It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To…..
We all have them, they seems to come with a strange sort of regularity – like each year, or 365 days or every 8,760 hours.
At six minutes to midnight on 31st December 1958 my mum was lying prostrate in the local maternity unit desperately trying to delay my birth as best she could. The promise of a years supply of terry nappies, several bottles of Napisan and a dozen horrifically large nappy pins were at stake. A gift from Johnson & Johnson along with an endless supply of baby lotion and powder to the first New Year Baby born in each County, or so the story goes.
Neither panting, grunting, puffing or singing could delay the inevitable urge and I was expelled into the world howling at 11.58 pm.
Much to mum’s dismay her fellow ward mate, Maude Sanders, fared better in the leg crossing game, finally producing at 12.00.03 am. a bouncing 9lb 6oz baby boy called Charlie.
Charlie was a ginger.
What on earth that had to do with it I’ll never know, but mum used to emphasise the colour of his hair as though it was a privilege that had won his mother the much coveted nappies. Dad’s theory, however, was the belief that ginger hair was so much coarser than my blonde hair and had conveniently acted as friction, slowing Charlie’s descent and ultimate birth for those vital seconds.
And so the misery of having a birthday on New Years Eve began for me.
At the tender age of 7-years, I objected profusely, by stamping on every tread of the stair in our 1930’s semi, to being sent to bed whilst mum and dad set up the Ercol sideboard in our best room with sandwiches, vol-au-vents and sausage rolls. With my head stuck between the bannister rails, I marvelled at the celery sitting ram-rod straight in Dad’s best pint glass and the hedgehog made from chunks of cheese & pineapple on sticks jammed into a silver ball. The twinkling lights from the Christmas tree reflected in the red polka dot plastic tablecloth and bunched balloons only added to my pique and misery.
Petulantly I stuck my tongue out. It was MY birthday so why on earth was I being sent to bed whilst the grown-ups enjoyed MY party. I was even more hurt that Mum and Dad hadn’t even had the decency to put out jelly cases with smarties on top.
Looking back, this was the first indication I had that I was going to be the child whose birthday wasn’t really important as I shared it with another, more special occasion that everyone else preferred to celebrate and attend.
NEW YEARS EVE….
Over the years I got used to coming second best to good Auld Lang Syne. My 21st birthday party was actually held on the 9th February 1980 as this was the only date available that would cater to everyone else’s New Year commitments, lengthy hangovers, post-christmas man flu/the shits/gout, and the needs of the majority who were apparently ‘heartily sick to the back teeth with Christmas, alcohol, parties and celebrations’
At the age of thirty, confidence having replaced my wall-flower existence I tried a new tack. Giggling after an excess consumption of Gin, I donned my fancy dress outfit for the New Years Eve party being held at our local Social Club. I would arrive fashionably late and by the time I’d finished with my little show, EVERYONE would know it was my birthday too.
Bursting in through the double doors, bottle of Prosecco in hand, dressed like a female Bob Marley in a vibrantly striped kaftan, guitar slung over my shoulder and a woolly hat, I began shouting ‘HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MEEEEEEEE’ at the top of my voice.
Swinging my colourful dreadlocks around for full effect, I gave a somewhat surprised gasp as they inadvertently hooked themselves on the ornate light fitting on the wall. Desperately trying to extricate the long hairy extensions I swung round, only to come face to face with the buffet table heavily laden with party food.
Curly pasta in tomato sauce, penne pasta in a creamy sauce, pasta pizza, pasta bake, pasta tuna, spicy pasta, curried pasta, beefy pasta, chicken pasta ….
I took in the surprised faces on the throng of elegantly dressed party goers, the glitter, the sparkle, the velour, satin and Lycra as it slowly dawned on me that this was not the Rasta Party I’d thought it was.
Staggering out, suitably humiliated by the sniggering which had then given way to raucous laughter, I vowed then that this would be the very last New Year were I would attempt to make it my day rather than anyone else’s.
I gave up.
That was until my rapidly approaching fiftieth birthday. I mean, come on, you can’t let your 50th pass by without some form of celebration can you? This time, as Fred Pontin so succinctly put it, I’d Book Early so I could have a party that was all about me for a change, so after perusing the calendar, Saturday 29th December 2007 was to be the exciting evening. As I began phoning around, booking the venue, catering, entertainment and picking the design for the invites, it struck me as to how much my childhood birthday disappointments had affected me over the years, this party, my ‘Please come to my 50th Party’ was going to be so cathartic. It would lay my ghosts to rest.
I was going to have a birthday party and it was on a day that was as close to New Years Eve as I could possibly get.
Two weeks later, tongue hanging out, I sat with my guest list. Using a special gold pen I’d bought from the Cheap shop, I wrote out my 150 invitations, stacked them in a pile and sat back on my comfy sofa to nostalgically look back over my 50 years on this planet. Hard to believe time had gone by so quickly.
I thought of the ginger-haired Charlie, wondered where he would be now. Would his hair still be ginger, or like mine, would it have touches of grey here and there. Would he still have his own eyebrows or would he have to pencil them in like I did so I could show surprise, horror or amusement? I doodled the decades on the back of a spare envelope, writing little memories for each one, each turn of the year. Where I was, what stage of my life I was at.
1958 my birth year
1968 ready to leave primary school
1978 preparing for my wedding
1988 starting life as a single mum with Emma
1998 a fabulous holiday in Crete
2007……2007! Hold on, that didn’t sound right, a seven instead of an eight…
If it wasn’t bad enough to have been born on a crap day, to have missed all the parties with jelly cases and smarties and to have bounced around as Bob Marley’s grandmother at what turned out to be a Pasta Party, I’d actually gone one better and excelled myself by inviting everyone to my 50th when in truth I would only be forty-nine.
As I set about cancelling the venue, caterer and band, I tearfully faced the realisation that the magic of a birthday party just for me had eluded me once again.
Fast forward ten years to New Years Eve 2017.
That year was destined to be a quiet one with family, a lovely meal and playing games with my granddaughters. Unfortunately the good old D&V bug put paid to that. Poor Olivia, my eldest granddaughter, began producing technicolour yawns with startling ferocity and regularity throughout the night, this in turn had everyone else in the family crossing themselves in fear whilst searching the house to ensure there are ample buckets, towels, disinfectant and Dioralyte at hand just in case of an epidemic.
I consoled myself that my next special birthday and New Years Eve would be different, I would plan ahead and a fine party would be had by all……including me.
Surprisingly those 364 days have crept up on me, and I’m totally unprepared. Tomorrow, Monday, 31st December 2018 I will at last reach the grand old age of 60…. and as much as I would like to be wrong; I still feel 30 in my head and my heart, I have to face up to the fact that I can’t turn back time. Knocking the ‘orgasmic’ tomatoes off the shelf in Morrisons with my droopy nellies as my rasping voice fills aisle 3 yelling “What’s the sell by date on this sonny?” is evidence of my rapidly approaching old age.
I have had Sixty years on this planet, sixty years of blessings, love, laughter and also sadness. All the little nuances of life that mean I have truly had a life, a life that is often denied to so many.
I have felt a mixture of emotions today.
No longer am I disappointed or sad not to have a birthday party, instead I am happy, counting those blessings that are my family and my friends. I have felt a sadness that my mum and dad aren’t here to see another birthday and another year, and my heart is heavy because my step-dad’s Dementia is worsening, so it is the first year in my life that I won’t get a card that says Happy Birthday Daughter. He has no idea that it is my birthday anymore, there are also moments when he has no idea that I am his daughter,
It’s as though the title of Daughter has finally been taken from me. Even the feigning of surprise at the present I had bought myself, wrapped by myself, with a tag written by me that said ‘To Gina, love Dad x‘ won’t be needed this year. There is no one left to fool or humour. I won’t have jelly and smarties or a cheese & pineapple hedgehog, I won’t have a party – Rasta, pasta or otherwise but I’ll relish with a smile the memories of the ones I almost had over the years.
Regardless, there will still be laughter and happiness tomorrow night, probably caused by me being incapable of pouring a small Gin, which in turn will no doubt have me skidding on my bum down two flights of stairs in my rabbit Onesie and fluffy slippers – without spilling a drop.
So another year has passed, a deluge of wrinkles have paid visit to my not so youthful face and have been accompanied by the obligatory random chin hair, but at 61 I’m still living a wonderful life that is so often denied to many. Thank you for being there for me, thank you for all your laughter, support and encouragement too. I would not have enjoyed the success I have been blessed with without it, nor would I have enjoyed it if you had not been there to share it with me.
Wishing you all much love, laughter and happiness in 2020
Handcuffs, Truncheon and A Polyester Thong © 2017
Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot – The Further Adventures of Constable Mavis Upton © 2018 (Urbane Publications)
Blues, Twos and Baby Shoes – The Further, Further Adventures of Constable Mavis Upton ©️ 2019