Onwards and Upwards, Birthday.

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.


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. 


27 thoughts on “Onwards and Upwards, Birthday.

  1. I can help you with a few of these things.

    Next time I see you, I shall hug you like crazy. Then we shall go to the planetarium, cuz I love that shit too.

    Happy Birthday, Dear Dear Friend.

  2. Darling Fritz,

    The next time I see you, I will hug you tightly and will also buy you a frothy, silly drink at Starbucks if you are in the mood.

    I miss my mother terribly and urge you to see your mom and hug her whenever you can afford to.

    Happy birthday again to a very special young woman. oxoxoxo

  3. Happy Birthday! Mine is tomorrow. I should have known when I loved your blog from the first time I read it that we were kindred Virgos. You’re a smart, smart, smart-ass writer. I’m one also. A writer that is. I never know if my stuff is really good. But I have a blog and a column and a portfolio of articles.

    I enjoy reading your stuff. It’s spot on and so relatable and HONEST. You keep going Girl. You’re hitting it out of the park. Think about doing something out of character and just jumping in the car to go see your Mom. We Mom’s LOVE that stuff.

    Have a great Birthday 🙂

  4. Happy Birthday! Mine is tomorrow. I should have known when I loved your blog from the first time I read it (laughed until I cried) that we were kindred Virgos. I’m a writer too. I’m never sure how good of a one. But I have a blog, a column and a portfolio of articles. But you…your writing is spot on, funny, so relatable and HONEST. Keep going Girl. You’re hitting it out of the park.

    Think about throwing caution to the wind and just jumping in your car to go see your Mom. We Mom’s LOVE that stuff.

    Have a great Birthday!

  5. Happy birthday Katherine! If I weren’t on the opposite side of the country right now and also basically a complete stranger, I would totally give you a GIANT hug right now. Like, the kind where you worry in the delightful kind of way that the other person is ACTUALLY going to tackle you to the ground 🙂

    I guess what I can give as a birthday gift is a thank you – your blog posts are raw and funny and real and poignant and all over the place, and they’re smile-inducing and thought-provoking and fist-pounding-on-the-table-while-shouting-Yeah! to read. But they also inspire just a slight twinge of jealousy – not the hateful kind, but the useful kind that makes this fellow twenty-something blogger yearn to write something raw and funny and real and poignant and all over the place, too. To write better than she has before. And for a writer, that motivation is an incredible gift.

    So thanks for that. I appreciate it. To put it mushily, I appreciate you 🙂

  6. Happy Birthday! Mine was just last week, but I’m a little bit older than you; okay, a lot older. I doubt we have much in common, but I really enjoy your writing! Enjoy what is left of your day.

  7. ok birthday girl. I like your style and I can easily fall in love with somebody that is an interesting and well…crazy person like you. Im tall and im a stranger, so hey pick me! Im surprised actually that nobody even bothered to pretend at least that they were tall and handsome. I wont pretend that im handsome since that is a matter of taste more than anything. I have devoured your pages and would love to meet you. I live in quebec city and hate the usual bullshit that goes around dating these days.
    I know your a busy girl so if you ever want to run away to meet a complete stranger here is your chance.
    im not going to give a lot of details about me just yet. i prefer to make an ass of myself in person.

  8. 🙂 I suppose a dented heat shield COULD blow up once you got on the freeway, and hit 70mph, but only if you first stated that you were, “a leaf on the wind.” At that point, the heat shield is certain to explode in a fiery mess, unless you love your car, in which case the blast would be re-directed to the car behind you. So, just make sure your mom rides inside the car, and does not follow you, and all will be well.

    Unless you hate your car. In which case … ummm, your blogs will live on forever in the hearts and minds of all those who read them. 🙂

  9. So I just wandered onto our site because I read your recent Huff Post about the jams. I am so completely excited to have discovered your blog! You might get this a lot, but I immediately feel we have so much in common. First off, my birthday was the 17th of Sept and I also turned 28… you mention the Adirondacks, are you a NY girl? (Born in Buffalo!) Enough creepy stuff though. Seriously. I am loving your blog and really love your voice! Thanks for this one, Huff Post.

  10. I am in love with your blog.
    I just discovered it the other day and I feel drawn to it a like a good book I can’t put down.

    Just when I thought I couldn’t dig you more for your raw honesty and clever humor you mentioned Firefly and added to your geeky charm. (which by the way is a total compliment in my book, so don’t take it the wrong way)

    Please don’t stop blogging, you’re my favorite.


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