You didn't hear from me last year on my birthday. I was a Birthday-zilla who refused to answer the phone or to return a text. My facebook was deactivated, my blog turned off.
If I'd had a Harry Potter invisibility robe I would have thrown it over myseslf.
Zoe was home for a week with an awful flu and maybe I caught it or maybe I caught something else - a virus of the spirit? - that left me languishing in my tub for hours staring at the ceiling waiting impatiently for an answer to a question I still couldn't quite formulate yet.
The first print copy for my approval of my book, Marvin's Book, arrived in the mail while I was in the bathtub.
I can't remember which of my kids opened it and brought it to me in the bathtub thinking it would snap me into a happy birthday spirit.
In a movie I'd like to think that any author presented with her first copy of her first book would spring out of the bathtub and dance in a towel. Not me. Not today.
I fussed at the poor messenger (now I remember it was Zoe because she was home and feeling much better and asking please could I get her something for lunch and hence I ended up in the bathtub, two hours ago) about opening my mail and it was my BIRTHDAY leave me ALONE PLEASE and ugh if the camera crew from Birthday-zilla was there they would have had a good scene.
Because I was hungry - not because I was a responsible mother - I got myself out of that bathtub, blowdried my hair and threw on some yoga pants.
For a minute I thought to get myself new yoga pants for my birthday, remembering I had bought these the year before Zack was born.
Zoe hears me getting dressed and asks where we can go. I don't want to go in anywhere that involves makeup, a dress, being charming.
I want to get back home and sit on my swing in silence and keep figuring something out. so I offer a few drive thru's.
Zoe tilts her head and asks sweetly for Subway, offering to go in and get the order by herself.
This snaps me out of myself. I clarify with her that she would and can go into a store all by herself. Yes, she nods brightly, she'd done it before.
Her energy brightens me up for this yoga pants adventure. I hand her $20 and she repeats the order. We discuss back-up chips in case they don't have the jalepeno chips.
We arrive to a Subway crowded with the high school lunch rush.
Zoe's wearing ugg boots, pajama pants and a sweatshirt. Her hair is in a sloppy bun. She could fit seamlessly into in any of my college classes. She could slip right into any high school class. She knows this and takes a deep breath before steeling herself up leave the car and join the crowded store.
I have my copy of Marvin's Book in the car.
I can't open it. I don't know what to do with it. I should be happier, I want to be happier, yay yay I wrote my first book and yay it arrived on my birthday but I don't feel that at all.
It's the story of trying to fulfill a promise I made to Marvin Scott -- one of my most beloved students who passed away too suddenly -- and looking for a happy funny ending for the book.
The book, tangible and bound in my hand now doesn't fix one bit the grief that I feel in losing him; if anything it magnifies it like a sore that just had its scab ripped out.
Tears well up. Birthday-zilla girl is in her car, crying.
I know enough to shake this off; I'm someone's Mom and I don't want to be the crazy woman crying in her car so I turn on happy music and toss the book in the backseat and wait for Zoe to bring me my Birthday lunch.
A minute later she emerges from the store looking bright and proud.
She slips into the car and as I drive us home she tells me every detail about who she saw in there and who was working and I interrupt her to ask for my drink and her story stops dead.
Drink? Oh. Oh mom. I. I forgot.
You forgot my drink?
I forgot your lunch, oh my gosh Mom I'm so sorry. It was so crowded in there and I felt shy and Mom I'm so sorry we can just go right back if you'll just turn around.
We are at a light at a major intersection. I could pull over a lane and get back to Subway. I don't.
Instead the tears I'd been holding back from Marvin's Book, from losing two more people while writing that book, from having it all finally be over, come flooding out.
You forgot my BIRTHDAY lunch? This has to be the worst birthday ever!
Birthday-zilla-osity overwhelms me, joining hunger and grief into a whirlpool of self-centered muck. Zoe sits sullen and sad, she wants to give me her sandwich but I don't eat it with all those veggies and really she doesn't want to give it to me, I know this so I refuse.
After the intersection we pass Wendy's and Chik-fila.
I drive thru one of them and get myself a chocolate shake and sharing Zoe's jalepeno chips, deciding to write a happy ending to the whole ordeal. I didn't try to have a good birthday and overall I had a very below average one but despite myself I did have a great year.
This year I went to Cuba and wrote most of my next book. Marvin's Book hit #1 in humor. Every book signing sold out. I met awesome people and wore cute shoes. I buy new yoga pants, snappy black ones that look "much better."
This year I'm having a better birthday. I decided to, I planned to.
Last year I announced that no one needed to buy or do anything with or for me (please) and to not even try.
This year I decided to be happy, and I decided that in order to be happy I needed a present from Abuela, I know she'd want me to be happy and to celebrate a great year ending and a better year beginning.
Before heading to the mall I ask myself what Abuela would have bought me.
Jewelry? Shoes? No.
Three seconds of rewinding in my head and I remember what she gave me every year in college and after that - makeup gifts from the mall, artists palettes of violets pinks corals and golds, entire rainbows of possibility
I find a gorgeous box of color at Sephora and shamelessly buy it, reveling in the hope of having another year of adventures worthy of lipgloss, cute shoes and stories to write for you.