I spent the last couple years of my twenties praying for the moment that I’d turn thirty. It’s like I genuinely thought being thirty somehow meant that “things would be easier” and yet they have. I was just happy to put my twenties behind me.
In Year One of my thirties, I’ve managed to begin eking out my way. Whereas my twenties felt like I was always fighting fire with gasoline, my thirties have found me thoughtfully, carefully making decisions, choosing the right way, and learning to become, well, me again.
Year One certain had it’s ups and downs and still, the down’s didn’t feel like they were the bottomless pit variety. The ups were even higher.
I have, in no small part, you, Pranksters, to thank for this. You’ve watched me fail, fall, and start again, cheering me on when I needed it and wiping my tears when things seemed insurmountable. You’ve been the one constant in my life and more than that, you became my family.
I cannot tell you how much that means nor can I thank you enough.
This year, I’ve watched my daughter lose her words, then find them again, and now, she spits them at me with a side of sass thrown in. Because she’s my girl.
My middle son has grown from a toddler to a child, all arms and legs and sweetness and light. Someone who hugs away my tears and makes me laugh from the bottom of my leg bones.
After so many years of believing that I was probably a child prodigy, I realize that the one who earns that title is my (almost) ten year old, the one who has found his way in his music.
This year, I founded not one but two group blogs (happy birthday to YOU, Mushroom Printing! who happened to be founded on my birthday last year).
Once I saw the need for a safe, moderated space on the Internet where we could share our secrets, reduce the stigmas of mental illness, abuse, rape and all the other skeletons in our closets, I created Band Back Together. I thanked my parents for the nursing texts as I began to create resource pages for the site. Now the site is a combination of knowledge and power, just like School House motherfucking Rock.
I created shirts (you should buy one. It’s my birthday, after all and you have to do what I say) and shattered my own expectations.
Today, Year One ends and I’m onto Year Two (I’ll be thirty-one). I’ll close this year out while gorging on tapas and drinking champagne.
I can hardly wait to see what happens next. Assuming it’s something good like a pony and not something shitty like a meat tornado.
Because nobody expects a meat tornado.
Every other week when I was a kid, some kid brought their store-bought cuppity-cakes into school, beaming benevolently as we wished them a perfunctory “happy birthday” before diving face-first into the sugar. The poor teachers had the task of dealing with us after we’d gotten our sugar high on.
I tried to rise above it as a kid. To say, “it’s okay; the teachers like ME better because I don’t bring on the sugar high.” But it was a steaming pile of bullshit. Had I been given the chance, I’d have jumped to bring my very own sugared treats into the class, my classmates bowing before me, a queen doling out cake to her loyal subjects.
Thanks to my parents humping schedule, I was never given the opportunity.
My birthday falls into the absolute middle of the summer abyss. July 15th. Pay day.
Every year, I’d throw parties, and about half the class would show up. The rest were too busy vacationing up in Detroit or whatever and unable to attend. This meant less loot for me. Plus, I felt like a loser. My parents should buy me a pony to make up for this.
And now that I’m an adult, I swore off the 15th as my “birthday,” opting to celebrate on the more refined sounding 28th. That pushes my birthday just far away enough from July 4th that I might actually stand a chance at throwing a party with real! live! guests! Plus, I made it official on The Facebook, which means that it’s really real, right?
Plus, July 15th is cursed. Some gigantor percentage of the last ten years has found me, on my birthday, in the ER or Urgent Care. Happy Birthday! You have a scratched cornea!
But try as I have to deny it, I can’t help but feel like tomorrow IS my birthday. Which means that I’m both terrified by what the day will bring and hopeful that it involves presents.
Which, now that I think about it, is how I feel every day.
It was one of the first nights I’d worked in the brand-new restaurant. Anyone who has worked in restaurants before knows that the first months after opening are a fucking zoo: The pond scum slithers it’s way off the pond and into the joint to try it out – and torture the staff in the progress – the usually new management has no idea how much of everything to order and the waitstaff is so new they can’t tell you if they even stock honey. For tea. At a pizza place. In fact, no one knows if there’s any honey, so it’s a safe bet there’s no honey. It’s a pizza place, after all.
As one of the only servers who’d waited tables before, I got handed the biggest section and was frequently given tables that other servers couldn’t keep up with. It was pizza, not rocket science, and yet, I had the most experience.
One of the tables I’d gotten just as we’d run out of pizza sauce (at a pizza place!); something that sparked horror and general flailing about from management, cooks and servers alike, was a two-top, or deuce, as we called them. Old people. Whatever. I maintained that groups of women are the worst to wait on, so the old people, I wasn’t worried about.
Barely audible over the din of the shrieking waitstaff and patrons (no! pizza! sauce!), they placed their order. I, like I always did, wrote it down neatly in my notebook. It wasn’t to help me remember, no, it was so I could have BACKUP whenever anyone insisted I ordered something wrong. I’d take the fall for a lot of mistakes, but I wouldn’t own it unless it was mine.
I placed the order in the computer and got them their drinks. Pizzas took at least thirty minutes to cook, so I knew I had time to get caught up on the rest of my tables. Like I said, it was a busy night.
When their order came out, I brought it out and served it, just as I’d been showed.
I placed the pieces in front of the woman, she smacked my hand, “THAT’S NOT WHAT I ORDERED,” she screamed. I whipped out my hand-dandy notebook to show her that yes, in fact, it was.
“NO!” she screamed, “it’s not!”
Well, there wasn’t any point in arguing. I apologized. It had obviously been my error in both writing down and repeating back to them. Fine. I knew I was right.
I grabbed the manager and sent him over to deal with her. This was beyond my pay grade.
He fixed it somehow – maybe he gave them a coupon or a new pizza, I didn’t know and didn’t care – and when I brought over drink refills, I apologized again for what had happened.
They looked at me as though I had killed their puppy. Or Jesus. Or their puppy AND Jesus.
Except, they were in my section and every time I went near the table, their mournful, sad and somewhat hateful eyes followed me, just like those haunted house pictures. Every movement I made, they watched, hatefully.
I wanted to yell, “It was just a pizza, you assfuckers!” but I didn’t. Instead, I smiled more brightly with each passing glare. If you can’t win ‘em, be cheerful as fuck about it.
Finally, they left, their eyes no longer murdering me every time I stepped foot near the table. My fellow servers patted me on the back. “Eh,” I said, “she looked like a bullfrog anyway.” Because she did.
The following day, I stopped by my pharmacy to pick up a wrist brace. I know what they say about us Midwestern chicks, but I don’t have cornfed ankles OR wrists. So carrying trays that weighed 6000000 pounds did a number on me. Hence the wrist braces.
Who should walk past me?
The bullfrog lady and her husband. They looked relatively normal until they spied me, squatting there, examining wrist braces. Then, again with the “you killed Jesus stares.”
This time I wasn’t at work. This time I was off the motherfucking clock.
So I did the only thing that made sense: I stuck my tongue out at them and blew a gigantic raspberry.
They glared harder (perhaps I’d been upgraded to “kills baskets of puppies and/or Jesus) as I walked back to the register, a bounce in my step, feeling that I, for once, had finally been able to speak my mind.
(they became regulars at the pizza place and I refused to wait on them ever again)