Born On Sunday You Will Never Know WantWednesday, August 17, 2011
Born on Monday, fair in the face;
Born on Tuesday, full of God’s grace;
Born on Wednesday, sour and sad;
Born on Thursday, merry and glad;
Born on Friday, worthily given;
Born on Saturday, work hard for your living;
Born on Sunday, you will never know want.
Birthdays have always been a day of stress for me. As a little boy it meant that my mother was going to give me a garden party and my father would have to make a piñata. I never did ask my mother why piñatas as it was an unknown custom in our Buenos Aires. There would be a “put the tail on the burro” and bag races. Because my birthday is August 31st this guaranteed almost always a windy and rainy day. August 30th was the feast day of the Peruvian saint, Santa Rosa de Lima. The almost certain storm near that date was called Santa Rosa’s Storm. Then there was the birthday cake and I must confess that I have never liked birthday cakes or cakes and general. And then, worst of all there was Monica who was in my school class. She usually broke the piñata, won the games and then would also break my new toys.
I hated birthdays. The paradox is that because I hate birthdays I never tell anybody about it. And then I become quite hurt when nobody remembers.
But I do remember my youth enough to understand how important a birthday really was. The transition from 8 to 9 seemed to be a significant one. I think it had to do with my preference for that odd number and in odd numbers in general. Because in Spanish we do not have the concept of the teenager associated to numbers that end in teen, and simply call it the adolescent years, there was for me no barrier to cross between age 12 and 13. I remember that 15 was an important year and that 14 was a nondescript and blah year.
Becoming a man seemed to have nothing to do with age be it legal or otherwise. I would visit my mother in the late 60s (in 1967 I was 25) when she lived in Veracruz. I would arrive late Friday night in my VW Beetle. In the morning I would hear her say to our housekeeper, “Prepare, por favor el desayuno para el joven.” This translates to, “Please prepare breakfast for the young one.”
A few months later I arrived with my soon-to-be wife, Rosemary and I overheard on that Saturday morning, “Prepare, por favor el desayuno del señor.”
One of the few pleasant aspects of my birthday was that my grandmother, Dolores Reyes de Irureta Goyena would always remind me that we were both Virgos and because we were both artistic this meant we were kindrid spririts. It meant that while my grandmother was alive I was always spoiled by her and my transgressions were dismissed by statements like, “Because Alex is artistic you have to allow for this.” And almost always my grandmother would take me to the movies to see my favourite cowboy and war films.
Today Rebecca will turn 14. We are not Virgos so my history with my grandmother does not seem like it will repeat itself even though, if I could, I would shower Rebecca with absolutely anything she would want. She doesn't like Westerns or war films.
I went to town yesterday to buy Rebecca a new CD. It was to be the brand new release by the Mexican singer (sort of folk singer) Ximena Sariñana. I first heard about this 24-year-old singer actress three weeks ago when the NY Times had an all page feature on her. It seemed that this acting pro (since she was 8) and who released her first CD in 2008 recently moved to Los Angeles with the express purpose of producing a record where she sings in English. The CD was released two weeks ago.
Alas nobody at the HMV store on Burrard and Robson had ever heard of Sariñana. I had a hard time explaining the ñ in her name. In the end, nobody in town had the CD. Yet, would you believe that she will be the opening act (who follows her I could not give a damn) this Friday at the Commodore? And, of course Rebecca cannot go as she is not 19! I will take her mother.
Since there was no CD and my whole purpose was to wean her away from the usual whining and scantily dressed suspects with an artist who shows some degree of quiet sophistication, I decided to go to Chapters to see what I could find there.
After an hour I purchased three books with hope. I know hope is all it is. Just a few weeks ago Rebecca uttered in my presence, “Reading is stupid,” and she left me uncharacteristically speechless. I know that in my youth I was given books that I did not immediately read but that in the end I did. I can hope for that.
One of the books is about manners. Rebecca’s mother told me on the phone when I explained my purchases, “She will not read that one on pure principle.” Another book is a highly regarded teen novel which if she likes it there are two more. And the third book, I bought on a lark. The cartoons are cute and some are much too esoteric for a 14-year-old. But if she keeps the book she will understand one day the significance of the two identical twin “Roman soldier types” standing by a framed picture of a wolf with the word Mater underneath.
For this Saturday I will prepare for Rebecca her favourite cheese fondue and Rosemary will make a Pavlova with whipped cream and dulce de leche. I will make a large batch of my special iced tea.
I was born on a Monday and Rebecca on a Sunday. We have even less in common. But one thing I do know is that birthdays are special for those of us who love someone who is having one. Giving them something unique and from the heart and telling them that we love them are what make birthdays, birthdays, cakes or no cakes.