My 11th Birthday, 1981.
Got home. Weekend at Eric’s. A friend of my Dad. His birthday is the same day as mine. My parents and Eric’s family all sat up till getting drunk. Me and my brother got sent to bed at Couldn’t sleep due to the noise downstairs. Woken up at by them singing “Happy Birthday” to Eric. Not one person sang “dear Lance.” Nothing done for me. Even at age 11 I can tell this is just a fob off. An excuse for them to do what they want and pretend it’s for me too.
We get home at about on my birthday. We sit in the lounge watching telly. I wait, fully expecting a cake or some kind of extra surprise or even someone to hand me the remote control for the TV and say “as it’s your birthday, you can choose what we watch.”
After an hour, slowly starting to feel more and more upset my mother shouts down the stairs “Lance, do you want to come and get your present!”
I pause. Why do I have to go up and get it? Why can’t the lazy cow bring it to me?!!
I enter my parent’s bedroom. On their bed is my present. Not wrapped up. A radio cassette player. For a child in 1981 a very nice present. But why hasn’t the lazy cow wrapped it up? I say thank you but I’m hurt and upset that:
a). I had to come and get it as opposed to it being brought it to me and;
b). She couldn’t be bothered to wrap it up in birthday paper as per normal.
However I have been raised to feign gratitude so I do this, saying thank you and how nice this gift is, this gift given with no real thought or love. Had I raised any kind of objection whatsoever I would have been made to feel guilty for months and possibly forfeited the radio. Probably accompanied by the words “we’ll give your stereo to a little boy whose parents can’t afford a stereo!”
I go back downstairs and it begins to dawn on me that through this whole weekend of, the only acknowledgement of MY 11th BIRTHDAY was this unwrapped, come-upstairs-for-it radio. I begin to feel like there’s a heavy weight pressing on my heart. I am beginning to get very upset. Finally I turn to my father, able to express that I’m upset but not old enough yet to articulate exactly why.
“It would be nice if you treated me like it was my birthday” I say, trying desperately to convey just how down I’m feeling right now and that they clearly believe Eric was more important than me. A man they only know through the Judo club my Dad teaches at.
My father glances at me. “What are you talking about? Were’ not treating you like it’s NOT your birthday are we?!!”
I pause, swallow and try again. “Yes, but it would be nice if you treated me like it’s my birthday.” On the verge of tears.
“What are you talking about?” he snaps irritably. “We’re not treating you like it’s NOT your birthday are we?!!”
Then my mother comes into the room and says to me and my brother. “I think you should both have an early night tonight, you’ve had a busy weekend and you’ve got school tomorrow.”
I am now finding it hard to breathe. My 11th birthday, almost forgotten and now being sent to BED EARLY!!! Something so draconian it’s normally reserved only for punishments.
I go to bed and lay there crying. After about half an hour my mother comes up and gives me a hug. Too stupid to realise what’s actually wrong she verbalises that I’m tired out after my exciting and fun weekend at Eric’s.
Mother’s Day 1985
Me and my brother get up and give my mother nice presents, and cards (mine being one of those ones that you keep in a box with a 3D effect) and split up between ourselves what housework we’re going to do. We then go back to bed.
An hour later my father shouts up the stairs, “breakfast!”
I hear my mother going downstairs saying in disbelief “I thought the idea was that the boys made me breakfast in bed! Why didn’t you tell them to make it for me?!!”
Dad replies “I waited an hour for them to do it. If they’re not going to do it willingly I’m not going to force them.”
I make a mental note that it’s odd for her to say this as she’d specifically stated that she doesn’t like breakfast in bed. She’d nibble the toast, sip the orange juice and leave the Cornflakes. I shrug, no big deal. I go downstairs. Sitting opposite me is my mother. I can tell she’s on the verge of tears. With lower lip trembling she glares at me and asks miserably “you didn’t bring me breakfast in bed. Do you know how HURTFUL that is?”
I look at her and realise this is going to be one of those situations where I absolutely cannot win no matter what I do. BUT I have to answer or incur further wrath. Both “yes” and “no” are wrong answers. “Yes” implies I knew and am therefore a bastard. “No” implies I’m stupid and hurtful through my lack of intelligence. I opt for “Yes” as I hope it will suggest that I didn’t know, but have now realised.
From that point () until that night my mother cried and sulked like a child deprived of sweets. She rang all her friends and family, the speech the same each time. In between snuffles she’d tearfully tell them “the boys didn’t bring me breakfast in bed. And their father didn’t wake them up and say ‘don’t you think you should get up and make mum breakfast in bed?’…so I’m sick of all three of them.”
She ignored and refused to speak to my father all day as well. For something me and my brother had failed to do. Even though it was nothing to do with him. Even though he had a valid reason for not making us do it when she first asked him why. Even though the ONLY reason she didn’t get breakfast in bed was because she had previously said she didn’t like it.
My mother’s mother, my Nanny comes over to be with her in her time of trouble and despair. Driving a 40 mile round trip to console her daughter. She looks at me and tells me I should do more for my mother.
That night my father’s father, my Grampe comes for dinner. He’s only recently got over a serious, life threatening injury and my other Nanny (his wife) is in hospital with depression. It’s and we’re sitting down for Sunday roast. He asks my mother why she’s crying. She replies through a veil of snot. “The boys didn’t bring me breakfast in bed for Mothers’ Day!”
He replies looking shocked “they didn’t buy you a present?!!”
“No” she sniffles, self pity tattooed all over her face like a spider’s web. “They bought me a present. They paid their debt!”
Years later, I stopped celebrating Mothers’ Day at all. Every year she’d act like she didn’t expect it and was hurt and bewildered when she received nothing. One year she asked me why, I cited these incidents as the main factor. She claimed she didn’t remember them.