The Birthday Wish
I remember the days when birthdays were so important to me because it involved parties and friends and presents and being spoiled. But on the morning of my 37th birthday, it has come to this?
I wake up to the ever-so-familiar feeling of an excruciating migraine (I have dealt with them for over 30 years). I feel the sharp knives stabbing me from the inside of my eyeballs due to the light coming in from the open window behind my bed. I am like a vampire, darkness is my friend and daylight, my enemy. All I can do is hide under the covers and reach blindly for painkillers from my bedside table drawer, to provide me with some form of relief. As if the migraine is not bad enough, I hear a cry in the distance from the littlest one.
"Mum, my eyes are stuck shut!"
Not long after I hear the middle one whine, "Mummy my tooth is really wobbly, and it really hurts!"
Not wanting to be left out, the eldest one declares, "Mum, I think I have head lice!"
When I drag myself out of bed, I look at the clock and realise I am going to be late for work. Shit! I start my first full-time teaching job today.
"SIMON, GET UP!"
I yell from the bathroom in my best wife-nagging voice (honed and perfected after 11 years of marriage). Of course, he doesn't respond (also honed and perfected after 11 years of marriage). I quickly grab the antihistamine for the littlest one's closed eyes, pull out the tooth of the second one's mouth and have a brief check at the biggest one's head before tying it up in a bun and spraying it with half a can of hairspray. I do not have time for nits this morning!
After my husband finally gets up and takes over, I rush out the door, missing breakfast (which I never do), spill my Chai tea on the driveway as I get in the car and head off to my first day at my new job. At this point, I discover my petrol tank is on empty. I wonder if I will even make it work. I sit in traffic for what seems like an eternity listening to the most awful music on the radio. Eventually, I arrive on what seems like the last drop of coughing gas, not knowing where anything is and spending the whole day chasing my tail.
By the end of the day, my head is killing me, and my throat is closing in. Some of the staff members have got wind that it is my birthday and wish me a happy birthday, but I can barely say thank you as I feel as though I am getting tonsillitis too. I'm sure I am starting to get a fever as well. I receive a text message that I am to meet my husband, the kids and my in-laws at the restaurant near my work at 5:00. I don't feel well but I am looking forward to doing something for my birthday. I assume that they are going to be there waiting to surprise me with presents and a cake. I arrive at 5:10, allowing them extra time to prepare for my arrival, but when I walk in there is no sign of them. To top it off, I discover that I have misplaced my wallet, so I can't even buy myself a drink. So, instead of feeling like a "special birthday girl" I feel like a 37-year-old loser!
When the family finally arrives, my husband tells me he and the kids don't have a present for me. I don't care about the monetary value, but I expected something. I think he is joking and there will be a wonderful surprise later at home, but again I am wrong. The only birthday surprises I had received were a migraine, head lice, allergies, tooth extractions, spilled Chia tea, a near empty tank of gas, getting sick and losing my wallet. Then to add insult to injury the kids start fighting at the table. They all want to sit on my lap and blow out my candles. It's such a wonderful family moment with Cleo with her hideous gooey eye, Lucy sticking a straw in the gap where her tooth was and Eva incessantly scratching her head.
I look at a stranger at a table beside me and say, "Well happy birthday to me!" and laugh. He looks at me with a grimace. It is at that exact moment I realise that the stranger is a father of one of the children I had been teaching all day at my new job! How fantastic! Now the parents of my students will think I am an incompetent teacher because I have unruly children. When I get home, I stumble like a zombie to bed, wishing I could do over the whole day again.
The next morning, I wake up with an ever-so-unfamiliar clear head. My throat even feels normal. The sun is shining through the window and we have suddenly become allies instead of enemies. I look at the clock and realise I have time for a hot shower in peace before any of the children begin to stir. When they do get up, I eat breakfast and make myself a spicy Chai without interruption because the kids are all drama-free. The little one's conjunctivitis has cleared up, the middle one is happy that her tooth has earned her some money, and the oldest one is nit-free as it ended up being a false alarm. I don't have to yell at Simon to get up as he has extricated himself out of bed (no doubt in order to make up for my present-less birthday). This means that while he is getting the girls ready for school I am not up against the clock and can calmly cruise to work on a full tank of gas. To top it off there is hardly any traffic on the road and all my favourite songs come on the radio as if they are perfectly sequenced to my specific tastes.
As far as my 37th birthday is concerned I am more than happy to see it resigned to history. However, when I arrive early, as opposed to yesterday, I am taken aback when I see a chocolate birthday cake sitting on my desk with my name on it. The next thing I know the kids enter the classroom with homemade birthday cards (including the son of the man I saw grimacing at me in the restaurant the night before), despite only knowing me for a day. The icing on the proverbial cake is that during recess the staff sing me ‘Happy Birthday". Before I blow out the candles, I don't bother making a birthday wish, because it has already come true!