During childhood, life revolves around birthdays. You can never sleep the evening before the big day, and when it finally comes, you’ve psyched yourself out into thinking you’ve transformed into another person. Overnight, you have somehow matured and made a leap towards adulthood. If you’re lucky, you receive some nice gifts and get to spend the day with friends. If your birthday falls between August and June, you have the chance to be the birthday kid at school and possibly tie balloons onto your backpack. If, like me, you were born in the summer, you’re deprived of this experience but always celebrate your birthday in warm weather. Life hasn’t been all that unfair to you.
When it comes to birthdays, I had it made.
The day I moved from Los Angeles to the bay area, my new teacher said her fourth grade class had only one spare seat, which was right beside a tall female with long blond hair.
“Her name is Crystal. She’s a nice girl,” were my instructor’s exact words. Little did I know, Ms. Hancock had just introduced me to one of the greatest friends I would ever have.
That day, Crystal and I discussed dozens of low brow subjects, one of them being birthdays, which I brought up after knowing Crystal for several hours. It was our final icebreaker.
“When’s your birthday?” I asked, hoping I’d be older than her.
“July,” she answered, holding off on providing more information. Crystal has always been that way. She never gives everything away upfront. You have to goad her a bit to get the full story.
“Me too!” I yelled, talking out of turn in class for the third time that day. “Which day?”
“July 23,” Crystal said.
“Mine is July 25!” I responded.
From then on, the two of us knew we had to stick together. Birthdays were a huge deal to the both of us, and even at age nine we knew there was something special about this random connection.
And so we spent much of our elementary, junior high, and early high school birthdays together, laughing about the fact that we’d been born just two days apart. You could never think about Crystal’s birthday without mine coming to mind and vice versa.
On July 22 of each year, I’d call Crystal and say, “One more day!”
When July 23 rolled around, she would yell, “It’s my birthday!”
“That’s right!” I’d say.
“You know what that means, Laura? Yours is two days away!”
That’s how it went for us. It was convenient for our parents, but not so much our other lovely best friend, Nikita, whose birthday takes place on Thanksgiving of every year.
Because I was out for myself, I remember being so wrapped up in Crystal and my birthdays that I didn’t think twice about the fact that Nikita might feel left out of our celebrations. As a matter of fact, she did have a rough time with it, but not for the reasons I assumed. Nikita’s birthdays were always overshadowed by the holiday season and Thanksgiving meals, so most of her friends couldn’t hang out on her big day. The weather was chilly, so my parents were less inclined to drive me to her house. She definitely got short-changed, and Crystal and my excitement over our special days certainly didn’t help.
Regardless, we were a unit. From fourth through eighth grades, the three of us did everything together. I got especially close Nikita in fifth grade, when we bunked together at science camp and giggled the nights away as everyone around us slept. When you put us in a room, there was no chance we’d get any shut eye or contain our excitement. Later that year, we attended movies with my parents and fabricated stories about the odd homeless folks we encountered. We came to school with countless outrageous false accounts about hobos who chased us, threw sleeping bags in our direction, dipped their hair in red paint, and jumped off airplanes as a result of being denied spare change. The tales were absurd, childish, and untrue, but we had fun making them up nonetheless. No one believed us, but they found our “famous stories” hysterical. We had a special relationship, Nikita and I. We could be as bizarre, loud, and wild as we wanted around each other. Sometimes our jokes were too much for Crystal, but we were all for the insanity. We fed off each other’s peculiarity, energy, and creativity, even though we often faced punishment from our parents for getting out of hand.
Crystal, Nikita, and I experienced lots of milestone birthdays together. I remember our thirteenth birthdays as terrible, mostly because we were all in the midst of physically awkward stages, but things improved by sixteen, when we’d grown into our bodies, finally caught the attention of boys, and mapped out our futures. At that point, my friends were ahead of me in terms of dating, but I only had a few months to go before falling in love and getting kissed for the first time.
As you can imagine, we wanted our sixteenth birthdays to be memorable. In other words, we saw too many Molly Ringwald movies (or, as my father used to say, Molly Ringworm).
That year, Crystal had a boyfriend, so the four of us headed to the Boardwalk, our favorite summer hotspot, for some amusement park rides and junk food. Crystal and I knew a big secret on July 23, 2004. Nikita’s mom had planned a surprise sweet sixteenth birthday party for Nikita on July 24, the day before my birthday and after Crystal’s.
“Nikita has never had a fun birthday before. She deserves to like it for a change,” her mom said.
But, being selfish teenagers, Crystal and I were livid. We felt robbed of our special days, even though we’d just spent the last seven years enjoying our birthdays as a dynamic duo. This would never happen for November-born Nikita.
We couldn’t even blame Nikita, who had no clue her family was putting on a surprise early birthday bash for her.
Nevertheless, Crystal and I helped set up for the July 24 party two hours prior to Nikita’s arrival. When Nikita first got to the party, she seemed confused. We all shouted “surprise!”, but all Nikita would say was, “What the fuck?!”
Like Crystal, Nikita is skeptical of many situations at first. They’re wise not to trust so easily, and I admire that about them. Nikita couldn’t understand why anyone wanted to recognize her birthday four months ahead of time.
“Happy Sweet Sixteen, Nikita!” her mom yelled as soon as Nikita processed what was going on.
“It was just my Sweet Sixteen,” Crystal whispered to me.
“And mine is tomorrow,” I mumbled, fearing no one would even give a shit by then.
And my prediction had been correct. By July 25, everyone was too exhausted by birthday parties to bother spending the day with me. Even Crystal was tired from all the activity, but I wasn’t upset with her. The two of us were a bit miffed at Nikita’s mom, yet we got over it quickly.
That day, the two of us learned that it wasn’t all about us. The world didn’t stop for our birthdays, and we couldn’t act like we could do whatever we wanted for the sake of birthdays.
How our perspectives have changed over the last seven years. This year, the extraordinary happened. Wonderwoman Nikita gave birth to her first child on July 22, 2011, the day before Crystal’s 23rd birthday. In 2004, Crystal and I pouted about having others ruin our special days, but this is the best gift we could have ever received. I couldn’t be happier for Nikita, and I can’t help but choke up at the Facebook photos of her new little boy. She’s already such a devoted mother, I can’t wait to watch young Brandon grow up.
Nevertheless, I find it slightly ironic that Nikita had to sit through so many of Crystal and my birthdays and now her son was born right around the same time. It’s wonderful that things happened that way, although I feel ancient having known these ladies for fourteen years.
Today, Crystal had her 23rd birthday. Mine is on Monday. I’m a little bummed about about reaching 23, but I felt the same way about 22. I wanted to be forever 21 (the store speaks true to the feelings of many).
This year, Crystal wrote in her birthday card to me, “In the words of Blink 182, ‘Nobody likes you when you’re 23.’ Let’s be miserable together.” I couldn’t think of a better way to put it. She’s brilliant, that girl.
From what I’ve heard, Crystal’s 23rd wasn’t all that magical. Thankfully, she’s coming to D.C. next month, so we’ll surely have a blast then. I’m sure my birthday won’t be glamorous, as I stopped obsessing over birthdays on my sweet sixteenth. Crystal and I owe Nikita’s mother a thank you for proving that birthdays aren’t all about us. In truth, you don’t feel like a changed person, and you don’t get any special treatment for being born that day.
With that, I’m anything but stoked about Monday. I am, however, thrilled to spend the evening with close friends.
I’ve been meaning to inform you of my developments in that area of life. I’ve become close with lots of new people this summer, and I attribute much of this to the good weather. I’m a different person in the warm months than in winter. I’m much more fun in May, June, July, and August than in the brutally chilly fall and winter months. Yuck. Anyway, I count my blessings every night. I’ve been lucky to meet some incredible folks this summer. Something must be in the air. Here’s to hoping it never goes away.
Tonight, I went to a college buddy’s going-away party. She introduced me to a fellow Wildcat, who happens to know some of my friends. We laughed about our favorite University of Arizona crazies. Trust me, there were plenty.
We talked mainly about Fake Business Man, a guy who roams the campus with a briefcase and clashing suit. He often giggles to himself, speaks to non-existent people, pretends to be a law student, and orders large cups of ice water from Espresso Art Cafe. He’s famous at the UA, and many took notice when he blimped up. It’s not surprising, as he stops by the coffee shop daily and apparently lives off fast food. Here’s a video of him. UA students have spent years trying to figure this guy out, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
I approached him when I was a junior. My friends were around for the scary incident. He began shouting in Italian and ran away. Our interactions were limited to that short altercation, and probably for the better.
Another odd figure was the No Anchovies dancing hobo, a long-time loiterer of University Boulevard.
This discussion made me miss Arizona/California crazy people. All the D.C. nutcases I’ve met have been aggressive, judgmental, hostile, violent, and mean-spirited. They haven’t been funny or personable. The kooks out west become iconic characters whereas the D.C. homeless people all seem to be ruthless scumbags. I’m generalizing like a total asshole, but I miss being surrounded by hilarious colorful characters. Will I ever find that on the east coast?