May has always been one of those really stressful months at our house. Both our daughters were born in May, one on the 13th and the other on the 20th. Three years and a week apart. It’s that crazy month where the end of the school year shenanigans take place as well, be it those final band concerts, school projects, etc…are shoved into every nook and cranny of those last couple weeks. But for the most part, May is birthday month here at the Hubner ranch.
My wife has never been good with the birthday bashes. When the girls were really little it wasn’t as bad, as it was all new and all you had to do was have a couple friends over, drop some cake in front of them, and have plenty of presents to open. One of my favorite birthday memories for the girls was when our oldest was turning 4 or 5, and my uncle came over and did a magic show for all the kids. My uncle was pretty good with the sleight of hand tricks and being genuinely fun. I even bought a couple tricks with him when he took me to the place he bought all his goods. Anyways, he had some kid-related stuff and everyone seemed pretty amazed. It felt like the least stressful birthday party as someone else took the entertaining reigns for an afternoon.
But as the girls got older there were more kids and they were harder to entertain. My wife isn’t much of the hosting type. It stresses her out, and I get it. Too many expectations and kids that had a hard time expressing just what the hell they wanted for their birthday get-togethers. It all just got to be overwhelming, and then on top of it we had to repeat it two weeks in a row with two sets of friends. Needless to say, we were thrilled when Memorial Day weekend arrived as that meant we survived another birthday month.
As a side, our son was born on March 2nd. He had one birthday where he had a friend party. It was was when he was in the 3rd grade. One kid showed up. I think he only invited one kid. My son isn’t a party person, just like his parents.
This birthday May was equally stressful, but not for those same reasons. Our oldest turned 21-years old, and our middle kid turned 18. This birthday month, more than any birthday month, was a stark reminder of how quickly it’s all going by. Legal drinking and graduation, as opposed to magic tricks and blowing out candles. And on top of child’s first cocktail, we just had prom last weekend. Another reminder of getting old, mortality, and how long it takes an almost 18-year old to get dolled up for exactly three or so hours. Don’t get me wrong, she was beautiful. It just seemed like much ado about nothing. I mean, the next day when she got home after crashing at her best friend’s house we asked her how was prom and her response was “It was alright”, as she plopped the dress bag on the floor which contained her $460 dress.
We now have entered graduation preparation. Next week is the last week of school. After that everyone is working full-time till school starts again, the 18-year old heading to central Michigan to Ferris State University while the oldest heads back to Depauw University to finish her senior year. By the start of my son’s junior year he’ll be driving himself to school. It’s a pretty significant shift in our family’s dynamic, and one that’s sort of bittersweet. I’m excited for everyone as they’re all heading into unknowns, but in a weird way I’m sort of longing for those simple birthday parties that felt so stressful 15 years ago. In hindsight that stuff was pretty easy compared to college loans, moving three hours away from home, locking into the last year before the real world steps in, and getting a driver’s license. What shape of a birthday cake, Scooby-Doo or Batman, seems like a(pardon my pun) cake walk, compared to a winter term in Japan, first semester away from home, and driving oneself to band practice or work after school.
Two weekends ago the dog and I took some time out of a gorgeous Saturday afternoon and took a drive thru some nearby subdivisions. I find a strange sort of creature comfort driving through these groupings of houses, as they remind me of being a kid. We never lived in a subdivision when I was young. We just lived on the edge of a pine forest along a county road. I got no complaints, but these housing developments sequestered in quaint, wooded spots in the county were always places I aspired to be. Maybe it was growing up in the 80s and watching Spielberg’s E.T. or Hooper’s Poltergeist, and all those other 80s movies where people lived in these planned neighborhoods where all the houses were Tri-levels and looked exactly the same with long paved roads for kids to ride their bikes on, but subdivisions were what I saw as success.
So on this nondescript, sunny Saturday afternoon the dog and I rolled thru Stanton Lake Estates and admired the 80s-built Cape Cods, two-story beauties that overlooked the bright blue waters of the lake, and I let the stress and emotional whirlwinds of birthday month wash away. This was a neighborhood I knew, as my best friend lived in it for the majority of our pre-teen and teen years. His parents moved out of their home a couple years ago, but the house is still there, next to the tennis court and party house next to the lake for the residents to use for get-togethers(or for teens to break into with girls on humid, summer nights.) I was amazed at how little had changed. Maybe a few more cul-de-sacs and a touch more $250,000+ homes added, but for the most part I was almost expecting to see my best friend and I riding our BMX bikes down to the lake.
This little excursion with the pooch reminded me of just how quickly it all goes by. Seeing those homes and those roads and that lake made my teenage years feel like just a hop, skip, and a jump away, even though I was a 47-year old man driving around with a barking Schnauzer sticking his head out of the window of my 2004 Honda Odyssey. In the blink of an eye three decades are gone and I’m balding with a jacked-up back and with three kids with one foot already out the front door for the rest of their own lives.
May. Gets me every time.