Remembering that I forget my birthdays

10th birthday

My 10th birthday celebrated with friends and family at Cosmo Park in Columbia, Mo. I’m in the middle back, striking a pose.

Birthdays make me stop and really think about how I’m spending my time. That’s why I quit my job just a few weeks after turning 30 … and quit another job a few months after turning 40. Both times I didn’t have another job lined up yet.

The milestone birthdays seem to move me beyond thinking and into taking action. They put me in the whole life-is-too-short-to-not-be-doing-something-you-really-enjoy mindset.

Today I’m just turning 42, so there won’t be any monumental announcements. Plus, I couldn’t just up and quit on my current boss {I can’t quit myself!}.

Overall, though, my memories of birthdays are lacking and this bothers me. I recall very few specific birthdays. It’s not that I don’t have great birthdays to remember, I’m just lousy at recalling details of what presents I got, who helped me celebrate, what flavor cake and ice cream I had, etc. I wish I could look at a knickknack in my home and remember that my mom gave me that for my XXth birthday. I can’t.

Does anyone else have this issue? Do I just not pay enough attention to life?

Since my birthday fell outside of the school year, most of my K-12 celebrations were with family and a few friends. Birthday parties during my grade school years were often at Cosmo Park in Columbia, Mo., and usually involved picnic-type meals, sheet cake, presents and a small group of friends along with my family. I don’t remember specific years except for the two that I can find recorded via Polaroid camera: my 10th in 1981 and my 12th. {Mom – photos of only two of my birthdays? I know I was the fourth child but I WAS the only girl and I know technology was zipping along in the 1970s and 1980s.}

I do remember another birthday but not the year: my dad and stepmom stopped by our house early in the day and gave me a rocking chair and a Holly Hobby themed cake. I remembered they told me to keep it forever and share it with my children. I got confused and refused to let my mom serve the Holly Hobby cake at the park – I thought I was supposed to keep it forever! We froze the cake and when I told my stepmom this later, she wasn’t too happy they’d spent good money on a cake that nobody ate. I’m pretty sure that was the year my parents stopped saving money for a college fund.

In junior high and high school, the get-togethers were usually outside at our house or my aunt’s house – a family barbeque with a couple of close friends joining us.

As an adult, I’ve been fortunate to have great coworkers and friends who have always made me feel special around my birthday – whether it was on the actual day or near it. Going out for lunches, getting drinks after work or having dessert – I just don’t recall all of the details of who, where and when.

Lee always plans something fun for my birthdays, from a simple dinner out with the two of us to a marathon day at the movie theater to surprise parties. Unfortunately, I only recall a few specifics.

Here’s a little experiment, I will start with last year and work backward to see how many of the 41 birthdays I can actually remember.

41 – had a layout lunch with Kate at our friend Morgan’s pool … but I can’t remember what Lee and I did that night. He doesn’t remember either, which makes me feel a tiny bit better. Also had drinks that week with a group of friends.

Birthday drinks with friends in 2012.

Birthday drinks with friends in 2012.

40 – was in Boulder, Colo., with Lee. Celebrated with friends in Wichita a few weeks earlier by attending Cattleman’s Ball, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

40th birthday

Celebrating my 40th birthday with friends by attending the American Cancer Society’s Cattleman’s Ball in Wichita in 2011.

39 – went out with friends Holly and Jason to a bar, where a really drunk lady convinced Holly and I to sing backup to her singing Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘n Roll. I held the mic as far from me as I could and it was still bad. Real bad. Ask Lee.

38 – was in Banff, Alberta, Canada on an incredible hiking trip with Lee, who scheduled a massage for me that day. We also had an awesome steak at a restaurant that night.

36 or 37 – either the first or second birthday after my mom passed away, my Aunt Linda called Lee and said she wanted to drive out from Columbia to surprise me for my birthday that year. Lee told me we were going out to meet friends he works with for dinner and drinks. We got to the restaurant and then my aunt, uncle and my stepdad walked in. I started crying. It was the only time my aunt and uncle had come out to visit me since helping me move to Wichita in 1994 so it meant a lot to me. They both have since passed away.

35 – my mom sang happy birthday on a voicemail to me, which I kept on my phone until I accidentally erased it a month later. That fall (2006) my mom passed away. I wish I still had that voicemail.

33 – Lee invited several of my high school friends I still stay in touch with to come out to Wichita. They showed up and he made me think that was the only surprise. The second surprise was a party that night at our house with my out-of-town friends and my Wichita friends. (I only remember the year because there are photos!)

huge pizza

Lee ordered the Superdome 29″ pizza for my surprise birthday party one year.

Early 30s – One year Lee took me to a jewelry store and showed me three pieces he’d picked out for me to choose from for my present. That was a lot of fun and he did a good job selecting.

Early 30s – One year Lee planned a surprise overnight stay at one of those murder mystery bed & breakfasts. He said we were just going to our visit our friends Holly and Jason but when we got there, we all went to Oklahoma. He even had to pack funeral clothing for me and miraculously he picked the black dress from the closet that actually fit me!

30 – Lee had to cancel a surprise visit from my parents that he planned for the weekend before my birthday. I was working for Raytheon Aircraft at the time and Saturday, Aug. 4 was the day the machinists union was voting on a new contract. My boss dispatched me to spend my Saturday at the Salina manufacturing facility in case the machinists voted to strike and they needed a company spokesperson on-site.

Either that same year or another year close to this one, Lee & I drove to Kansas City to goof off for the weekend, and when we walked in to a casino my parents were there. Lee had asked them to come over to surprise me!

Mizzou-themed birthday cake.

Mizzou-themed birthday cake.

21 – went out with family for dinner and a couple of my friends came along, then my friends and I met a larger group of friends out at Déjà Vu. I think that’s the night I took a shot of something purple, threw it up in the ashtray and was good to go! I remember my friend Kim got me this cool artsy T-shirt that said “It’s a dog eat dog world” and it had a dog eating a hot dog on it.

20 – This was right before the start of my junior year at Mizzou and the guy I was dating was being a jerk so at the last minute I had nothing to do on my birthday. I was sulking at home and my girlfriends made me go out. A friend who is one year older than me was turning 21 so I kinda crashed dinner with her and her parents at a restaurant downtown. I made up with the guy the next week and I remember he gave me a turquoise stone necklace.

19 – The summer between my freshman and sophomore year at college, my friends and I were playing a ton of racquetball at the outdoor courts on Mizzou’s campus – like every night for several hours. We met a group of guys at the courts that we started hanging out with. One of them asked me to go out a couple of times and it happened to be around my birthday so he made dinner for me at his apartment. I can’t remember his name but he was from St. Louis. I remember one of his friends was named Dax. And another of his friends wore those colored denim shorts – he had a pair in what seemed like every color.

16 – I remember my brother Roy sent me a check for $100 and I thought that was awesome! I think I bought a Swatch watch.

12 – My group of Benton Elementary School friends went swimming at Oakland Pool then came back to my house for food and games. I mainly remember this because there was a photo taken of me that my family used later in life to embarrass the crap out of me. I’m over it now so I’m posting it here. (fyi: I’m Facebook friends with a couple of folks in the photo!)

12th birthday

That’s me second from the right after having my 12th birthday at the local swimming pool in 1983.

10 – This was the Strawberry Shortcake year, I only remember because of photos that we still have. Looks like it was a party at Cosmo Park. In one photo I’m holding this guitar toy that I remember my brother Roy got me. It didn’t work though so we had to return it. I’m sure that’s the same year I got my Strawberry Shortcake wristwatch, which I still have.

Me and my brother Roy, and my Strawberry Shortcake birthday cake on my 10th birthday in 1981. (also had on a Strawberry Shortcake wristwatch that you can barely see...and I still have it!).

Me and my brother Roy, and my Strawberry Shortcake birthday cake on my 10th birthday in 1981. (also had on a Strawberry Shortcake wristwatch that you can barely see…and I still have it!).

1 – no, I don’t really remember this but there is a photo of a cake with my name on it along with several other family members’ names. The family used to have larger get-togethers at the end of summer and celebrate everyone whose birthday was within a two-month timeframe.

My first birthday cake -- 1972

My first birthday cake — 1972. My brother Roy is holding the cake.


Well, that experiment makes it look like I missed my entire 20s! I was mostly sober but still I remember very little about those birthdays.

So I’m officially taking back my stance on social media. All those times I’ve said, “Damn, I’m so glad Facebook and YouTube and Instagram didn’t exist when I was a kid because I certainly would have embarrassed myself or made myself unemployable!” – nevermind. I’d risk that to be able to look back through my or my mom’s Facebook timeline to see a photo of the Holly Hobby cake {in the freezer}, my family gathered in our yard on Mexico Gravel Road for my 16th birthday bbq or me with a group of friends celebrating one of my college birthdays.

If anyone out there remembers something about one of my birthdays that I don’t, let me know!


This entry was posted in Family, Friends, Lee, Randomness.


  1. Tai August 15, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    Hello Melinda it’s me Tai! Melissa told me about this blog so I decided to come and check it out. I love your posts and your wonderful photography. Anyways, see you at the salon =].

    • Melinda August 15, 2013 at 10:09 pm #

      Thanks for reading Tai!

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