I’m pure Irish Catholic, the oldest of six children, and the first of 30 some odd cousins. I am the first of my generation, and dare I say, the most celebrated. In my family, my birthday is like the day that JFK got shot. Everyone remembers where they were the moment I was born.
My mother made no efforts to curb my sense of self importance on the day. Every year, I had a birthday month. There were parties for my friends, parties for my immediate family, parties for my cousins, parties for both sides of the family. There was a cake for me at Thanksgiving. I was showered with gifts from my 12 aunts and uncles, from my parent’s childhood friends, from all of their significant others. I learned how to tally up checks on my second birthday. I made a killing in government bonds. It took me at least an hour to make my way through my presents.
When my parents had me, my dad was working at a bartender and gas station attendant in the Bronx. My mother was a nurse, and my father would pick her up on a motorcycle every day at the end of her shift, even when she was pregnant with me. They had no money, but even so, there are pictures of me on my first birthday literally drowning in wrapping paper, my hair standing on end, my face red with joy.
I was very, very lucky to be so loved.
When my dad miraculously made a killing on Wall Street, through a stroke of good fortune that could only be attributed to the luck of the Irish, my birthdays became more elaborate. There were trips to FAO Schwartz, and trips to the Plaza for tea. There were elaborate birthday parties with ponies, and expensive favors. My parents did everything that the crass noveau rich were supposed to do, and sometimes even more. One birthday, my dad bought the center of the second row of the theater at a Broadway show, and let me take all of my friends into the city in a limousine.
My parents eventually choked on their own gaudiness, and the extravagance ended. But the traces of entitlement, at least on this one day, still remain. So get ready for Saturday, for the national holiday of Brienne. If you see me on the street, I’ll be swaddled in tulle, dragging an ermine train in my wake. I’ll be speaking in my articulated Shirley Temple, Little Princess voice. I’ll be accepting favors, and struggling to hold onto bouquets of roses. I’ll be holding out my hand for kisses.
Or I’ll be sitting alone in my apartment, waiting for people to call me, cursing my loss of innocence. I’ll be crying for my youth.
Either way, you had better write on my Facebook wall.