The Birthday Year

I turned eight on November 22, 1976. I asked for pierced ears and ballet lessons. Not normally accustomed to receiving what I wanted — my mom substituted items for what she thought would be more suitable (an encyclopedia set; a sporty Mickey Mouse watch with his tennis ball as the second hand; a bible) — my mind blew when one San Francisco fall morning, I opened up a box of pink ballet shoes, and a promise for pierced ears. I promptly called my best friend, Laura Tomasini, and asked her to come with me for the piercing, and to please please please ask her mom if she could get her ears pierced, too.


Her mom said yes, (this was turning out to be a wondrous birthday of many delights), so we all hightailed it to the mall and the waiting ear guns. For some reason, I, normally afraid of everything and nothing all at the same time, could care less that holes were about to be punched into my ear lobes, flitted from jewelry rack to jewelry rack. “These,” I said, holding up a pair of blue mushrooms, “I want these.” Enamel with fake-gold-filled posts, it was no wonder infection raged through my ears a scant week later, but they were MY earrings, MY infection, MY symbol of best-friendship. Because Laura got them, too.


We gallivanted about Foster City, CA like we owned the place. Hey look everyone! We’re best friends! And also! (Said I) I’m a big girl now! A big girl with jewelry in her ears, and ballet slippers upon her feet (never mind that most kids had been taking ballet for five years already).


Speaking of which, at those ballet lessons, my severe-cheeked Russian instructor directed her class to NEVER eat meat, because it would make you less graceful, not to mention we were killing animals, so for the next five years, I refused to eat anything of a killed-animal nature; a practice that drove my Wisconsin-raised father absolutely nut-shit. But the decision was mine, I was a girl of independence and my own vegetarian practices, and by GOD, I would grow up whether he wanted me to or not.


Nineteen-seventy-six was also the year I moved away from Laura Tomasini, and my ballet teacher, and Foster City. It was how I started over in so many ways, finding out who I was and where I’d go.


Even now, I remember that time as when I became me.


And I see the same in my daughter, turning eight in a few months, asking for pierced ears, and I wonder how my parents felt as I began, ever so slowly, to move away from them.


14 Responses to “The Birthday Year”

  1. tinsenpup says:

    My daughter is ten now and I am loving that even as she is moving away from me in some ways as she begins to truly inhabit herself and declare in no uncertain terms, “I am me!”, she’s also moving towards me in her ability to understand and be a part of a more grown up world.

  2. Nicole says:

    “…a practice that drove my Wisconsin-raised father absolutely nut-shit…” made me shoot coffee out my nose. LOLz.

  3. Middle State says:

    This is such a wonderful recollection of a time when you gained self awareness. I cannot recall when that happened to me.

  4. Becky Sain says:

    I absolutely love this post!
    What a great reflection of the past and how you moved forward.

  5. I love it. Isn’t it crazy how we look at our kids and see SO much of ourselves in them? Even my son. He does things that make my mother howl with laughter… because I TOTALLY did them. And most of the time they drive me “nut-shit crazy”. I guess turnabouts fair play?

  6. I turned 8 on October 5th, 1976.

    I had a Mickey Mouse watch with a ball as the hand.

    And I drove my parents nut-shit crazy, too.

    9I knew I liked you for a reason.)

  7. This is an absolutely adorable post! Thanks for sharing what it was like to be you at 8 years old!

  8. SurferWife says:

    I was in my mother’s belly while you were shoving grass product in your mouth.

    It is so bittersweet watching our own kids gain independance, isn’t it?

  9. Kristin says:

    Great writing Debbie. Like the other commenter said, that was a great recollection. I read it like you had just experienced it yesterday.

  10. Maegan says:

    What a story. That is awesome – I remember the pierced ear phase as well. And not eating meat? And your dad was from WI? Amazing! Love.

  11. Frelle says:

    im not sure which birthday or occasion i could point to and say for sure was the beginning of my growing up and starting to separate from my parents. this was so well written, i could see the earrings so vividly, I could see you walking around so proudly, and how shocked you were the morning you got the ballet slippers and promised pierced ears. I love how reflective this made you when you realized your own daughter was approaching this age too.

  12. green girl in wisconsin says:

    Oh, do I love the yearning tone of this post.

  13. I was just short of 7.5 and having way too much fun collecting those cool quarters with the Bicentennial design on them.

    But from the parenting side I see the changes coming with my 7 year old daughter and almost 11 year-old son. So much going on and so much growth.

  14. Da Goddess says:

    Ohhh! You’re baby’s growing up too fast! I remember before she was even a glimmer in your eye…

    Happy birthday to her and don’t worry about anything other than the fact that you are carrying on a fine tradition.

Leave a Reply