Looking at pictures from my birthdays all the way back to when I started having them at age one, there has been a constant. The pictures show a small family, anywhere from four to ten people, and me with a big grin on my face, sometimes full of cake, sometimes buried in gifts. The only person in my family who loved birthdays as much as I did was my grandma. She insisted we celebrate birthdays on the day, because that was the only way they would be truly special. This got harder as I got older and busier and we hardly ever celebrated my birthday "on the day." It was never less special in her eyes, though, and she always treated it like it was a magical day.
My parents and I joked--and still do now sometimes--about how materialistic my grandma was. How she loved pretty things, bows, wrapping paper, cakes. Her materialism went beyond just the objects themselves, though. The things she bought for people spoke words she didn't feel were enough when they were said. To her, a gift bought out of love was better than just a simple "I love you." She selected gifts with care even though it was harder for her as we both got older; it was harder for her to get around and also more difficult to select gifts for a granddaughter she didn't know very well anymore. I see her in stores, looking over items saying to Grandpa, "Kelly would love that!" or "Let's get that for Kelly." Grandma loved to shop, and I know she loved to shop for me.
Today, as I felt my chest tighten when thoughts came into my head about this Saturday, my birthday, I tried to pinpoint what it was that was stressing me out about it. I've planned about a million things, and my friend E has been more than obliging with my changing my mind. I finally settled, as I walked out to get my mail, that I was probably pissed off that I was having to plan my own birthday. I know that's stupid, but it's true. I've always wanted my birthdays to be special, as special as Grandma made them when I was little, and no one except for her truly understood all that birthdays represent to me and how important that day really is.
I opened my mailbox and inside, right on the top, was an envelope with my grandpa's writing on it. I looked at the return address, which for the first time in my twenty eight, almost nine, years is not 1015 8th Ave. South. It's also the first card I've received from them...grandma and grandpa...that my grandma didn't write.
On the inside was a check, which I used to receive all the time and loved because it was money and who doesn't love money? My grandpa said that he hoped I had a happy birthday and he was sorry it was only money but Grandma always bought my gifts so I would have to buy my own this year...he isn't able to take over.
And that is what has been hanging over this birthday, why there's a pressure that there's never been for me to make my own birthday perfect. The woman who I always depended on, even more than my mom, to make me feel like a princess on my birthday is gone and her absence this week is larger than on the day she died.