As a Facebook user, I’m frequently reminded of events long-since passed, by its Memories function. These Memories often pertain to an era when Facebook was an altogether different animal, a pleasant and frivolous way to keep up with family and friends. It wasn’t an exercise in wading through increasingly hackneyed memes or suspiciously relevant advertising; at this point I was naively unaware that Facebook was stealing my data for advertising or political targeting purposes. I was also the overwrought mother of two small children and my posts vividly portrayed my alternate delight and despair during these heady years.
A Memory that appeared this evening was one so deeply buried, I’d forgotten it. The gist of it was that bedtime had descended into chaos (again), this time because, on leaving for work, my husband had left my then-9-year-old son with instructions to supervise his younger sister’s writing of my birthday card for the next day. As I pointed out wryly at the time, it was no one’s fault that it had been left to the last minute, because they’re Portuguese. Regardless, the net result was my daughter refusing to write anything in English, hysterics, a scuffle, a broken toy make-up set and more hysterics. I think we all know who ended up co-ordinating her own birthday greetings, while simultaneously smoothing the waters. Happy birthday me.
Only a few days before, Facebook had also reminded me of the occasion that my young daughter had offered to “help” my hair. Whether this compares favourably to the time my son described my coiffure as black and yellow (read terrible roots) is anyone’s guess. They certainly never seemed to idealise my appearance, as one quite disturbing depiction by my son attests.
In fairness, these birthday memories were a slight improvement on my 34th birthday, which I recall spending crying because I hadn’t succeeded in having a baby. Several years later, I spent the morning of my birthday snivelling to myself as I shuffled, exhausted and puffy-eyed, around our local supermarket for precisely the opposite reasons. By this time I was juggling a very antisocial teaching timetable with two little ones and felt as though I might be on the verge of collapse. Some people are never happy!
These days I somewhat foolishly tend to look forward to my birthday. This might be viewed as slightly unbecoming in a woman of my advancing years, although in comparison to Prince Andrew’s recent definition of “unbecoming”, I see no problem. Now seIf-employed, I’ve awarded myself a day off to mark the day. Everyone’s nerves are frazzled by late November. Christmas is looming and yet not close enough to feel that a break from the routine is within reach. A day off from reality seems like a good idea.
I have no intention of making my own birthday cake as I have done in the past to appease the children. In hindsight, perhaps these occasions were marginally better than the year the three of us celebrated after school with a plastic electronic cake which emitted a tinny rendition of Happy Birthday while Daddy was at work.
None of that this year! Taking matters into my own hands, I’ve booked a spa treatment (using a voucher I was given last Christmas – no comment) and scheduled a full set of highlights to rectify any repeat of the offending black/yellow barnet of a few years ago. Upon informing one of my regular students that I wouldn’t be working the following Thursday and on the verge of explaining why, he stopped me abruptly: “I know why. It’s not every day you reach half a century!” he quipped. At least I think he was joking.
This year I’ve seized control of the situation and I’m giving myself the gift of time off, some peace and quiet, although possibly several years too late now that the crisis has passed. I am hopeful that there’ll be many, uninterrupted cups of tea and perhaps even cake made neither by me, nor of plastic. And all being well, aged 47, I’ll be saying without a hint of irony: happy birthday me.