Tomorrow is my birthday. I was born April 12, 1969, so I will be 35 years old tomorrow. I am writing this entry on Friday, April 9th, so I have no idea whether it’s a happy birthday to me or not. My family birthday parties are over the weekend, so I don’t know how any of them are going to turn out. No, that’s not the correct grammar. Will haven being turned out? I can’t remember my grammar for time travelers. I need to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy again. Maybe I’ll understand it this time.
Growing up Jehovah Witness really fucks up how you view your birthday as an adult. My last birthday before we became Jehovah Witness was held in secret at my grandma’s house. My grandma, grandpa and mom had the birthday for me and I got a strange game with lots of little people as the playing pieces. If I saw it today, unscathed, I probably wouldn’t be able to recognize it. I didn’t play with it in its intended fashion. I just played with the little people like they were Barbies. Who says you have to follow the rules with your toys? Not me.
I remember being told not to tell my dad that we had a birthday party because he would be angry with us. I would not have another birthday party until sixth grade, but I didn’t know that when I was four years old. All I knew was that I had a cool game with all of these little people. I controlled their lives.
It wasn’t until I got into school that birthdays became a painful subject. I don’t know how the schools treat birthdays in other areas, but at Academy Park Elementary, birthdays were a little twisted. On your birthday, you brought treats for everyone in your class. Instead of receiving treats and presents, you brought them for everyone else. I remember my classmates walking up and down the aisles of the classroom, handing out hand made cupcakes or brownies or tiny bags of candies. I remember knowing that I would never be allowed to be in their place. I would never be that special girl, walking up and down the rows, handing out special treats that my mom made for my friends.
Most of the time, it was really easy to turn down the treat. The threat of Armageddon was far more important than a tasty treat in the afternoon. No thank you, cupcake. No thank you, brownie. I’ve got a Final Battle to survive. Every once and awhile there would be an amazing treat that I couldn’t say no to and I would wallow in the guilt of sin. I remember once while licking the incredibly thick frosting off the top of a truly scrumptious cupcake, one of the supremely evil children asked why I never bring treats. I told them that I couldn’t celebrate my birthday because it was against my religion. He was kind enough to point out my hypocrisy. I think that’s why I hate hypocrites to this day: I know how shitty it feels to live there.
Like bookends, my eleventh birthday was also held in secret. When my parents got divorced, the divorce decree stated that we could choose which religion we wanted to follow on our twelfth birthday. They were divorced between fifth and sixth grade, so I had one birthday in secret. Mom and Carol had a nice little party for me. It was a quiet, family affair and I lived in fear that Stacey would tell my dad. I shouldn’t have worried. She had learned to keep secrets by then. It was essential when you lived under my dad’s reign.
On my twelfth birthday, I told my dad that I didn’t want to be Jehovah Witness anymore. I didn’t want to go to meeting and I didn’t want to go to assemblies and I was going to celebrate holidays. He tried the Armageddon thing to guilt me into acquiescence. The end of the world still seemed very real to me, but I had learned long ago that I was just going to die with the sinners. I couldn’t say no to a cupcake back in third grade. How was I going to spend an entire lifetime missing out on the fun? No way, I told myself. I was going to run for eighth grade vice president.
It wasn’t until ninth grade that I had a real birthday party. My mom let me invite several girlfriends over for a slumber party. We had hogi sandwiches and we watched The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller on the video machine that my mom rented for us. I got some smelly pencils from one of my girlfriends and Trudy Rushton woke up in the middle of the night. She had a nightmare about Michael Jackson or maybe it was the zombies that were chasing him. I don’t know.
I always felt like I was missing out on the fun. I wasn’t allowed to go to other children’s birthday parties. I wasn’t allowed to partake of the treats that came at least once a month. I wasn’t allowed to celebrate my own birthday. Screaming young girls in party hats shaped like dunce caps. Lack-Of-Sleep slumber parties. Huge birthday cakes devoted entirely to me. All of this was out of my reach. I felt like I had missed out on all the good that life had to give.