Sunday, July 6, 2008

Happy Birthweek To Me!

When you're raised in a large family, you learn at an early age that there is something different between your family and the smaller families of your friends. Kindergarteners still sleeping in baby beds was my norm, that is until I started Kindergarten and discovered that (much to the teasing delight of my fellow classmates,) it was NOT the norm indeed. I can assure you that I was the only kindergartener in my school still sleeping in a baby bed. In a household dividing nine children amongst three bedrooms, it's fairly obvious that the low man on the totem pole is going to get left holding the short end of the bedpost. I was number eight of those nine and number nine was still in a bassinet at the time. Thankfully, my oldest sister joined the convent about the same time I started kindergarten, and I was soon promoted to side-less bed status.

We weren't a poor family by any means, but I think all will agree that compromises have to be made when there are that many mouths to feed and that many bodies to clothe. I will always remember my first "new" winter coat. I was thirteen at the time. Of course all of the daughters shared the same Communion dress, and by the time it was handed down to me, the others had left their marks on it, so to speak. Water conservation was always an ongoing issue, mandating the weekly Saturday bath ratio to be one tubful of water to nine parts kid. And once again, the low man on the totem pole got the short end of the stick and left the tub dirtier than she went in.

"Waste not, want not" was my mother's favorite saying and she followed that mantra throughout all aspects of her homemaking. We reused foil and the wax paper in cereal boxes. We washed out baggies and used handkerchiefs instead of kleenex. And the woman could stretch a food dollar to beyond imaginable limits. One chicken could feed eleven people, if ample bread and potatoes were served with it. She made every part of the bird serviceable and since LMOTP (say it with me, Low Man On Totem Pole) got what the elders left behind, my favorite part of the chicken was forced upon me. Fried chicken neck, to be specific. It was my norm until many years later, when once again I was forced to accept the embarrassment that accompanied all my faux-formed norms. It was while ordering at my very first "sit down" restaurant that I learned chicken necks were really not part of ANY restaurant's menu. I can't pass the Glandorf Inn to this day without my cheeks turning a thousand shades of red.

And then there were the birthdays. (sigh) I think I eventually accepted all the other differences between my friends and myself, but my family's lack of sufficient birthday recognition really cheezed my ass. Other kids were having parties with bakery-made and decorated cakes, balloons, presents, and other various and enviable birthday accoutrements, and my birthday recognition consisted merely of a homemade cake. No party. No presents. No nothing. Devastation became my birthday norm and it wasn't until I became an adult that I decided to take my norm into my own hands. Enter, the Birth Month. From July 1st thru the 31st, it's all about me. My hubby and kids know that from the minute they flip over June's calendar page, there's a new queen in town. And each year I get such a kick out of hearing them sing "Happy Birthmonth to You."

Years pass and queens get older and less self-centered. And this queen also managed to give birth to a princess in the very month of July, mandating the whole "share-the-birthmonth" policy. However, I still hang on to my "birthweek" celebration. And today is kickoff. Four days until fifty.

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