Birthdays and birthday parties are epic for a child. There’s the party itself, whether it be a bounce house and piñata combo or a Cosmic Bowling fete. And if you’re the birthday boy or girl, the anticipation of the Big Day often competes with the constant daydreaming about just how many gifts can fit in the car when the party’s over.
Maybe there will be too many gifts that it will take two trips?
I hope nobody buys me a Barbie. That was soooooooo first-grade.
Maybe we should take two cars to bring the gifts home? You know, just in case.
I’m thankful that my four children have Fall and Summer birthdays. Their celebrations are independent of any federal, state or religious holiday. As for me, my birthday always falls in Lent. From age 8 to 18, I attended Catholic schools and my birthday celebration was interrupted by many friends who would refuse the cupcakes, cookies or other treats I would innocently bring in to honor my special day.
“I gave up sweets for Lent,” my Catholic comrades would declare as I offered them the plate of chocolate-frosted cupcakes sprinkled with M&Ms. I remember one classmate announcing that she gave up candy, so I witnessed this dutiful Catholic strip the M&Ms off the cupcake one-by-one, only to devour the scalped baked good in its ransacked state.
Growing up, my Lenten birthday almost felt like a Charlie Brown Christmas. At one of my roller skating parties, I remember staring at the cake that, in my young girl’s eyes, nobody would eat due to their Lenten promises. To a child, you don’t rationalize the altruistic efforts being made here by the Catholic faithful when a friend refuses a cupcake…all you see (and feel) is rejection. For a kid with a Lenten birthday, when there is so much giving up around you, there is also so much taken away from the celebrant when friends and family gather.
I will celebrate my 44th Lenten birthday next month and I can already hear my mom’s annual refrain, “You get a special dispensation” when you eat that cupcake, brownie, cookie, etc. I researched ‘special dispensation’ and it doesn’t apply to Lenten sacrifice. In fact, the very nature of doing without something is considered a salutary gesture, meaning this whole business of giving things up is to promote a healthy or beneficial cause. It is not mandatory and most importantly, not a sin if you “fall off the wagon” during this 40-day observance. In her loving way, my mom’s disclosure of ‘special dispensation’ was her nurturing attempt at mitigating rejected cupcakes. My mom was cushioning the blows I would ultimately feel as I attempted to commemorate yet another Lenten birthday.
If you have the opportunity to celebrate in this Lenten season, remember me. I’m still that young girl who wants to have a birthday without the cloud of Lenten sacrifice hanging over her head. I want to enjoy my milestone with friends and family. So, shut up and eat the entire cupcake!
Copyright 2010 Colleen McNatt