We didn’t get birthday presents growing up. Not right off the bat but as my mother soldiered on as a single parent of six children the birthday gifts kinda slipped away. We weren’t sheltered from our financial reality. At the Safeway we weren’t the kids asking for a Coffee Crisp, we were the kids holding our breaths for the total at the checkout, hoping she had enough to cover it.
Usually we got a cake on the big day. Usually. Sometimes we made it ourselves. One year, must have been my sixteenth or seventeenth birthday, I was asked what special dinner I would like for the day. I chose pizza pot pie.
Have you ever had pizza pot pie? Pizza pot pie is a lasagna type casserole but instead of pasta you layer with premade pizza crust. And instead of layers of ground beef and cheese you layer sausage and peppers with spaghetti sauce. Like any good casserole, it is to be doused generously with cheese. My 32 year old palette now gags at the thought of it.
So this one year I ended up making my birthday cake. I should say our birthday cake as I do share the day with my twin. And later I ended up making the pizza pot pie too. Downer. I write this with the caveat that I have a great family and a mother that many consider a super hero, myself included. But those were our circumstances back then. My mom was probably too busy driving six girls to a volleyball tournament to make dinner so I stepped up.
In adulthood my family has taken a new approach to birthday gift giving. If there is something we can all agree would make a sibling’s days easier or bring them joy we collectively buy it. Otherwise we all call to say happy day, love you, miss you and that’s it.
One year my brother, a consummate pizza maker, was lamenting the death of his electric pizza oven. His family makes pizza once a week and it was really bumming him out. One of my sister’s saw a sale on a pizza oven so we all chipped in on it for him. He was floored and hugely thankful for the gift. Another year one sister wantedto start a running program and we all chipped in for an iPod and Nike + running system. She was overjoyed at the thoughtful and practical gift.
I like this kind of gift giving. With no expectations there is no burden. No more lame scarf sets or bath soaps that scream, I needed to give you something and nothing came to mind.
We didn’t buy Henry a present for his first birthday. I discussed it with Chris and there was nothing we were burning to give him. He’s collected a few new toys in the past month from relatives and we’ve correspondingly returned or donated some of his older ones. Our little man is still without words but from his babbling, squeals and hand waving he seems quite content with what he has.
Just a birthday cake this year for Henry. I hope he looks back on the photos and sees how happy he was. That I baked him a cake from scratch and that we sang to him and he was delighted. I am sure there are many birthdays ahead of us where his young hopes and dreams will be pinned on whatever we have wrapped up for him. But this isn’t one of them.