Today's my birthday.
I'm 35 years-old now.
I've already received some gifts, which I am always thankful for. Heather's parents sent me money, as did my Aunt Kathy. Money is always a welcome present. Not as exciting as receiving an actual item, but the potential for new things that the cash represents is fun. What's difficult is making sure that some, if not most, of the cash gift goes towards some sort of gift-like item and not to pay off that month's water bill.
The cash gift is a school of thought my father has never bought into. He believes giving cash is too impersonal, and loathes the giving of gift cards. So that's why he will always drag himself out to the stores and malls in search of tangible, physical gift to present to someone on the birthday/Christmas/graduation/etc.
Of course, sometimes that means you end up holding a DVD Rewinder on your birthday. Which I'm sure sounded practical to my father while standing in the middle of Costco on a rainy Saturday afternoon. In hindsight it probably wasn't one of the most memorable gift ideas that he had. Then again, maybe it was.
This year he did much better – a smart looking leather jacket in a sort of caramel brown color. It's a nice change of pace from all of the black coats that seem to fill up my closet. I'm really thankful that my Dad took the time to hunt out a gift that he thought I could use and enjoy. But any feeling of uniqueness soon dissolved shortly after unwrapping the gift when my Dad announced that he like the jacket so much that he not only went ahead and bought versions of the garment for my brother and brother-in-law as early Christmas gifts, he got a jacket for himself. It must have been one hell of a sale.
(We're all going to attend a Blackhawks game together this winter while wearing our matching coats. I expect to be mugged in the parking lot by a gang of fourth grade girls.)
My brother, always the creative type, arranged for a few of his past girlfriends to pose in bikinis on some warm sandy beach and snapped some photographs of them. He tells me that the girls had gotten creative with masking tape and sunscreen, and that if I stare closely I can read "Happy Birthday Big Brother" spelled across the ladies tanned and toned stomachs.
Unfortunately he failed to send me the high-resolution image so I will have to take his word on it.
My sister's gift was odd. She sent me a picture of this kitten, asleep in its food. Her rationale, and I quote, "You're too moody and angry. What you need is more ‘cute' in your life. Here's a start. Happy Birthday!"
I need more "cute" in my life? Has my sister not been paying attention when my kids are around? I live in the same house as Zoe McKillip. I am surrounded by so much cute that I could pass out at any given moment. If anything, I could use a little less cute right now. It's because of the insane amount of cuteness that inundates me on daily basis that I continue to watch Notre Dame play football on Saturday and the Bears play football on Sunday. I have got to counteract the cute.
Heather and the kids have not given me a present for my birthday. The kids have been good about not giving me any clues, which in the past usually took the shape of, "We might have gotten you a DVD that you'll want to watch with us because it's a cartoon about Bat- errr – a superhero that you really, really, like a lot."
Of course, Ian is mildly obsessed with the fact that LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga drops today – the same day as his Dad's birthday. For the last two weeks Ian hasn't been able to mention my birthday without clarifying that it's the same day as the new LEGO Star Wars games hits stores. So even if he wanted to give me a hint as to my gift, by the time he starts thinking about my birthday his brain becomes overwhelmed by the potential of obtaining a new Star Wars game for his Nintendo DS at some time in the future. The two events have become hopeless intertwined in his young, eight year-old brain. I imagine the commentary inside of his head goes something like this:
"Hey, we're talking about Dad's birthday. It's only X days away. I could tease him a bit with a hint about the . . . hey, wait a minute. That's the same day LEGO Star Wars is in stores! Maybe I can get that game! Let's talk about that!"
And it's not just the lack of cryptic clues that have kept my birthday gift a secret, Emma ended up in charge of hiding the present. The kids and I returned home from some shopping Saturday while Heather was helping at Market Day when we saw a package on the front stoop. I stated that the package was probably my gift, recently arrived in the mail and waiting to be taken inside. I also remarked to the children that their Mom would probably not want me to know what was inside the box. Emma took that as her cue to snatch the package and seek out a secure hiding place within the house.
The hiding process took her nearly ten minutes, so I was expecting an elaborate hiding configuration involving doors, boxes, secret buttons, and decoys. What I discovered, by accident, that her hiding techniques really hadn't changed much from when it was her job to hide Heather's Mother's Day gift.
Which leaves my Mom. I know she's getting me something because she asks slightly more frequently than my Father about what I would like for my birthday. Starting around October 1 and on until the beginning of November, any time they see my face, hear my voice, or remember my email address the question gets popped. Of course I can never offer any good suggestions, I'm usually thinking about how we're going to pay the kids' tuition, carpet cleaning, exterior painting, and a basement rehab. Not about a nice-to have for myself. Inevitably they ask Heather for ideas, but she's can't get them from me so she isn't any help to them.
My Mom, like my Dad, shuns the cash gifts, though she is known to augment a present with a small gift card from time to time. However, in her quest for tangible gifts she has a tendency to forget what she's already bought for people or which gift is for who after she's wrapped them and failed to label them. So you can either end up with a box of underwear intended for your sister or something like the present I received last year.
In the end I don't care so much about what, if anything, I get for my birthday. A good birthday is about finding extended time doing whatever it is I want, eating some good food, and letting myself get caught up in the excitement the kids bring to a birthday celebration. I’m not much of a birthday guy, but I can help but feel a twinge of excitement when Ian, Emma and Zoe are talking about my birthday everyday (even if Ian can’t do so without mentioning LEGO Star Wars). Tonight I will have fun with Heather and the kids celebrating, and I have no doubt Heather will prepare good things to eat. The only thing missing will be the time to sit around and do nothing. I had to go to work today. Two out of three ain’t bad.