The Perils of a Late-December Birthday

The Perils of a Late-December Birthday

So my birthday is coming up—it’s the 22nd, just 3 days before Christmas. This has typically resulted in some disappointing celebrations: When I was a kid, we were always on vacation from school, so parties were lame and sparsely attended. As an adult, everyone gets so caught up in preparing for the holidays that my special day falls by the wayside. Oh, and did I mention that my older brother D’s birthday is just four days before mine? Even among my family, it gets all lumped into one big celebration: Hanukkah, D’s birthday, and oh, yeah, Debbie’s birthday, too.

But everybody knows only kids really care about their birthdays, right? Wrong. Maybe because mine always sucked so bad in my early years, I still care. I want to be the center of attention, just for one day. Bring on the cake! Bring on the streamers! Bring on the kisses! Just make a fuss, for crying out loud, even for an hour. Even last year was disappointing, somehow. S took me out, and gave me flowers and City Bakery chocolate chip cookies (better than a cake, mmm), but there were delivery problems on the day itself, and one of my brothers and two of my closest friends forgot entirely. I passed the hours in a mostly-deserted office with people who had no idea it was my birthday, wishing something exciting would happen. Yeah, yeah, I’m getting whiny. I’ll stop, and move on to this weekend’s sweet highlight:

For our family Hanukkah party on Saturday, my mom baked a sheet cake and had my 4-year-old niece decorate it for me. It was supposed to be for D as well, but his daughter had a stomach bug and they couldn’t come. (I was, of course, disappointed not to see them, but on the other hand it meant the cake was mineminemine this year!) We had so much fun watching L do her thing, sitting on her Uncle G’s lap:

No, she didn’t write that “HAPPY” all by herself. But the rest of the decoration is 100% L’s. And clearly she enjoyed it, too. Now that she’s big enough, S and I are going to have a sleepover at our place one of these days, and L and I are going to bake cookies together. She loves this stuff. Which is interesting, since neither of her parents is terribly into food, aside from eating it. I’m happy to become the Aunt Who Bakes, to teach her how to measure, how to know when to stop mixing, when to pull the cake from the oven. Although clearly, L has already learned the best part of baking: tasting your own work:

Maybe my birthday won’t suck so bad this year. S is taking me to Blue Hill at Stone Barns for dinner that night, and I can’t wait. On the other hand, if my first gift is any indication, who knows: on Saturday L’s parents, my brother A and his wife, gave me a Calphalon omelette pan, which was much appreciated and much needed (since I left the burner on under my old one a few weeks ago, and melted a spatula all over it…). The perfect birthday gift! But when I opened the box and pulled it out, disappointment descended. The nonstick coating was all scratched and almost rusty-looking. At first I thought it was defective, but then I turned it over. The bottom was darkened and burnished, with small stains here and there. This pan had been used, repeatedly. Some asshole wore it out, and then put it back in its original packaging and returned it! The store obviously hadn’t bothered to look at it before returning it to stock, and voila, it ended up in my hands. And so it begins, my birthday season…