My mom asked me the other day what I wanted for my birthday. It’s a tricky question, because I am turning twenty-eight today, which feels too old for birthday presents, and also because I think this entire blogging experiment has repeatedly proven the point that I have no idea what I want, ever.
She suggested that a great present would be for her to chip in for my gas so I could come visit on my birthday weekend. Today’s the beginning of the Adirondack Hot Air Balloon Festival, and she lives near the launch site. I welled up thinking about it – how much I wish I could just take off from work and go, fill up my tank with gas, turn up the music and drown out the rattle from the axle, the hum from the motor. I’d drive all night until I arrived at sunrise, carrying a box of donuts from our favorite Philly donut place. She’d brew coffee and we’d sit out in the yard, orange leaves crunching underfoot, sipping from mugs I’ve loved since I was small. We’d tuck our feet under our knees and watch the balloons float up over the mountains and into the sky.
And then I remembered that life isn’t a Folgers commercial.
SOME SHIT I MIGHT ACTUALLY WANT FOR MY BIRTHDAY:
I want a hug. I want a lot of hugs. Like, a million awesome hugs, the kind that genuinely convey affection, the bear-squeezy kind from my big dude friends, the kind that pick me up off my feet.
I want a good cry. Not ‘cause anything’s wrong. Just because sometimes a good happy “I’m okay” cry feels really right, and I don’t allow myself that luxury often.
I want an afternoon to myself, the kind where I really don’t have any guilt about anything else I should be doing. I’d spend it at the used bookstore near the Free Library, wandering the stacks and dreaming.
I want a bath. I have to bribe my roommate for this one, since he’s the one with the tub, but I want to soak in a bathtub with a candle and a book and a tumbler of bourbon, undisturbed, as my fingertips turn wrinkly.
I want to stop worrying about my health. I have pretty shitty insurance and a habit of trying a lot of weird internet remedies rather than deal with the expense and hassle of seeking actual medical attention, so I put off a lot of things. So far everything save a terrifying trip to the emergency dentist and another, even more terrifying trip to the lady doctor, has basically cleared itself up on its own. (That sounded really bad. Oh, god. I didn’t mean to freak you out. Everything is fine. I don’t have a weird STD or ladyparts cancer, which was the scare I was referencing, because looking at WebMD while waiting for your test results is always the worst thing you can possibly do). I want a really awesome kickass doctor—in my head, she’s a sassy lady in her mid-thirties with cool glasses—who will listen to me rattle off all of the secret fears that keep me up at night, run all the tests, and then inform me that I’m going to be okay.
I want to stop worrying about the persistent rattling noise of my car. My mechanic swears it’s just a dented heat shield that has no impact on the car whatsoever, but I’m convinced that he’s just using words he stole from Firefly and it’s actually going to explode the minute I hit 70mph on the highway.
I would like a nice dinner. The kind with a tablecloth.
I would like to tell my parents in person that I love them, and thank them for making me. They have just as much to do with my birthday as I do.
I would like to fall madly in love with a handsome stranger. Bonus points if he falls in love with me too. Triple bonus points if he turns out not to be an asshole.
I would like to go to the aquarium and then the planetarium and just get lost in how fucking incredible the universe is.
I would like to tell so many people I love them. Because I do, but it’s hard to pull off without sounding like a deranged Emily from a bad high school production of Our Town. For me, it comes from this place of feeling genuinely loved on my birthday, which has a lot to do with my friends and my family but also with the weird phenomenon that is Facebook, where people from all kinds of odd corners of my life reach out in the tiniest yet significant way and I remember them and smile and think about that person and glow, all day long. It’s all I can do not to stop strangers on the street and shout, “Don’t you know, today is a day where I feel so loved, and where it makes me so grateful to be alive? Don’t you realize how deeply I love so many people? Aren’t humans incredible?”
I would like the news to be happy, just for an hour.
I would like to believe in the goodness of others more.
I would like the world to stop yelling, just for a bit.
I would like my shoulders to drop, inch by inch, until the weight of all of the things was lifted from them.
I would like there to be fewer guns out there.
I would like there to be fewer angry radicals and lunatics out there.
I would like to feel better about the vastness of the universe, and how small I am in comparison.
I would like to feel better about my neighborhood, my city, my state, my country, my country’s ability to get along with other countries.
I would like to feel better about myself.
And I wish the dog next door would stop pooping on my front sidewalk.
But I realize that’s a tall order. So instead, Mom? Here’s what I want for my birthday. Just call me so I can hear your voice. And maybe send a card.
(And maybe ten bucks. I wouldn’t say no to that, either).
IMPORTANT ADDENDUM: Whoa. I’m a dick. I wrote this last night, woke up, re-read, and it finally clicked with me why this felt so familiar: I definitely subconsciously aped a lot of Mary Carpenter’s excellent and deservedly viral post about Mother’s Day, which I link for you here. She’s super smart and funny and does this post way better than I did. I saw her across a room at a work thing last night which probably put this into the murky depths of my brain. I don’t actually know her personally, but next time I’ll introduce myself and apologize for jacking her style.