This post was written for the Remember the Time…It Was Your Birthday? Blog Hop hosted by The Waiting.
My parents were creatures of habit. Every year throughout my childhood we would take our annual family holiday during the last two weeks in August. This meant that we were always away from home on my birthday.
We would celebrate of course. I would have presents to open and we would go to a cafe for a special ice cream sundae. My favourites were the banana split and the knickerbocker glory.
I did not have a party though, not until those family holidays stopped, which happened the summer I turned thirteen.
I remember attending a few birthday parties as a child. Dressed in my best I would take part in the organised games before settling down to eat the sort of sweet treats that were strictly rationed at home. I noted that the birthday child collected a sizeable stash of presents; what wasn’t there to like about a birthday party?
That first August at home, when my mother asked if I would like to have a few friends round to celebrate becoming a teenager, I jumped at the chance. My very first party, what fun! I had no idea what I was taking on, and thus learned the hard way that parties do not just happen.
My first problem was who to invite as, at twelve years old, I had few friends. In the end I believe my ‘party’ had four attendees, including myself. The others had never previously met; I had not understood beforehand that this could be an issue.
My second problem was that parties require entertainment, something else that I hadn’t considered. Had I just invited my friends round as normal we would have gone to my bedroom to chat and to play. As it was we sat awkwardly in the front room of my parents’ house without even music to drown out the lingering silence. As I tried to engage each of my friends in conversation it became clear that all they had in common was me.
The trauma of that afternoon has stayed with me to this day, perhaps even sowing the seed of my social anxiety. Looking back I cannot explain why I did not just suggest that we go upstairs to chill and relax. I had advertised the event as a party, did not know how to make it happen, and lacked discernment to manage a change of plan.
My mother had prepared food but I cannot recall how this was received. My memory is of silence and awkwardness, drowning out all recollection of how I got through however long my friends stayed. I wanted nothing more than to be anywhere else and alone; I knew that I was hosting a disaster.
I have had one other birthday party since, although it took me thirty-two years to summon up the courage to try again. That second party was more of a success, but not one I have attempted to repeat. Celebrating a birthday quietly with my family has turned out to be the more appealing option after all.