June 1991 I had a joint birthday party with my sister and a family friend. Our garden was filled with children jumping excitedly on a bouncy castle, faces painted with butterflies or Batman. Our birthday cake was divided into three. My third had purple icing shaped like a clown with the letters 'HAP' swirled underneath. The 'PY' just could not fit.
Looking at the cake I remember feeling puzzled, not least because I never really liked clowns. Not that they scare me- they barely register on my apathetic scale. What confused me; it wasn't actually my birthday. And even more so, was I celebrating my sixth birthday just gone or more seventh approaching later that year? Perplexed all round.
Yes, dear reader, I am a December baby. The 'best Christmas present ever received' according to my mum- but she's not the one who has to celebrate birth just before Christmas. A time when everyone is too preoccupied with work parties and gift shopping, hanging fairy lights and cooking roast dinner. When the only cards that sell in Clinton's are the hundreds of Jesus in his Manger and those of the infamous red-nosed Reindeer.
Seemingly, the only time anyone remembered my birthday was in June 1991 and that was just a fake one. A deluge of cards and presents- a drought ever since. As a child, I never noticed. Well, except once. Aged ten, all I wanted for my birthday was a tiny V-Tech learning laptop (in 1994 I was the height of cool). Unfortunately for me, all children wanted one for Christmas and it sold out. When I had nothing to open that December morning; only then did I notice.
But usually, as long as I knew it was my birthday- that was enough. In bed the night before excitement fluttered in my chest, toes wriggled in anticipation. I'd wake early with a strange awareness that this day was different, special. I was one year older and that bought change.
Now, it's as if that excitement has drifted away in a birthday balloon, caught on a strong wind and floated far. And as time passed it shrivelled, deflated and popped on a sharp branch of a twisted tree. And what makes things worse is that my birthday is already lost amidst the hectic planning and mental countdown to the busiest and most expensive times of year. As if people haven't got enough to do.
So reader, I understand. I forgive the lack of birthday wishes. I forget. But just so you don't, some advice: If you plan on having children- try not to conceive in March. Makes birthdays far more memorable...