35 Years of Birthdays – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

65982_441570461572_5617260_nIt was a beautiful October day in 1980 when I popped into this world. I can’t say it was necessarily a wonderful day for my parents, as I was immediately taken to intensive care for meconium aspiration. Yes, I’d been eating my own poop. Is it really any wonder why I will now eat almost anything? Clearly it tastes much better than what I was munching on when I was born.

Needless to say, baby Natalie made it, and for 34 years now I’ve been celebrating my birthday. On October 22, I’ll celebrate my birthday for the 35th time. “Yay! Happy Anniversary of the day you were eating your own feces!”

I love my birthday. Although I’m in my 30’s and no one really gets me presents anymore, I still love it. I love the Facebook birthday wishes, the texts, the phone calls, and I love eating and drinking whatever I feel like on my birthday. OK, so I pretty much do that for the entire month of October. When you’re single, no one really celebrates you. No mother’s day. No anniversary to celebrate. Nothing on Valentine’s Day. Not much at Christmas. So your birthday is pretty awesome. I fully embrace it.

Here are some of my favorite, and least favorite, birthday memories:

65916_441570496572_3385608_n16th Birthday – 1996: Unforgettable
I had a bunch of friends over after cheering at the football game the week of my birthday, but my real birthday memory was when my dad took me on my “first date.” We dressed up, he gave me flowers, and then he drove us to Fort Wayne where we ate at a fancy French restaurant. I remember ordering the flaming duck! It was delicious! It was also a night with my dad that I will never, ever forget.

20667_322884896572_925989_n18th Birthday – 1998: The Disappearing Boyfriend
Brent was the real deal. He was tall. Handsome. Sweet. A farm boy from a rival school in the county. We were the perfect match! We’d been dating for a few months, and on my 18th birthday, he had two dozen roses delivered to my house. That night, he came to my birthday party, where we had a blast. He kissed me goodbye before he left, and I never heard from or saw him again.

20th Birthday – 2000: My Parents Hate Me
I was a sophomore in college when my friend Brooke and I decided to visit her hometown in Illinois on my birthday weekend. We would take my Chevy Cavalier, A.K.A. “Peppy”, on the long drive to Peoria. As a college student, I didn’t have much money, but I assumed my parents would pull through for me with some cash on my birthday.

Mom and dad came to Marion, where we met at ChiChi’s for my birthday dinner, just the three of us. After we ordered our food, mom handed me a card. “Happy Birthday!” she said. I was so excited. I opened the card.

It was empty.

I looked in the envelope. Nothing.

I looked at my parents, and mom said, “Read it!”

It read something like this: “As you know, you owe us $500 for the work we had done on your car this summer. For your birthday, we are taking off $250 of the money you owe us! We love you so much! Happy Birthday! Love, Mom and Dad.”

I looked up at my parents, who were smiling, as if they had done me some huge favor. (My 19-year-old self was way too mortified to realize that they actually HAD done me a huge favor.) I waited for one of them to say, “Just kidding!” But it never came.

They were serious.

I began to cry. I began to sob. I began to bawl my eyes out uncontrollably in the middle of ChiChi’s.

“How could you do this to me? Are you serious? This is my birthday present?” I screamed through tears.

“We’re also buying your dinner!” Dad said.

Wrong answer. I’ll never forget that terrible, terrible night. Nothing says, “Happy Birthday” like being told you now owe someone only $250.

23635_331721866572_4159250_n21st Birthday, 2001: Surprise!
I was the first in our apartment to turn 21, so I didn’t expect a very exciting birthday. I was proved wrong when I walked in our apartment after a late class and my roommates threw me a big surprise party. It was rather masterful, as I seriously had absolutely no idea they were doing anything like that. I think the look on my face says it all! There were decorations, friends, and, yes, a keg. We had a blast that night dancing and celebrating my 21st birthday!

1383581_10152360387241573_1754721676036661445_n33rd Birthday, 2013: An African Birthday
I was actually pretty down-in-the-dumps when my 33rd birthday came around. I had been living in Uganda for about three months when my day arrived, and I was afraid no one would care. After all, my lifelong friends and family members were on the other side of the planet. However, my birthday was spectacular. Friends took me out, roommates made me cupcakes, and my students gave me all sorts of cards and letters to celebrate my birthday. I’ll never forget my birthday in Uganda!

35th Birthday, 2015: To Be Determined
I’m not sure what is in store for my birthday this year. I know I’ll be spending a weekend in Indianapolis with my birthday-bestie Becca, which is ALWAYS memorable. I imagine I’ll have a birthday dinner with my parents, and probably one with my guy. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that it’s not the quantity of people around you, it’s the quality. And I have some seriously amazing people around me who make life incredible each day I’m alive.

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