So, really, it’s peculiarly appropriate that I would get shingles this week. I mean, of course, my birthday was on Tuesday, so that added some extra fun to the day, but otherwise, well, there’s this weekend.
I have to give you a little history, first. Birthday parties and I just don’t get along. While there were a couple of parties when I was a kid that were reasonably successful, I have a history of having birthday celebrations where things go drastically wrong. If I just limit myself to a family celebration, with cake, and maybe a friend over for dinner, things are fine. But anything more tempts fate.
You want examples? Here are just a few:
1. I forget which birthday it was, but I’m guessing 7th because I was in first grade. I actually missed my party altogether. As in, the party went on without me. We had tickets for everyone to go to see a show (Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty, I forget which) at the Papermill Playhouse, but I got sick. We couldn’t let the tickets go to waste, of course, so everybody except Mom and me went while we stayed home. To make it up to me, Mom later got tickets for just to two of us to go to one of their other fairy tale productions . . . which had the added fun of my having hurt my foot so that my mother had to carry me from the parking lot. (She really is a good Mom, you know.)
2. My ninth birthday happened the day before we moved out of our old house, and Mom didn’t let me open my presents. Oh, I was allowed to unwrap them, but I couldn’t take the shrink-wrap off things like my Mickey Mouse Desk Set because she had to pack them for the movers . . . And the party that year? Successful enough, I suppose, considering all the guests were classmates I’d only just met, but . . . the party was in December. In one of the only photos, you can see the Christmas stockings hanging in the background.
3. Then there was the memorable party my freshman year in high school. Of my guests, two came down with a bug that was going around and had to cancel. My best friend (!) actually forgot it was my birthday and had agreed to babysit for a neighbor and so could only come for about an hour. One friend had color guard practice after school and was going to be late (understandable). And then . . . by this time, of course, my Mother and sister were feeling really sorry for me . . . the phone rang. The one friend who had been coming for the entire party? Um, well, she got hit by a car when one backed into her as she rode by on her bike. I distinctly remember the conversation. “What? Oh my God. Is she okay? Oh, I’m so glad! And of course I understand that she can’t come!” All while Mom and Patty stood there, wringing their hands and I tried not to laugh in the poor father’s ear because, really, you’ve got to admit, a CAR? Fate was working overtime that day, I thought.
4. My 21st birthday, of course, I alluded to the other day. I had had a penpal in Germany since my junior year in high school and when I was in London for the semester four years later, it seemed the perfect time to physically meet. I’d sent him the dates I could come and got to the airport and onto the correct train (challenging since I don’t speak more than a few words of German) on Friday, arriving in Trier around 4:30. And then waited. And waited. But he never showed up. I found directions to the Tourist Information center and lugged my suitcase down the hill and showed up mere minutes before they closed at 6:00. The woman was very helpful and found a hotel for me and even called to make sure they had a room . . . but she couldn’t tell me (or find on the map) my penpal’s street. Well, fine. It was late, I was tired. I trudged over to the hotel–more like a hostel/B&B, really–and figured I’d figure things out in the morning when there was daylight.
The morning of my birthday . . . which was rainy, by the way . . . I first tried to find his street, but couldn’t. Neither could the new person at the tourist information center, and he didn’t appear to have a phone. I mean, he might have, but it was probably in the name of one of his flatmates. So . . . I went to the post office and mailed him a postcard telling him where I was staying and that I’d be at the Porta Nigra at specific times. I know, this is a bare step above using a carrier pigeon, but what else could I do? Meanwhile, my camera gasped out its last breath, my Walkman died (probably playing “Nobody’s Side” from Chess too many times), and I couldn’t find a single thing in English to read. The highlight of the day was visiting the house Karl Marx was born in, which might have been more interesting if more of the exhibits had been in English. I saw the old Roman ruins (in the rain). I had dinner at McDonalds . . . by myself. It was just a wonderful day–but memorable!
To fill out the story, the next day while eating breakfast, the man who ran the inn came over and asked (in German) “Do you have a friend named Gerhard?” (Luckily those words sound enough like English, I was able to interpret.) Apparently, he got my postcard late on Saturday and left a letter in the door addressed to me, with a hand-drawn map to where his flat was . . . literally right around the corner, on one of the four corners around the famed, “Porta Nigra” (which makes the fact that the tourist information people couldn’t find it all the more interesting). I tossed a mental coin because, really, all I wanted to do was LEAVE at that point, but decided I could spare him an hour before shaking the dust from my heels. Hey, at least he helped carry my suitcase back up the hill to the train station. I rode back to Frankfurt, trying to talk to a woman from Luxembourg who spoke French, German and a smattering of English and who hadn’t slept in three days. There were such storms that day, all the flights were delayed, but I managed to get on an earlier flight that left only half an hour after my original flight was supposed to take off. I struggled my way back to my own flat in London and, just as I staggered in the door, the phone rang . . . It was Mom, asking brightly, “How was your weekend with Gerhard?”
The reason for all these lengthy anecdotes? Well, Kim and I had decided months ago to throw ourselves a combined spinning/birthday party tomorrow, with some of our favorite NJ Spinners: Ina, Risa, Jessica, Dorre. Kristy (who knits but doesn’t spin–yet) was going to come but had to cancel.
Which, of course, is probably WHY I’ve got shingles. I thought it would be safe. I haven’t tried to do anything special since that year in college when one friend ended up on crutches with a bad knee that morning. I’ve been happy just doing quiet, family celebrations. But–this wasn’t just for ME, it was for Kim, too. And really, it’s more of an excuse to get the spinners together than a real birthday party. But apparently my jinx didn’t see it this way.
I’m just glad nobody’s been hit by a car. (Knock on wood.)