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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Fourteen - Worst Birthday Ever?

Hello, everyone, and if you're living in Canada (as I do), I want to take the time to wish all of you a very happy Victoria Day weekend!  It's not often that we Canadians get to enjoy long weekends, so I hope that however you spend the weekend, you spend it doing something that you love.

In my case, my long weekend happens to last eight days!  I love booking vacation time from work!  Believe me, some days, you feel like you need a recharge.

And to kick off the long weekend, I'm about to tell you the story about the most screwed-up birthday that I think I've ever had.

Ah, but don't worry.  While this tale is filled with frustration and's also filled with happiness, love, and a trip to Canada's Wonderland.  Trust me, this read will be worth it.

Okay, so we'll get to the reason why my fourteenth birthday ended up being a colossal calamity in just a moment.

In the meantime, there's some other things that we have to take a look at.  Such as a snapshot from that time period.

Yikes...what the heck was I wearing?  That shirt is so loud, I think that I probably deafened a couple of people with it alone.  Oh, and to make the ensemble complete, I was also wearing pleated khakis and brown deck shoes.  Hey, nobody said that 1995 was my fashion-forward year.  The fact that I made it to the ninth grade in one piece was enough of an achievement in itself!

Now onto the pop culture stuff.

#1 SONG THE WEEK OF 5/18/1995
"This Is How We Do It" - MONTELL JORDAN

Okay, all you music fans out there.  Tell me this.  Was this Montell Jordan's only hit, or did he have others?  One thing for sure, I have to admit that I did like this one.

"Crimson Tide"

Nice.  A movie that I have not only seen, but liked as well.  Though, admittedly, it took a little bit of time for the film to get interesting.


Ah, yes...the show that made household names of George Clooney, Julianna Margulies, and Noah Wyle (I hesitate to put Anthony Edwards in this bunch, as he was already a well-known named movie star when he landed this show).  Can you believe this show ultimately ran for fifteen years?  That's exactly the same amount of time CSI lasted.  Oh, and the theme song?  Epic.

So, before I go into detail over why my 14th birthday was memorable for all the wrong reasons...well, I need to set up a few details.

One, things at school were quite hectic.  Never mind the fact that my 14th birthday fell a month before eighth grade graduation.  All of the seventh and eighth graders were doing a semester long project about how to invest in the stock market, and all semester long, we were grouped into teams where we had to earn Monopoly money for doing assignments, doing extra credit, answering quizzes, etc.  On the day of my birthday, all of the teams gathered in the gymnasium to work on a project where we could win lots of fake money to use in the actual buying and trading portion of the unit - which was to be held in the first week of June.

On top of all that, I was having issues with some of the kids in my class.  You see, all the classes that year were divided up into 7/8 split classes.  The good news was that all four of the boys who aggravated me last year were put into different classes from me.  The bad news was that a few of the seventh graders in my class were...well...jerks.  Remember this for later.

Now, this would have been enough stress to deal with on top of keeping my grades up and making sure that my report card was good enough to pass into the next grade.  But something happened in my family that caused me to have even more stress than the average fourteen year old should have.

You see, both my mother and my sister were really sick during the time of my 14th birthday.  In the case of my sister, her illness wasn't as bad, but my mother was in really bad shape.  I won't go into detail over what both of them had (they both were sick with the same thing), but you know how sometimes mothers will always take care of everyone else in the family before they take care of themselves?  My mother is the ultimate case study of this.  She was more concerned with making all of us happy and well that she always puts herself last.  And I think that was a reason why she ended up getting so ill.

In fact, she had gotten so ill that I was genuinely concerned that I was going to lose her. 

Both my mother and sister had to have surgery...and you know, I didn't plan this at all, but I find it a coincidence that the surgery date just happened to be on this date twenty years ago.  May 16, 1995.  If I remember correctly, my sister and my mother were operated on within four hours of each other on the same exact day, and it was certainly a tense time for all of us.  But both made it through the surgery okay, and although my mother had more complications, she managed to make as close to a full recovery as one could get. 

In a way, I was really happy that both were going to be okay...but I was really sad at the same time.  You see, their surgery happened to be scheduled two days before my 14th birthday.  This meant that for the first time in my life, I had to celebrate a birthday without my whole family being there.  Sure, I did go up to the hospital to visit them on the night of my birthday, but somehow it didn't quite feel the same.  Despite this though, I tried making the best of it, and try as they might, my dad and my other sister tried to salvage the day as best they could.

Like, for instance, they made sure that I had a cake.  Oh, sure, the cake was bought from the local A&P supermarket, and my sister's attempt to write "Happy 14th Birthday, Matthew" on the cake made her look as if someone gouged her eyes out with a Swiss Army Knife, but, was the thought that counted.

Seriously, I wish I had a picture of the cake.  It was pretty hideous looking.  Tasty, but hideous.

And for gifts, I made a special request for my 14th birthday.  I wanted all of my gifts in cash.  The reason was that my class was embarking on a class trip to Toronto, Ontario later that week, and I wanted to make sure that I had enough spending money to make the trip memorable.

(Aside from the fact that a pickpocket stole thirty bucks from me at the park, it ended up being a nice distraction from all that was going on.  I still had $115 hidden in my luggage anyway for safekeeping!)

See, everyone at my school thought I was dumb for losing money at the park in the first place, but the truth was that I expected it.

After all...I did have money stolen from me on my actual birthday.

Well, okay, it wasn't real money.  It was the stock market project money that was stolen from me.  And, I know that the seventh graders did it because they were bragging to everyone in our class about how they ruined my birthday.  Of course, I was the foolish one for leaving my back turned for just two minutes during the gym task.  That was my own fault.  I just hoped that my teammates who worked with me in the stock market task forgave me for my boneheaded mistake.

But you know, that was the last thing that I needed to have happen on that day.  My birthday was already bad enough with two-fifths of my family in the hospital recovering from surgery (which ended up saving my mother's life).  I didn't need to have this happen too.

And you know, I bet you that most of the kids in my class that year probably didn't even know that all of this was going on.  I didn't really have a lot of trust in most of my classmates, given what had happened in past years.  I don't even think that any of my teachers knew what was going on.  I only confided in two people in my class what was really happening, and a third person happened to find out only because she sat next to me in class.  Regardless, she never said a word, and she and the other two kids in my class really became a bit of a support system to me.  They were the ones who asked me how my mom and sister were doing, and they were there to get me through the hardest parts.

In fact, I want to recognize these three people in hopes that they'll see it, because I think that if it weren't for them, my birthday would have really sucked.  So, John, Orijit, and Rachel, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being there for me during a really horrible time of my life.  Your kindness meant a lot.  You know, actually though, I also want to thank some of the other classmates who stayed my friend through all the tumultuous years of elementary school, so in addition to those three, I want to send thanks to Jason, Sarah, Erica, Bailey, Jay, Nicole, Eileen, and Jennifer for just being there for me in some aspect.  Trust me, I never forget those who were kind to me, especially during that last year of school.  I hope I didn't forget anybody, but if I did, please forgive me.

And you know, my 14th birthday itself was a really big disaster.  I certainly don't want to have another birthday just like that one.  But I have to look at the big picture.  My mom and sister went through one hell of a day twenty years ago, and now that I'm almost 34, it makes me happy that both of them are still here to help me celebrate this birthday.

The stock market project could have gone better, I admit.  But I worked extra hard to earn back all the money that had been stolen by those seventh graders, and we managed to place somewhere in the middle of the pack.  At least we learned more about the stock market during the event...and it inspired me to invest in stocks some 15 years later - though I'm not that much of a risk-taker.

And you know, my fourteenth birthday signaled a lot of change.  It was the year I left elementary school and went into high school, and it was the year that I graduated with a near straight A report card, and it was the year that I was recognized for my abilities in English.  Most importantly, it would be the last time that I saw those terrible seventh graders who tried to wreck my birthday.  Maybe they were a really unfortunate side effect of my 14th birthday, but not even an entire class of them could have completely wrecked it. 

I suppose that while it wasn't the ideal birthday celebration, my fourteenth birthday wasn't a complete write-off.  So, maybe it wasn't my WORST birthday ever.

But as I said goodbye to my elementary school, I also bid farewell to the vast majority of a few friends, who had opted to go to a different high school than I had.  Orijit was one of the ones who moved over there before moving to a different city altogether, as well as quite a few who did treat me with respect.  Instead, I ended up with only a couple of allies, plus the four boys who made my life hell in seventh grade.  What the heck did I do to deserve this?  Oh's only another few years to go, I kept telling myself.  Little did I know that these four boys would pale in comparison to some of the people I had the misfortune of knowing as high school went on...but that's a tale for another day.

But as 1995 faded into 1996, and I inched closer to fifteen years old, I did have quite a few things happen to me.  And in year fifteen, I became an uncle for the first time, I started to wear my hair differently, and my gym teacher nearly broke my nose.

I'm sure I can guess which of the three stories you want to hear about first.

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