When it’s Alright to Lie – or Happy Birthday to Me

03Feb13

birthday greetingsMy mother taught me how to lie.  When she switched the price tags on a shirt at Kmart or dropped a toy I wanted into her calico purse, I pretended to not notice.  At Bill Knapps, she’d tell the wait staff it was my birthday.  My brother and I had these “fake” birthdays several times a year because they’d give us a free dinner and a tiny, chocolate cake with a single candle that burned and spit all bright in the middle of the day.

These fake birthdays, for me, were a way to get fancy, free food and have a conversation with my mom and brother.  Sure, I’d be bouncing on the seats and tossing my fancy, folded napkin in the air and my brother would say “God, you’re such a spaz!” and my Mom would say “Fuck kids, keep it down.”  It beat creeping around my house or hiding in the basement talking to myself because the whole neighborhood thought my family was weird, that I was weird.

These memories are built on lies and fantasies. I wanted it to be my birthday. I wanted my family to care and share chocolate cake with me.  The candles, the wait staff with pressed aprons all there for me all because I was pretending.

These skills have proven to be priceless.  Pretending, imagination, twisting the truth (because my birthday did happen sometime that year) are skills I utilize as a nonfiction writer.  In the exploration of these slippery lies and memory I learn the truth; I wanted so much more, a “normal” life where fights and fists weren’t flying, where we were a mother and daughter who got along.  Those slices of peace came in the form of cake and toys and clothes, but those moments where everyone got along, where pretending something was free or cheap kept us connected.  Our secrets, even the shame of the secrets, kept us glued together.

Maybe my fake birthday was a lie.  But I miss them.  I miss sitting down with my mom and telling her what I would have wanted if it were my real birthday.  Sometimes she’d reach into her purse, and like a magician, pull out a tiny trinket: a locket or heart-shaped earrings, a fuzzy key-chain shaped like a koala.  “Happy Birthday,” she’d say, and she’d mean it.

Happy One Month birthday on WordPress to me…. I’m singing. Some might call that an anniversary, saying a birthday only happens once a year.  I’m gonna take my momma’s version and say it’s my birthday because I like the word better.  Anniversary sounds old-fashioned, like my hair is roller-set and white, like I’ve been married so long I wish I wasn’t.

If my mom lived here, she’d gladly celebrate with me.  A piece of chocolate cake, a candle, and a slight twisting of the truth – Happy Month Birthday, dear readers.  Happy Month Birthday to Me.

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4 Responses to “When it’s Alright to Lie – or Happy Birthday to Me”

  1. Happy Birthday to you!

  2. As a bellman, I’ve told a lie or two.. or a thousand.
    Great post!


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