During the past two months while I was slacking off my blogging duties so I could promote my book, The Candidate’s Daughter, wrestle the yard into submission, make a thousand pots of marmalade, and attempt to clean the house, life went on. Events came and went, we got older one day at a time, and, yes, the Girl had her birthday.
Now, if you’ve read posts like, “A Wonderfully Warm Welcome to Pauline the Elephant,” or “It’s All About the Presents,” you’ll be aware that there are two events in the Girl’s calendar of equal importance. Her birthday is one of them and she’s acutely aware of how close it is.
This never fails to astound me. My Girl has limited communication. She has little comprehension of days of the week. Time has virtually no meaning to her. She cannot read. Numerical values have no place in her world. Her version of Cookie Monster’s signature song begins, “P is for Cookie…” I have no idea what her IQ is. If a person’s IQ were based solely on the ability to identify the proximity, time-wise, of one’s birthday or Christmas, she’d be quids in for a Mensa rating.
Take the week of her birthday. This year, it fell on a Sunday. We invited the Girl’s brother, the Chukker Boy, and the Girl’s uncle, appropriately named Uncle Plunkle, along with his lady, Joey-nana and her daughter. As per every birthday since the Girl was sixteen, we celebrated it at Valentines Family Restaurant.
The good news for me was that because we numbered four or more, and because we were dining on her actual birthday, the Girl was eligible to eat for free. In sixteen years of celebrating the Girl’s birthday at Valentines, it’s the first time we’ve scored a free meal because there were always only three of us. That’s right, Valentines got us back for all those years I got the Girl in as a seven-year-old.
Preparations for the day began weeks in advance. Determined I wasn’t going to be brow-beaten over presents and Valentines for weeks in advance, I avoided any mention of it. Regardless, the Tuesday preceding her birthday we drove past Valentines and I noted the way she peered out the window gazing wistfully at the front entrance, then swivelled to watch it disappear behind us. Nothing was said.
On the Wednesday as we passed, she uttered the word, “Birthday,” and fidgeted pensively.
By Thursday she showed signs of growing agitation—she craned to view the restaurant as we passed, and made small throat noises. That should have clued me in to what Friday would bring.
Howling—that’s what Friday brought. Head back, gob wide howling. I can only assume her internal Birthday clock was running hot. We zoomed past Valentines with her pointing back and yowling, “Valentiiiiiiiiinnnnnnes,” at the top of her lungs, and me yelling, “Not today! It’s on Sundaaaay!”
Ditto with the return trip.
Saturday was no better. All we heard about was Valentines. The day lasted around a month and a half. By the time Sunday rolled around, I would have happily allowed myself to be carted off wearing elongated sleeves tied at the back and a bag over my head.
Sunday opens with the Girl wanting to wear her pretty summer dress with her Pooh Bear sandals. Every year it’s the same. I tell her it’s mid winter and she’ll wear something warm. She acquiesces but only because she knows she has presents in store.
We arrive at Valentines fifteen minutes early. The waitress seats us and asks if I’d like a drink. I check my watch. “It’s a little early,” I tell her.
“We’ve got a lovely Villa Maria chardonnay,” she tells me.
I’m tempted. Nobody else has arrived and the Girl is demanding presents. I tell the waitress to make it a big one, then give the Girl her first present, the jersey I bought her with the doggie print on the front. It’s not a CD or a game. She gives it a disgusted once over and flings it aside just as the waitress returns with my drink.
“Presents,” the Girl is telling me.
I slug the wine back so fast, my taste buds are going, “What the hell was that?” when the Chukker Boy arrives.
“Happy birthday,” he tells the Girl.
“Presents,” she replies.
He slips a rectangular package across the table and she opens it, saying, “Games.”
While she’s inspecting the games, Uncle Plunkle and Joey-nana arrive. They also wish her a happy birthday. They’re also met with demands for presents. They pass a rectangular gift across the table. The Girl tears open the packaging. It contains coloring books and crayons. She’s delighted.
So far, the day is meeting all expectations—games, coloring books and crayons, followed by a slap-up feed. This is a girl who does not appreciate surprises. She is, however, prepared to overlook the disappointment of the doggie jersey, because she’s thrilled with her other gifts.
When all presents have been opened and examined, she wipes out a plate of foods that should never be served in the same restaurant, let alone on the same plate. She eats amazingly well for someone in her condition, but the day has taken it’s toll. We’ve no sooner finished our desert, and she wants to go home. We wave our party guests off, and head to the car, knowing another successful birthday is out of the way.
It’s a birthday I didn’t think she’d see.
It’s just as I plunge the key into the ignition, and say, “Did you have a lovely time?” I realize that her internal clock ticks over.
“Christmas,” she tells me.
“Excellent,” I mumble as I start up the car. “I can hardly wait.”
It’s now August. I have no idea if the Girl will make it to Christmas, so next month we’ll put up the Christmas tree.
What’s the point in waiting?
And at least I’ll have three weeks to decide what to do about the presents …