For the better part of the last two decades, a mere mention of June 26 in conversation was enough for me to rudely but innocently ignore the rest of your sentence while I stared at some faraway point and drifted into the celluloid of the filmstrip playing in my mind.
Frame one: Wearing black Reebok high-tops wrapped in a yellow rhinestone dog collar beneath the chintzy white gown, because that was as much a fashion statement as I could make.
Frame sixteen: “Practicing” flipping the tassel from the right side of the hat to the left side with a Marlboro light dangling from my lips.
Frame twenty-seven: Brandishing the pristine new diplomas while singing Alphaville’s Forever Young with my girlfriends (the original, not the remake with all that extra electronica, you heathens) through the tears, as beaming fathers tried to take our pictures.
Frame thirty: Being stopped by the MHS video guy, amidst the chaos, whose job it was to track down the yearbook’s “Senior Superlatives” and record us, wedding style. He asked me what the class flirt was going to do with her future.
Frame thirty-one: Adlibbing an entire bit about majoring in flirting in college, and all the courses I had to take to fulfill the requirement. A bit of foreshadowing of the comic bits that I would often attempt–and then fail miserably at. Recorded on video. Forever.
At least I was skinny.
There’s so much more to June 26, 1986, the prom being the same night. I wore a black sequinned flapper. He wore white tie and tails. We had the same haircut. We had the same piercings. I hated my mother. The night was dreadfully boring, full of dashed expectations and alcohol that never materialized, and a band that played only one slow song all night which my boyfriend chose to dance with someone else.
But then, nearly twenty years later, one of the few things occured that could possibly change my associatioins with June 26.
It became my due date.
The birthday gets so much attention, but the due date, once the delivery has come and gone, hardly at all. It is thereafter banished to some back corner of your brain, 2,834th in a line of Very Important Things to Remember, after the final score of the 1924 World Series, and how to play Hot Cross Buns on the recorder.
And yet, for nine months that date is absolutely everything. Number one on the list, ahead of even your own birthday and the season premiere of Lost. It’s the date you are repeatedly confronted with at the OB’s office, or when you plug your last menstrual cycle into copious EDD-determining computer programs, just to see if the result will change. It’s the date that creates insta-friendships with other expectant women on online message boards. It’s the date you both love and fear with all your heart.
It’s also the answer to pretty much any question you are assaulted with for forty straight weeks.
So when are you due?
Wow but you’re carrying so small. Why, when my sister was your size…
Really? You’re HUGE! Are you sure?
You’re not going to have a summer baby are you? Her birthday will always suck.
Hope you don’t go early. You don’t want a Gemini, the two of you being earth signs, right?
Isn’t that a Sunday? You know all the good delivery nurses take Summer weekends.
June 26, 2005.
The day that came and went with nary a contraction.
I was huge. I was hot. I had what I called Muppet ankles, where there’s no discernable definition between the calf and the foot. Every time I looked at my swollen feet oozing out over the sides of my thongs, I could only think of a muffin, rising and spreading out of the tin.
Also: Miss Piggy riding a bicycle.
The nursery was painted. The co-sleeper was assembled. The clothes were laundered, as instructed, in the overpriced laundry detergent that doesn’t actually get clothes clean but makes mothers feel as if they’re good mothers because the package says so, more or less. The doula was booked, the schedule was clear, and the family had one hand on their cell phones at all times.
Just one thing was missing.
Then it was June 27, a date I had never even considered. June 27? Was there such a thing? What eez zees June twenty-zeven of wheech you speek?
It was the same thing that happened when I turned thirty-one. I had spent so much energy anticipating thirty, that I was shocked, shocked to discover that the years kept accumulating afterwards.
Soon it was June 28, June 29…and then, July. July! The nerve! The horrible, horrible nerve of July coming along while I had no baby to show for it. Just a huge belly and my Muppet ankles and an amoeba-sized bladder and the feeling that every day was a year. But a sucky, crappy, horrible year. A year without Christmas or chocolate, where every day is Tax Day and you owe six million dollars.
Didn’t the baby know I had told people, “by July she’ll be here. Yessiree Bob, I will have that baby in my arms and life as I know it will be changed forever.” Didn’t she hear me, all the times I had uttered those words? I mean I told people. She was making me look bad.
LOOK HERE, BABY. I AM YOUR MOTHER! I COMMAND YOU TO COME OUT!
Nate and I started bargaining. We’ll take July 2 but not July 4. No holidays. Or, we’ll take July 4 so that Nate can play golf on July 3. July 4 isn’t so bad right? Okay, we’ll take July 6 but that’s it! Not one day more. Oh fine, we’ll do July 7, but not July 6. Better to go an extra day than for her to share a birthday with George Bush.
Famous last words, as we used to say back in 1986.
July 6 may be the day, but I think I’m going to start the celebrating ten days earlier every year. Or at least the reminiscing. I’m pretty good at it, what with twenty years of practice. Besides, even with last year’s unbearable humidity, the clumps of hair in my shower drain, and the relative lack of interest in personal hygeine during those final excrutiating days of pregnancy–my hair still looked far better than it did at my prom.