Birthday Candles

*Note: Neon Watermelon reminded me of another awkward birthday. I wrote it down several years ago and thought I published it, but when I went looking for it I discovered it never made it out of my drafts. So here it is a few years later.

Ugh. It’s my birthday today. I’m officially old. lol. Not really, I’m only 27, but I feel so much older. Weathered, I guess? I don’t know. lol. Because it’s my birthday, I’m taking the time to share this story of a birthday “party” so many years ago. It’s been floating around at the back of my mind for a while now, not particularly a bad memory but one I’ve been on the fence about sharing. I think the entire thing is amusing and kind of sweet, but the way I interpret things and the way the rest of the general population interprets things don’t always sync up. That and it’s kind of one of those moments that’s important to my narrative so I want to share it, but it’s also fairly intimate and I don’t particularly want to expose it to critics. Eh… I went to all the trouble to write it, might as well share it.

Anyway… My family has this annual tradition: you get older, you get something good to eat. lol. The Birthday Dinner, they call it. It was a big deal that year, for several reasons. I was signing the lease to my first apartment later that week, I had a stable well paying job, and I had officially started dating the guy who had been hanging in and out of my life for quite a while. While my parents knew I was seeing him, they still hadn’t seen him themselves after we found ourselves at odds for a while. There was a pretty nasty fight between us, blows were exchanged, police were called, and we didn’t speak for several months. Long story short, we ended up working things out; and managed to renew our friendship, which eventually lead to dating. He had dropped me off or picked me up from my parents house a few times, but he hadn’t spoken to them, nor did he really want to. He never got along with my mother, which is actually how we ended up together in the first place, so I wasn’t surprised or offended at his avoidance. It made sense.

I was however surprised when my mom called me and invited him to my birthday dinner. I argued briefly trying to figure out if she was being genuine or had a hidden agenda, and when she promised to behave I set about on the task to convince him the same. When I called him he was in the process of driving home from somewhere out of town. I can’t remember exactly where he was, but he had been driving most of the afternoon. We had spoken earlier that morning and made plans of our own for later in the evening, and before I had a chance to dial his number my phone rang. It was him enthusiastically reporting that he would arrive back to town earlier than expected.

“Hey! That’s awesome. You should join me at Rafferty’s around 5.” I said nonchalantly.

“Rafferty’s? What’s a Rafferty’s?” He asked.

“It’s a restaurant. I’m having dinner there tonight.” I answered.

“By yourself?”

“Well no. With my parents and my sisters. For my birthday. Mom invited you. She promised to behave and she really wants you to be there if you can make it anyway.” I answered quickly.

“Your mom? I don’t know if that’s a good idea.” He answered honestly.

“She promised to be nice, and besides that. We’re dating. You can’t avoid them forever.”

There was a moment of silence on the other end of the phone until he answered with a sigh: “Okay. I’ll tell you what… I’ll do my best to get there, but I’m not making any promises. I still have to drop off the guys and swing by to drop off some stuff at home. I should be back in town by 5, but don’t wait for me okay?”

“Okay. That’s fair. It really means a lot to me. Thank you.” I answered.

“I know it does. I’ll call you when I get close. I don’t know where this place is.” He said quietly.

“Okay. See you later.”

“Bu-bye!” He chortled as he ended the call.

A few hours passed and my parents and I arrived at the restaurant. I drove with my dad and my mom followed in the family minivan. I don’t really remember why we took two separate cars but we did. My dad and I arrived before my mom did and as we just as we entered the door my phone rang. It was my date asking for directions. I gave him the necessary directions and then told him I would meet him outside as my mom and sisters walked into the restaurant. For some reason my dad followed me out, but I didn’t notice until I found my date as he pulled into the parking lot. I jogged over to meet him, and gave him a giant hug after he stepped out of his car.

“Hey, Babe.” He said, returning my embrace but slightly distracted.

“You made it!” I almost squealed with delight. “Really? Nice shirt.” I said sarcasticly taking a step back to read his shirt which said: “I’m really excited to be here.”

“Yep. I made it.” He answered some what nervously looking down at his shirt. “Oh… yeah. I just kind of grabbed it and threw it on this morning. I didn’t know I was going to be having dinner with your parents.”

“You don’t have anything to change into?” I asked, peering into the back seat of his car.

“No… I dropped everything off at home.” He answered beginning to fidget.

It was then I noticed my dad had followed me outside and was standing a few feet away.

“Hello.” My dad said. At the time I didn’t notice, but he was completely sizing my date up.

My date noticed immediately and sort of shrank behind me as he replied with a nervous: “Hi… Dad… I don’t think I ever got your name… before.”

“Yes, I’m Mr. Kelli .” My dad replied extending his hand.

My date cautiously took his hand and shook it.

“We don’t have to worry about having another incident while you’re dating my daughter, do we?” My dad asked as the friendly handshake became an awkward confrontation.

“Oh…kay… nope. I think we worked it out. We’re cool.” My date, answered.

“Good. Now lets go eat.” My dad said releasing his grip on my date’s hand and making his way back into the restaurant.

“Well that wasn’t awkward or anything.” My date whispered in my ear as we walked several feet behind my dad into the restaurant.

“What do you mean? My dad is always like that.” I asked, still thrilled my date had showed up and oblivious to pretty much everything else.

“Never mind. I’ll tell you later.” He said as he opened the door and ushered me inside.

“What?” I asked, completely lost and genuinely curious.

“Come on. Let’s go eat. Have a good time with your family. Don’t worry about it. I promise. I’ll tell you later.” He insisted as we made our way through the crowded restaurant.

“Seriously?” I huffed annoyed.

“Seriously. I’ll tell you later.” He repeated as we rounded the corner and found my family.

We made our way around the table and sat down in complete and obviously awkward silence. With out saying a word my mom got up and made her way to the bathroom followed by my youngest sister leaving myself, my date, my dad and my second youngest sister alone at the table.

We flipped open our menus and I immediately found my favorite dish.

“Yes! They still have it.” I announced happily.

“What?” My date asked looking over my shoulder as I pointed to the picture.

“The Black and Bleu. It’s got bleu cheese cooked into the meat, and piled on top. You’d like it.” I answered. “And their peach tea is to die for.”

“Would I like that burger?” My date asked, an amused yet petrified look across his face as my mother and youngest sister joined us at the table. “I think I’ll just have a chicken salad.”

“Well yeah. You like bleu cheese, right? You need to try this. It’s why we came here.” I said as a matter of fact. It was the reason I chose the restaurant, but I had missed the implication of “black and blue” in the context of the situation.

Before he could reply the waitress showed up and started to take our drink order. She went around the table starting with my date who quietly muttered a forced polite hello to my mother. We each ordered our drinks and began to discuss our order for food as the waitress began to walk away. I was still trying to convince him to try the Black and Bleu burger.

“I really think you should try this Black and Bleu.” I said once again.

“No… The chicken salad looks good. I kind of had a big breakfast.” He insisted.

“What’s the matter? You don’t like your burgers the way you like your women? Black and Bleu?” My sister quipped from across the table.

“And there it is… Ha ha. No.” He answered beginning to blush and turning his unamused glare from my sister back to his menu.

My mom began to say something, and was quickly silenced by a glare and a stern: “Honey… we talked about this.” From my dad.

“What? I’m just ordering a margarita! I need a margarita!” My mom practically yelled across the dining room catching the attention of our waitress. “Can I get a margarita please?”

With that the entire table was silent for a good few minutes. As far as I knew my parents didn’t drink, nor had they ever drank, yet here my mother was ordering a margarita, and my quiet little sister who never really had anything to say about the goings on in my life had made an epic quip that everyone aside from myself was thinking.

I was both offended and embarrassed. I hadn’t intentionally been trying to make things tense and yet inadvertently had done so. I slipped my hand under the table and gave my date’s hand a gentle squeeze which he returned as the dinner continued awkwardly forward.

Eventually there was some polite conversation as we all ate our food, and my date excused himself from the table to take a phone call. After he retuned the dinner conversation continued. The incident wasn’t mentioned again but  we did discuss my plans for moving and his plans as far as schooling and employment. There were a few pictures taken to commemorate the evening and then we were off on our own.

After saying a polite goodnight to my family and discussing the logistics of how I was going to get home and who was going to take my car since I was going with my date for our evening alone we made our way to the parking lot and off. As we pulled out of the parking lot alone I finally spoke.

“So… I’m sorry about the burger thing. I really didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. It’s just my favorite sandwich and it really is the reason I wanted to eat there.” I mumbled quietly.

“Really? Because there for a minute I honestly thought you were trying to make a joke.” He answered with a curt tone, obviously hurt by the whole thing.

“Really. I didn’t mean it that way.” I said tears beginning to sting my eyes, and escape down my face.

“Wait, are you crying? Don’t cry, Babe. It’s okay. I mean… it was pretty funny. I expected it from your mom, but I didn’t really expect it from your sister. I didn’t know she had it in her.” He replied, turning to look at me as we pulled up to a stop light and softening his tone.

“Yeah that was kind of weird. I didn’t expect it from her either. I guess it really wasn’t any worse than your shirt.” I replied wiping the tears from my eyes and pulling myself together. “And my mom didn’t start anything.”

“That was a surprise. Especially since she was pretty drunk there at the end.” He answered.

“Y’know that’s the first time I’ve ever seen my parents drink, actually.” I said with a smile.

“I did kind of wear this shirt on purpose… I mean I had it in my bag and I wasn’t really thinking about it, but I had a chance to change and I didn’t. It doesn’t have anything to do with you or your birthday, I just really didn’t want to deal with your mom, but she was pretty well behaved tonight so… I should have changed. I feel kind of bad now, especially since your mom has pictures.” He confessed.

“Well… we’re even. You for your obnoxious shirt, and me for the black and blue thing.” I replied.

“Good deal. I’ll take it!” He answered with a smile.

P.S. I wish I could share the pictures here, but my date is not the type who would appreciate them out in the public domain. I’ll publish the stories all day long, which he isn’t particularly fond of either, but I maintain enough respect to not publish his face without permission.  

I found them on an old flash drive packing for our move. The look on his face is epic. It’s just epic, and it makes the entire story so much more awkward. Between the shirt, the look, and the story I had to laugh when I found it. I guess after this whole thing I kind of deserved the Neon Watermelon disaster. Eye for an eye… hmm.

I haven’t decided what to do with the pictures I found. On the one hand, I don’t need them lingering around, but on the other after so many accusations about my writing here, it’s nice to have proof many of the events I shared here did actually happen. I tossed the drive in a box and carted it off to storage. I may never see it again. Lol. Perhaps fate will decide for me…