I don’t like surprises.
I have NEVER liked surprises.
I know most people say that, but they’re really ok with them. Like, if they woke up and found that their spouse had bought them a new car with one of those ridiculous huge bows on it, like in the Christmas car commercials, or if they showed up at work and right before lunch their coworkers threw a gigantic surprise baby shower for them, they’d maybe shriek a little, but deep down they’d think “oh, my. Am I ever loved” and they’d be secretly so happy.
Me? Nope. I’d shriek a little, then I’d furiously rearrange my face into what I think would pass for happiness because that’s what’s expected, then I’d go through the motions of whatever was required, like package-opening or little-meatball-eating and such, and when it was all over and I could escape from that, I would probably shake like my own private earthquake and be SO SO ANGRY.
I wouldn’t be thinking I was super-loved. I’d be thinking “THESE PEOPLE DO NOT KNOW ME AT ALL.”
This all sounds very petulant, doesn’t it? Yeah. Sorry. Can’t help it. I don’t like surprises. I don’t like people leaping out at me, and I don’t like people assuming they know what I’d like (unless they know me really well, in which case, they’d know me well enough to know NOT to leap out of a dark corner and trigger my PTSD) and I don’t like things I couldn’t think around corners about. I know that all seems very not-able-to-roll-with-the-punches of me. I’m not the kind of person that can’t go on a spur-of-the-moment trip, or something. I just don’t like that people were talking and planning and scheming behind my back and coming up with something.
This is a very long intro for what I can only deem THE WORST BIRTHDAY OF MY LIFE.
I don’t know how old I was. I’m thinking probably 6 or 7. Yes, it was a long time ago. Yes, I should probably be over this by now. No, I’m not.
It wasn’t my actual birthday. The weekend before, is my thought. I’m guessing a Saturday.
A thing you have to know about young-Amy is: there was nothing, nothing, NOTHING I loved more than running errands with my dad.
Running errands with my mom was a dull affair. You’d go buy groceries and she NEVER let you get a candy bar. You’d end up at K-Mart having to try on terrible dresses that were on clearance FOR A REASON and she got so mad if you hid in the middle of the clothes racks. (I had such a thing about hiding in the middle of those circular clothing racks. It was like my secret wonderland. Yeah, I don’t know, either.) You’d run into friends of hers and have to stand there and they’d talk about the MOST BORING THINGS. Like, clothes-shopping and grocery-shopping. WE JUST DID THAT. Can we go HOME now?
But! Running errands with Dad was the best best BEST. We went to the coolest places ever. Like NAPA Auto Parts which smelled like motor oil and had a gumball machine that he always gave me pennies for and the guys working there were always nice and funny and would cuss sometimes and say, “Sorry, kiddo!” Or to go buy a new car and we’d have to wear our old clothes and “act poor” so the guy would give us the lowest price. Or – possibly best – just driving around looking at things and and he’d tell me stories like “this is the bridge that your uncle told your grandmother I made him pee off, and he was so scared now he’s scared of all bridges, but if he ever tells you that, it’s not true. IT IS A LIE.”
That day, Dad said, “Amy! Do you want to go to the dump?”
DID I WANT TO GO TO THE DUMP? Boy howdy, did I want to go to the dump!
Now, the dump was AWESOME. Don’t even be turning up your nose. The dump smelled terrible, sure. This was long before you paid money and had to have things all neatly recycled. This was a pile of willy-nilly GARBAGE. Couches and dolls and food and dead animals and parts of cars and a million seagulls and everywhere you looked, there was a new thing. The dump was ADVENTURE. And Dad would drive in all fast and it was all hilly in there and the truck would bump all over and I would laugh and laugh.
Shush. I grew up in a small town. We took adventure where we could get it.
So Dad and I packed up into the dump-going truck and I put on my little red riding hood (it was the BEST red hoodie, so I was wearing hoodies before they were cool, yo) and we took off to the dump.
I don’t remember exactly what happened at the dump. I’m going to guess just dump-stuff. Dropping off garbage. Dad saying, “DON’T TOUCH THAT! IT IS FILTHY! WE DO NOT NEED THAT!” (I don’t know if I was ever really going to touch anything at the dump, but I wanted a closer look at it. It was like archaeology of castoffs. I was so fascinated.)
We went home. Now, the savvy grownup that I am would probably have picked up that something was going DOWN, you guys. But I was 6-or-7-year-old-Amy in my sassy red hoodie and a VERY successful trip to the dump on a happy October Saturday behind me, and I wasn’t much of a detective then.
Now, this is where, if I could find it, I would insert a photo that would make you laugh so, so hard, because it kind of perfectly sums up young-Amy in a single picture, but I have torn this place APART and it is not to be found. I have to assume that my mother has it, because I only have one album of young-Amy photos and it’s not in there.
Instead, I am going to include this very-well-executed internet drawing. YOU ARE WELCOME.
I opened the front door of my house and there was a deafening “SURPRISE!” and my whole family was crammed in there – I mean, all my cousins and aunts and uncles and my mom and my dad was all laughing behind me and you would THINK that would be such a happy surprise for a 6-or-7-year-old kiddo.
I did the same thing I do now, when surprised. I froze, then I made the most fake smile ever, and ever single photo of me from that party – every one – is me with this terrible false frozen party-face on, but with gritted teeth and flared nostrils. I did not want to come home to a house full of people (albeit people I did then, and do now, love.) I did not want this terrible surprise. I did not want this thing that had been plotted behind my back.
My parents are totally apologetic now (even though they still think I’m weird.) They know better than to ever, ever have any sort of surprise function for me ever again, as long as I live, up to and including my funeral. (I have that planned to the LETTER. I just have to hope I die before my parents.)
And just so you know, it’s gotten worse – now, when people jump out at me from behind things, my first reaction has become to protect myself with whatever’s handy. Once it was a painbrush, pointy-side out. Once it was a pen. Once it was a cast-iron fireplace poker. So if you need further proof that maybe you should announce yourself before you get into my general vicinity, there’s that. I really don’t want to stab and/or bludgeon you. I have this fight-or-flight reaction…and it’s totally fighty.
So! Yes. I love birthdays. And Christmas. And, in general, all the holidays. And I will always be happy if you think of me!
Just please, for the love of Pete (and your own well-being) DO NOT LEAP OUT FROM BEHIND SOMETHING SHOUTING SURPRISE AT ME.
Thanks. Love your faces.
(This post was written for the lovely Emily’s Remember the Time blog hop! Have you visited Emily’s amazingness lately? You should! She’s one of my favorite humans!)