What to wear? It was my birthday, a week before Halloween. I'd never given a party before. We were going to celebrate Halloween and my ninth birthday.
I had dropped hints about what I wanted for my birthday -- a makeup kit -- a ring with my birthstone -- a wristwatch, guitar, or a real art easel and a set of oil paints.
Daddy's car was parked temporarily on the street. The party was going to be in the garage. We'd decorated the garage with orange crepe paper scallops. Orange paper plates and cups were stacked on two card tables. A skeleton hung on the garage door. The large pumpkin, which I carved all by myself was on a stool. A candle was in it, ready to be lit.
The pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game was tacked up on a white sheet. A five gallon wash-tub, that was used for soaking clothes, was clean and full of water. We were going to a bob for apples.
My class from school was invited. Kids I liked and also the one's I didn't like -- I'd handed out the invitations that I'd crayoned to everyone -- more people meant more presents.
My sister made me a witch's hat from some stiff black cardboard she'd bought at the art store. We found a piece of black cloth for a cape. I wanted a wand. We used an old black umbrella, tied shoe laces and string around it to keep it flat and pointy.
The morning of the big day I woke early -- excited -- nine-years-old seemed wonderfully grown up, mature, important.
At breakfast my first gift was plunked down in front of me -- no wrapping -- it was a handsome jewelry box, brown, with brass corners. It had three drawers. The inside of the box was lined with a soft green felt. It looked like Mom's jewelry box but smaller.
"Look, it has three keys!" one of my sisters said, as if three keys were very important.
I didn't need three drawers or three keys. I didn't have any real jewelry -- just wooden beads, a tin ring from a Cracker Jack box, a fake watch from Woolworth's. I figured a birthstone ring, and maybe the wristwatch were in the other boxes -- three gift-wrapped boxes were sitting on the buffet near the coffee pot.
One box held a grey-pearl pen and pencil set. The other box contained fancy stationery -- pink and blue paper, pink and blue envelopes. The third box had a red leather diary in it -- small, with a little key and lock.
A pen and pencil, stationery, a diary -- was that all? I looked around but there were no other gifts or wrapped boxes as my other sister said, "Nice useful things you got today, Emily."
There were things to do -- the usual tidy-upping things one has to do every day. I felt old and sad about the useful things till one of my sisters said "Lots of kids are coming, I'll help you get dressed."
Both sisters helped me put on my makeup -- zig-zag eyebrows, tons of lipstick, and round rouge spots on my cheeks. My two braids hung on either side of my tall witch's hat. My cape was fastened with a large-sized safety pin. I smiled a big real smile when my sister took a picture. I figured I'd win the prize for the best costume. The prize was a kaleidoscope. I loved kaleidoscopes.
The kids who came to the party came with relatives. The relatives sat on chairs and the bench. I got four handkerchiefs, two coloring books, a book of paper dolls, two comic books, a beach ball, and a rag doll. The gifts seemed to be gifts my classmates had been given when they were younger.
I didn't win the prize for best costume. My sister was the host, and she got the relatives to indicate the winner by applauding. There were two other witches, two gypsies, one fairy, three girls in cooking aprons, and boys in dumb costumes except the winner -- he wore a top hat, and tap shoes. He came as Fred Astaire.
Shall I go on with this story? I didn't win pin-the-tail-on-the donkey. Blobbing for apples my hat fell in the water, but I did manage to get an apple.
The not happy, not good ... no, it was more than not good, -- it was a bad birthday -- and this un-happy birthday has stayed somewhere in my mind where one's negativity resides.
Is it why I don't celebrate my birthday? Has it made me anti-social?
I don't celebrate birthdays because advertising my age at this point in time, turns conversations into "how do you feel?" ... "how's your health?" ... "you mean you're still working?" And I'm not anti-social -- my expectations are minimal, and at the same time HUGE.
Maybe this is why I carry around, mentally, a black umbrella -- to put up in case in rains -- to have just in case I need a magic wand. That night on page one of my new red leather diary, using my new grey pearl pen, I wrote "Being nine, is very different from being eight."
What do you deem "IMPORTANT?" My dictionary says: Important is something that's marked by significant worth, or consequence, valuable, in content or relationship.
What's on your list of concerns?
Is it a person, or persons you love, a pet, a possession? Or is it your home? Is it your job? Your skill, your ability, to do or try to do whatever you do expertly, wonderfully well?
Maybe it's your reputation, the way people treat you, or a passionate commitment you have for helping people? Or some philosophical determination you have for telling the truth, being honest? Or your credit rating -- how much money you have, or maybe, for you, it's essential to be able to pay your bills on time?
What about life and death stuff -- humans, animals, countries, political issues -- voters, immigrants, healthcare, debt ceiling, all of that, along with keeping up with iPads, phones, apps, styles, trends -- warnings, predictions, statistical proof of what's bad or good.
Yes, yes -- all of that is major, significant.
Even so, beware of being boxed in by external things -- priorities imposed by others, fear, confusion, questioning, wondering why are you doing what you're doing -- where are you heading -- shouldn't you be doing this or that?
I think, based on my life, my observations, the most important thing is to be the boss, king, emperor of you.
Yes, yes, yes -- it's a gift you can give yourself when you listen to, obey, think, feel, do what's on your mind and in your heart and are free to be YOU.
NEW! ... Emily Frankel and John Cullum offer lively, provocative video commentary on YouTube once a week. Click image above to go.
HOW I GOT HERE
I'm a writer, writing things that haven't brought me fame, but continue to involve me, inspire me to find an audience.
I started out as a modern dancer, contemporary, but balletic. I didn't want to be a swan, or a barefoot dancer. I wanted to dance to the music that thrilled me as a child, and made me want to be a dancer.
I began writing in the truck my first husband, Mark Ryder and I bought, in order to carry our set, props, and costumes for a long one-night-stands tour -- eighty-eighty performances in eighty-eight cities.
We were performing "Romeo and Juliet" nightly, but our marriage was breaking up. Every day while our stage manager drove us two-hundred miles or so to the next booking, I'd type a detailed description of last night -- what we did well, what we argued about, and a travelogue about the town, and comments from the people at the nightly party.
Recovering from the trip and the divorce, I sent my "car book" to a friend who said -- "Em, it's great, but ..." And that became rewrites, and another book. Then, my marriage to actor John Cullum, and then a play that got produced, and another book, big hopes because a famous agent loved it. The title and concept changed five times -- now it's been published, finally, as "Somebody, Woman of the Century." You can buy it, or read about it and my other five novels on Emily Frankel.com