University School - Hunting Valley
Instructor: Ashley Worthington
Best Birthday Ever
Personal Essay & Memoir
Best Birthday Ever
At last, I am turning thirteen, officially a big kid. Finally, I am like one of the big middle schoolers and high schoolers I look up to each day. All these thoughts race through my head as I sit at the head of a table full of my family and friends who are waiting for me to blow out 13 blazing candles, each colored differently. And a 14th candle for good luck.
I take one last look at the room before I close my eyes and make my wish: to finally look like my friends and all the older kids. To finally lose that extra "baby fat" on my belly. I see the red and white balloons hanging in the corner. A banner hangs from the ceiling with the words, "Happy Birthday", that has rainbow loopidy-loops drawn on it. On the kitchen island lays a stack of birthday gifts each individually sealed tight with birthday wrapping paper. Beaming fluorescent lights illuminate the room.
I make my wish as I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and individually blow out each candle. I open my eyes, and everyone is clapping for me as if I spoke my first words. I smile and look at the beautifully crafted cake in front of me and think how excited I am to dig in. Everybody knows that the best part of birthdays is the cake. A rich chocolate cake, with layers of chocolate ganache, topped with fluffy and creamy vanilla buttercream. I cannot contain my excitement as my mom starts slicing the cake, luckily, I don't wait long because the birthday boy gets the first slice. My mom hands me a corner piece of the cake with lots of frosting, my favorite. I take the first bite and am welcomed with an explosion of flavor. The contrast between moist and creamy chocolate cake perfectly contrasts the airy vanilla frosting. Before I know it, I finished the slice of cake. However, I still feel ravenous.
I look around and everybody else is still eating their slices of cake. I contemplate whether I want another slice. I mean, it is my birthday, why not. I waddle up to the kitchen counter and cautiously cut myself a slice. "Hey, do you really need another piece of cake?" my older brother snarks. Silence.
I slowly walk back to my seat, like an actor walking off stage with the spotlight illuminating my every move. Suddenly, I feel everyone's eyes in the room on me, staring at me, suffocating me with their glare. I stab my fork into this slice of cake. I become hyperaware of my shirt rubbing against the thick layers of my belly. I can feel the warm skin of my thighs rubbing against each other. My shirt squeezes my big belly. My pants are too tight. The force of my body is breaking the chair. My chubby hands shake as I grasp the fork as if it were a rock on a climbing wall and I was about to fall. This cake no longer tastes so good. This is not what big kids feel like.
Later that night, I re-entered the kitchen. The balloons, which had previously hung triumphantly in the air, were now lifeless and buried. A pile of wrapping paper covered the floor. The kitchen was like a graveyard in the dead of night. As I guiltily opened the refrigerator door and took out the fragments of my once-decorated birthday cake, all that could be seen was the dull refrigerator light. I felt ashamed because I was still hungry. I still wanted to enjoy my cake and relish my last moments as a child. I cut myself a sliver and set it on a paper plate. I dined alone, reflecting on my thirteenth birthday. Then I saw the dim refrigerator light. I was officially a teen. But I didn't have to be a jerk teenager like my brother. I didn't have to be the smartest teenager or the skinniest teenager. The only "big kid" I will ever have to be is myself.