Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Calling it a Day

"What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?"
-George Eliot

Oftentimes Spouse and I will discuss birthdays and how we treat ourselves, and we will never quite be able to recall how the conversation began. Yesterday evening was just that way and it conjured some memories.
We do not particularly celebrate each other's birthday. We make little jokes throughout our respective days but no gifts are ever exchanged.
On the first of my birthdays living with Spouse, he forgot about the event entirely and I agreeably chose not to remind him.
Other family members and friends remembered, however, and as the days led rapidly toward my birthday I received various cards from well-wishers.
I aligned the cards on a shelf which just happened to be within Spouse's line of sight. Still, he did not see the collection and so I thought to make no comment.
The day after my birthday Spouse browsed the living room's various objects and spied a colourful crew of cards before I had a chance to pack them away into a cardboard box.
"What are those?" he asked with purest innocence.
I did not know how to answer. When I remained silent, he began to gently examine them one by one.
"Whose birthday is it?" he wanted to know. It was no figment of my imagination: he asked that question with a genuine curiosity.
Then his expression changed entirely. Horror, shock, sadness lapped across his face like a mournful cloud.
It turned out, in the end, to be all my fault; Spouse grew cross with me for not saying a word regarding my birthday and he offered me some silent treatment for a brief period.
My fault, mine, that Spouse left the room so distressed about forgetting the day, that he wished to be alone for a while with his thoughts.
In the end I recall that I had to go forth and make amends, as one must do when one's own birthday is neglected.
As I do not much mind about my birthday one way or the other I said nothing about it and would have continued to leave it at that had Spouse not been inspired to remember.
One evening some years ago Spouse returned from work and immediately began to make certain comments about my housework, quite out of character. Specifically my skills were lacking in one area: he said that I had not made the bed well enough.
I insisted that I had, that it was neat and tidy.
No, said Spouse, it was not right. I ought to make it a little better.
I refused.
Spouse and I battled it out for a long few minutes, he telling me calmly that I should plump up the pillows and tuck in the sheets and make the bed properly, and my demanding that he leave housekeeping matters to me.
At last I relented and furiously took hold of a pillow just to gain some peace.
There were chocolate eggs hidden underneath.
That was the first and last time Spouse brought me a surprise of any sort. We have long ago decided that it is best to avoid such matrimonial complications whenever possible.


Pappy said...

I guess birthday celebrations vary from culture to culture. In my culture, the kids were feted through about age ten. After that they preferred to be ignored by their parents with the exception of some present to mark the occasion. In the culture here in the Valley birthdays are celebrated with regularity and much gusto until the person dies. So, our cake bakers here do a very lively business year round. I am with Spouse, the direct route to recognizing a moment to be remembered is better served with the direct approach. Less chance of running into scheduling problems.

polona said...

i would prefer to live through birthdays and other 'important days' as if nothing has changed (nothing essentially does change). but my family and friends have other ideas so... i'm not that lucky :)

Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Texican, you're right of course, but even where I grew up birthdays are important. It's just that between Spouse and I we never saw fit to bother with that. After all, he'd have to drive me to the store to get him a present so it all seems futile :)

Polona, ah, family... they just want to make you feel special on the day. It's hard to say no. I do like what my mother always does for me on my birthdays though so I'm not completely against it :)

mermaid said...

You have learned the suffering expectation causes. You aren't even boasting about the freedom in this post. Well, here I go sending you good wishes.


Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Mermaid, we have a very good life, we just don't have that 'expectation' as you said about anniversaries and birthdays. It's quite liberating, at least for us, not to be caught up in those worries.

Jaime said...

Hmmmm...knowing this little bit about you now, is it perhaps your birthday today? Or sometime soon? And you just won't tell us?


Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Jaime, no, not for a while ;) But good detecting anyhow- after all, it COULD have been... but it isn't.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I remember each other's birthdays and usually arrange a family get together. At my age I celebrate being alive another year and being healthy so far.


Phyllis Hunt McGowan said...

Steve, that's the best reason to celebrate birthdays and I am sure the original reason too. I commend anyone who celebrates it- as I said above I never turn down a gift or cake from Mater on the day ;) but somehow when it's just the two of us it doesn't seem so urgent. Spouse grew up entirely without birthdays and I am far from my family so perhaps that's got something to do with it.

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