My birthday is on May 30th, and if I’m lucky, the day falls on Memorial Day and I get a nice long weekend to celebrate. By celebrate, I mean letting the day pass by nonchalantly without much fanfare. I hate being in the center of attention, so I’ve never really been a birthday party kind of gal. I’ve had one surprise birthday party in my life, and it was a traumatic experience that I hope to immediately forget after immortalizing it on my blog.

Like most soon-to-be-teenagers, the year that I turned 13 was solidly in the middle of  my “awkward years”. I was all braces and gangly limbs, and unlike many of my friends at the time, I was completely flat-chested. While I was in that phase, I dedicated a good amount of time stuffing my shirt with various forms of produce, imagining what I’d look like once I  filled out. I even snapped a few pictures of my faux-figure with a disposable camera, which was the 90’s equivalent of posing for a selfie. (Anyone else do this? No? Just me? Don’t worry – this detour is relevant to the story.)

During that time, my Grandpa was suffering from Alzheimer’s and he quickly went from bad to worse; by mid-May, we knew that his days were numbered. A few days before my birthday, I went to the nursing home and said my final goodbye to him, even though we had ‘lost’ our Gentle Giant long before that. On the way home, my mom was adamant about dropping me off at my friend Emily’s, who had invited me to go swimming. I protested. How could I possibly think about swimming at a time like this? But Mom insisted that it would help take my mind off of things, and so off I went.

I got to Emily’s house, went downstairs, and a gaggle of tweenage girls jumped out with an exuberant “SURPRISE!”. I was genuinely touched, and may have even shed a tear or two.  My friends had known that I was having a rough time, and they wanted to make sure that my first birthday as a teenager was acknowledged.

“Come see your cake!”, they shouted, “your mom dropped it off earlier!”.

I walked over to view my cake, and my excitement quickly turned into blinding rage. On top of my birthday cake stood 13 candles, framing a picture of me. More specifically, it was a picture of me posing dramatically, tank top stuffed with onions. There I stood, shapeless in my bikini while staring at my conspicuously voluptuous photograph. I blew out my candles and silently wished that instead of growing boobs, I could instead sprout wings and fly away.

My Grandpa passed away shortly after, and at the funeral home, word of my humiliation spread like wildfire among the family. Being wryly asked, “Sooo, how was your surprise party?” time and time again was the metaphorical icing on top of a very literal cake.

Looking back, I can find the humor in the situation. At the time, I could have died from humiliation.  (Let’s just file the entire experience under “character building”.) For years afterwards I have threatened  to exact retribution on my Mom’s birthday. I still have not settled the score, but as I’ve learned, revenge is a dish best served cold. Muahahahaha.