Star light, star bright, don’t be sick and sleep at night!


Birthday season is upon us again. My husband said to me this morning, at 00:01, as we were just dialling our daughter’s telephone number: “I can’t believe we are old enough to have a 22 year old daughter.”

I wish I could have answered that I don’t look old enough. Those were the days! But now, my middle age spread is, well, spreading. Fast! For a while, I’ve tried to convince myself that I would, one day, be a slip of a girl again. To be honest, for the last 21 years I’ve kept the dress I wore to my eldest daughter’s very first birthday party. I’m not just a hoarder. I did actually wear the dress. But the last couple of years, I had trouble waving about my arms and well just breathing. So I gave it to her last week. It was slightly too big. I may have stretched it… But I assured the slip of a girl that she would grow into it… One day.

So this is her 22nd Happy Birthday. I can tell you, some of them have been eventful. On one of them, we were singing ‘Happy Birthday’ and I was carrying the cake across the room to her, as I approached her to blow out her candles, she didn’t blow, she threw… Up. I’m not sure if it was the sight of all that carefully placed sugar or if it was just excitement. But the cake got tossed to the side and a bucket was grabbed. We videoed it and sent it to You’ve Been Framed. But they sent it right back again without giving us our £250. I was gutted to be honest. I laughed hysterically every time I played it back. But I guess it was far too graphic for public consumption on a family show.

On another birthday, we had the camcorder out again, my ex and I. He was standing there filming, as I ushered her into the room. We’d built up her present, a bike, and carefully covered it with sheets, so she could still unwrap it. Then presents and cards that had arrived in the post, were strategically placed around the big, exciting, surprise. We entered the room and my ex impulsively shouted, “Come and open your bike!!!!” And I almost killed him, right there, on the spot. Seriously. If you go and visit him, there is recorded evidence of it somewhere in his house…

From Birthday One, Joni loved a party. She loved the food, the dressing up, the food, the guests, the food, the games, the cake, being centre of attention and the presents. So the night before her Sweet Sixteenth she got really excited. She’d planned a massive party. Not only had she invited all of her friends, she’d also invited all of mine. We planned to barbeque on two barbeques simultaneously. The fridge was full of meat. I always make too much food because I am petrified of someone feeling hungry, so in actual fact, there was far too much meat for the masses of people she’d invited. Then, in the early hours of her 16th, she started to vomit. And vomit and vomit. In all fairness, she really did puke rings around herself. We did not film it. We cleaned rings and walls and carpets and changed bedsheets and disinfected buckets. And we mopped up tears. Then, from the exact moment politeness allowed, we starting telephoning each and every party guest to cancel. We did not know if she was infectious. We did not know if we were infectious. We did not know how long she would continue to be sick. These questions were answered promptly. As soon as all the calls were finished, she made a miraculous recovery. She was, what’s described in your medical encyclopedia as ‘right as rain’. Physically, that is. Mentally, she crumpled. Luckily, she had invited my friends. And some of them are fearless of bacteria. They are utterly convinced they will never get sick. Besides they know Joni. And they knew that she had recently been to Budapest, where she’d been so excited to be there, she’d thrown up all over her host’s carpet in the middle of her first night. We’d been chatting at the time on the phone. She’d wanted me to know that she’d arrived safely. That the exchange family were lovely. That everything was tickety-boo. Then suddenly she felt nauseous. The phone was chucked to one side, she leapt up and hurled. For several minutes, I listened helplessly to retching noises. She in Hungary, I in Germany. Together, yet so far apart. I couldn’t hold back her hair. I listened as someone else scrubbed up the mess and she cried and apologised. After many minutes, I found myself stuck with the conundrum: should I hang up the phone? Should I keep listening? Is this really supportive? Or is it just plain creepy? Would anyone ever remember I was still on the phone? Should I shout? Would kind words, after the fact, help anyone at all, anyway? Would I ever get any sleep? How long is long enough? Would my own British politeness mean, that I was never actually able to hang up the phone? Then I heard someone shuffling towards me. It was the hostess. Of course, being British, I apologised profoundly. Then they handed me to Joni. Who was tired and embarrassed, but apart from that, right back on track again.

Joni’s ability to empty her stomach at important life events has become a trademark. A party piece if you will.  Exams – check. Birthdays – check. Presentations – check. Travelling – check. First dates – check. I have forwarned her that on her wedding day, there will be no make-up and no dress until all of the sickness is out of the way. Beauticians and lady’s maids will be poised for the last minute dash to slop slap on her face and tug her wedding dress over her head, in an attempt to get her to the town hall on time.

Today, I hope, will be an exception. She celebrated into her birthday with a few college friends, and after a little sleep and a lot of classes we’ll descend upon her and take her out to dinner. I, for one, am really looking forward to it.

To my first born: Happy Birthday! Continue to be the bright and shining star that you are. Live, love and be happy. ❤