad and his friends were grilling hot dogs and burgers just outside the screened porch. I could smell the singed meat and hear their beer-fueled laughter.
Mom called us to the table. As we approached, she placed a steaming bowl of corn-on-the-cob on the oilcloth. Salads and paper plates had already been set out by the ladies.
Everyone gathered around the picnic table. I noticed Dad disappear into the house, but we all sat—causing the table to first lean to one side, then the other—and heaped our plates full. Everyone talked so fast and loud, excited by the summer’s heat and the waterskiing and, for the adults, the beer.
The ear of corn on my plate dripped butter and I longed to sink my teeth into it. As I went to bite, I remembered my braces. I hesitated because, at fourteen, I already felt awkward. Not yet pretty and feminine, but no longer a careless child. My features had grown large on my narrow face, and my skin shone like greasy wax paper.
I felt the wires bend as my teeth plowed into the cob. I made a mental note to keep my mouth closed so nobody could see all the corn stuck in my braces.
Dad carried our 9” portable TV to the table and plugged it in under the window to the kitchen. He seemed focused, as though he’d thrown off the beer effect.
On the screen, we watched the hazy shapes of astronauts positioning our flag on the moon. Everyone stopped talking. We heard a motorboat in the distance, off in the horizon, but up around the tiny television, everyone was drawn like moths to the porch light.
Eventually my mother remembered and brought out the white cake with fourteen candles staked like individual flagpoles. They turned down the volume to sing “Happy Birthday” to me, then turned it back up and listened to Houston’s excitement.