Saturday, October 31, 2009


What to wear? It was my birthday, a week before Halloween. Halloween was my favorite holiday. I'd never given a party before. We were going to celebrate Halloween and my 9th birthday.

I had dropped hints about what I wanted for my birthday -- a makeup kit with everything in it -- 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 5 gallon wash-tub that was used for soaking clothes was clean and full of water. We were going to have a bobbing for apples game.

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.

My sister made me a tall witches 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 old, mature, important.

At breakfast my first gift was plunked down in front of me -- not wrapped -- 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 Mother'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 crackjack box, a fake watch from Woolworth's 5 & 10. 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 was a grey pearl pen and pencil set. The other box was 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.

I felt awful. I felt like crying. The disappointment, the shock -- a box, pen and pencil, stationery, a diary -- was that all?

The day went downhill from that point on.

There were things to do -- the usual tidy-upping that a person has to do every day. I felt old and sad -- being nine felt like a not good thing.

My 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 witches 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 three handkerchiefs, two coloring books, a book of paper dolls, a comic book, a crossword puzzle book, and a rag doll. The gifts seemed to be gifts the kids 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, 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 sad 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 unhappy, not good ... no ... it was more than not good -- it was a bad birthday -- and this bad 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.

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