April 13, 2019

Chapter 04 - A Bit of the Bitter Birthday Boy!

A Bit of the Bitter Birthday Boy!

I am not big on personal celebrations. I didn't attend my HS graduation or the senior prom. I was glad when I got my drivers license, but since it took me three times to pass the drivers test, it didn't seem like it called for a party. The only holidays I enjoy are July 4th and New Years Eve. I like the 4th of July because I am a proud American and the other because it's the night that represents the chance for a clean start.

Both are days where getting shit-faced and puking is almost expected. I don't really drink much and getting drunk to the point of embarrassment is not something I do much. In fact it's only happened to me a couple of times but both were on New Years Eve so no one really noticed. And both holidays also involve fireworks and things that go bang and make annoying sounds.

But the day I hate the most is my birthday. That special day where you are the center of attention and everyone makes a big fuss over you. At least that's what is supposed to happen. Not in my case though. Another result of having a ridiculously large family where everything has to be shared… including birthdays!

When it comes to the subject of birthdays I am always a little cynical and often refer to them as meaningless and trivial. Growing up I was always the very bitter little birthday boy.

I hate birthdays because I don't have one… at least I don't have a birthday of my very own. The only birthday where I was the center of attention was the day I was actually born. Like most babies I was still somewhat baffled by the day to day goings on so that my first and second birthday passed me right by. My mother may have had a party for me but who knew! At the age of one eating and pooping was still a big deal and I did that almost everyday. At two, when you are walking upright finally, almost everyday is a party.

My mother missed the next couple of birthdays because she was out buying me a new brother. And when she came home with him everyone fussed and clucked over the new kid, completely ignoring the so called birthday boy. Had I known what a birthday was and how those new little Cannata critters were going to trample on my special day I probably wouldn't have been so happy to see them.

By the age of five I was old enough to know my birthday was coming and looked forward to finally having a genuine party where everyone would come to see me and bring gifts galore. I was going to be smothered in new toys and cake. I could read by then and when the party finally started I got to read my first birthday cake greeting. That was when reality set in.

That was when I discovered that birthdays… more precisely birthday parties… like everything else in the Cannata household, were meant for sharing. There was going to be a party all right. It just wasn't going to MY party. Instead it was going to be a party for all of "Us". By "Us" I mean me and my three brothers, Frank, Buddy and Dave; otherwise known as the birthday boys.

My father was obviously a randy sort of guy. And being a musician, New Years Eve was a night he often worked with his bands. My mother, also somewhat randy, enjoyed the holiday with him so he also got laid on News Years Eve. At least I'm guessing so because, after the New Years Eve party and the randy shenanigans, nine months later… in September… almost to the day, my ma would deliver the proof.

As a result of my mother's expert application of the Rhythm Method, there was a baby born on the 13th, 15th, 16th and 18th day in September. Four of us brothers had our birthday in the same week. Because of the precise timing of New Years Eve and my mother's gestation period, I have never had my own birthday party.

With all the boys having their birthdays so close together we had something more akin to a birthday conference. Everybody would wish everybody else "Happy Birthday!" for most of the week until we got to the actual day of the party itself. There would be all the usual birthday party accessories, hats, soda, candy and the like. The difference was in the cake.

At the proper point at the party my parents would come out with a cake that was virtually a bonfire with all the candles lit and on top of this big, flaming cake would be this long list of names.

"Happy Birthday, Everyone! Frankie, Michael, Buddy and David… and all qualified persons born this month!" would be crammed in the space between the icing decorations and the edge. Basically my parents would cover anyone born around that week whoever they might be.

Even worse, my cousin Joanne, the daughter of my "rich" Uncle Joe, actually had the same birthday as mine. Any year we didn't have the big bash at our house we would go to Uncle Joe's to join in Joanne's party which was always a grand affair and completely depressing for me.

Her birthday party was always on her actual birth date it seemed. The cake would be huge and "Happy Birthday Joanne!" would be displayed prominently. Down in the corner, in letters usually the same color as the icing and barely visible would be written "Oh yeah and Michael too." . There would be a pile of gifts of which the biggest and best where never mine.

As I got older I basically avoided mentioning that my birthday was approaching so I didn't have to endure all the collective greetings it generated. Like, "Oh, Happy Birthday, Michael… and tell Frank and Buddy and the other ones the same for me". Having to buy so many presents was tough on a wallet that wasn't as thick as a dollar bill was no fun either. Basically every gift I ever gave or got was bought at the local Woolworth’s 5 & 10 cents store.

I do have two people in my life who have always taken the time to call and wish me a Happy Birthday in a way that has always made me feel loved and special. My sister Rose, and my lifelong friend, Marie have always made the day seem better. Even while I pooh-poohed my approaching birthday, I would always look forward to their call. And neither has ever let me down or missed a year. And if they did I don't remember which one or which year.

My brothers and I are still close today and the birthday conference has gotten bigger and better. We try to do something together every year. We've gone to Las Vegas, to the Bahamas, to the local casinos and other such spots to celebrate our collective birthday season.

But to this day, at the rather advanced age of 54, I have never had a birthday party of my very own. I've considered throwing one for myself, but I don't think that would count. Besides, with my nasty attitude towards birthdays and birthday parties, I am the last person I would want to invite.

I'm a bit better about sharing my birthday nowadays… but inside, as the day gets closer, I'm still a bit of a bitter little birthday boy.

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