Every year my birthday seems worse than the year before. This year, we actually kept score: In my house we kept a running, mostly-good-natured verbal tally of the things that went wrong around my birthday. Of course there were no tragedies, just small, standalone oddities: the slight insanities of family members, unusually bizarre exchanges at work, people’s sudden and strange behavior around me, which I would recount to my family and my daughter would answer with, “Well, it IS almost your birthday.”
If I were to choose the paramount terrible birthday moment, I would probably offer the image of myself, crouched on a stranger’s cold front porch clutching a shivering, shit-covered puppy to my chest and crying while what sounded like a 100-pound-baby screamed from inside the house. (Spoiler: I did not get the puppy. Someday I will get the puppy, and the puppy I did not get that day, on my birthday, will remain a part of the larger story: the story of the puppy we worked so hard to find, and to love.) Now, from a distance, I can see this and I am grateful. That day, crying on a strange porch with a filthy baby animal in my arms, my universe felt like it was being torn apart.
My mom had already given me my birthday present. The week before, we had set out into a blizzard, aimed for a Franciscan convent about an hour away from where we live. The roads were bad and it got dark early, but we made our way slowly, on slick, wind-whipped roads. The headlights illuminated the snow in front of us, the sky was the same color as the ground around us, and to pass the time I tried to convince my mom that this road was some sort of Miyazakian segue into the underworld. She countered with C.S. Lewis’ wardrobe, and for a while we amused each other with what we thought this Other reality would be, what it would do, how we would interact with it.