Despite my knack for finding four leafed clovers, I’ve got some pretty crummy luck. This is especially true when it comes to birthdays, but only my own–I’m great at other’s birthdays, just ask my old boss at the local burger joint whom I brought strawberry cupcakes when she had to work on hers.
I don’t mean I plan outdoor picnics and get rained out, or I ruined my own surprise party, I mean I have really genuinely horrible luck for birthdays. Like, life and death.
Take last year, for example. I was working at aforementioned local burger joint where I had been employed for just over a year. Despite previous bad run-ins with the birthday ordeal, I felt I was in a new phase of my life and could handle the risk, so I made sure to remind everyone my birthday was right around the corner. Everyone seemed so excited! Coworkers promised to “bring the champagne” and “we will definitely hang out!” I was thrilled! I got up the next morning, put on a new maroon dress, did my hair and makeup, and waited for folks to fulfill their promises from just the day before of letting me know when they were ready to take on the town.
My mother came into town for groceries and we went out for an early lunch before she had to return home to my very sick little brother, then I spent the afternoon sitting on my couch in a dress waiting for somebody to reply to my text messages. My best friend was kind enough to have flowers sent while he was away in AIT and even his parents (whom I consider my own family at this point) sent me some books that I’ve read and reread since then, so not awful.
Let’s go back another year. I was living in a split level house with my boyfriend at the time, and five other people (one of whom was the ex of the guy I was dating, but that’s another story). It was my first year in college and my first birthday out of the house. I was so sure that it would be a great one! I sent out individual texts to all my coworkers inviting them to our house that evening for a bonfire and open bar hangout. What gets attention in a college town like an old fashioned bonfire and booze-fest?
To this day I’m not sure what happened. It wound up being me, my boyfriend, my best friend, and some girl I hardly knew alone around a massive fire pit. My own roommates even left me behind for the sake of some bar. Needless to say, I was drinking vodka out of the bottle.
I could go on forever talking about bad birthdays, like the year everyone left after an hour, or the year back in high school where everyone forgot about me and I locked myself in my own bathroom to sob. Like I said, crummy luck, but none of it will compare to the year I almost died.
My parents were in the midst of a very nasty divorce, and I mean nasty. Like, hiding out with friends of friends and checking our cars for tracking devices level nasty. I could fill novels with the absurdity of that time of my life, but for now just picture this: A newly licensed driver and bright eyed high school me, determined not to let anything get me down. My mother and I were singing along to the radio as we cruised nonchalantly down the red dirt back road we had called home for sixteen years. We topped the last hill before our driveway, and we saw it. The truck. My dad’s big white Dodge, and it was parked in front of our driveway facing away from us. Even now I can’t tell you what came over me other than I was determined to have one good day amidst the chaos. I stopped the car at a distance and tapped on the horn a few good times.
“Come on,” I remember saying, “just fuck off for once.” The truck lurched into motion as he backed into the driveway. Thoroughly confused, I watched as he backed himself straight, and then truck lunged towards us! I hardly had time to process what was happening. Everything went silent, or so it seemed to me. Before I even knew what I was doing, I had thrown my mom’s little red Camry into reverse and shot backwards into a cloud of red dust.
In my memories of this moment, time seems like it has stopped in that moment. I could see his icy blue eyes through the filthy windshield of his menacing diesel truck. I know that had I so much as let off the accelerator it would have resulted in a head on collision. There is no doubt in my mind that at that speed, and with the massive difference in his work truck and our little car, I would have died. But God was not done with me and my life, and it absolutely was God. I was flying backwards down a dirt road at an absurd speed (don’t try this at home, kids), and just barely made the Need for Speed swerve into a neighbor’s driveway half a mile down.
There was a crunch of gravel as he tried to slam on the brakes and corner us again, but God was on our side. I whipped out of that driveway, jolted back up the road, and yanked us into our own driveway while Mom called the police to report the latest shenanigans.
Needless to say, as I reflect on the years past, this time of year can get a little heavy for my heart and really dampen the spirit. In truth, I should really be celebrating that I made it past that and am still here today!
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m a little anxious to turn twenty-one in twenty-seven days, but at the same time I’m so blessed that I made it this far, because no matter what happens it could always be (or have been) so much worse. I mean I can really say that I never imagined I would make it this far, or be where I am right now.
It’s a heavy thought, but absolutely true. So bring on the rained out picnics and spoiled surprise parties! I’ll look forward to dancing in the rain and finding more four- leafed clovers.