Thursday, April 15, 2010

Confessions of an Income Tax Birthday Girl

Elizabeth Zelvin

Yep, today is my birthday. Me Irish husband was born on St. Patrick’s Day, the Seventeenth o’ March as the real Irish say. I was once (long, long ago) crazy about a guy who was born on Valentine’s Day. And (also long ago) I had a somewhat dysfunctional relationship with another guy whose birthday was Halloween. But me, I’m stuck with April 15th, when most people are thinking not about cakes with candles and how much I love flowers, but about the [supply your own expletive] IRS.

Not to malign my mother, when she picked my birth date (I was what they then called a Caesarean baby, so scheduled in advance), April 15th was not Income Tax Day. Much more appropriately, taxes were due on March 15th, the ominous Ides of March. That was the day the soothsayer warned Julius Caesar about (there he is again—what a coincidence!). And that was indeed the day on which he got stabbed to death in the Forum. But the process of filling out taxes got more complicated, and taxpayers needed another month—of procrastination if not of figuring out how much they owed the government. So the date was changed to April in 1955, the year I turned eleven.

My childhood birthdays run together in my mind. My mother always made a chocolate layer cake. My presents were always piled on my dresser during the night before, after I fell asleep, so when I opened my eyes in the morning, they were the first thing I saw. (Since we were Jewish, we didn’t get Christmas presents, but this had the same impact.) I’m sure I had parties, but the first one I remember was on my thirteenth birthday, when all the boys and girls in my ninth-grade class spent the evening dancing in our basement and asking each other to the prom. (I know I’ve told that story before. I’m still looking for a market for my prom date revenge short story.)

On my fifteenth birthday, I combined forces with another mid-April birthday girl and had an even bigger party. I think we had graduated to the living room by then. I also remember that we invited so many people that we staggered the times on the invitations, of course telling the kids we liked best to come the earliest. I don’t know how we managed not to realize that everyone would notice. (If you live long enough, the most embarrassing memory becomes just another story.)

My most memorable birthday, though, is a recent one: the publication date of Death Will Get You Sober in 2008. The party was at The Mysterious Bookshop in New York. The cake was chocolate, with candles, in the shape of a book: an inspired surprise from my husband. Last year, my birthday marked my eligibility for Medicare. This year, it means I start getting Social Security. I’m also eligible for one of those candles that instead of spelling out a number, says “Don’t Even Ask.” But it’s my birthday, and I’m going to enjoy every moment of the day.


signlady217 said...

I have some friends whose son was born on April 15. That year it was also Easter Sunday! I was the person they wanted in the birthing room with them when he was born, seeing as both their families lived out of state and apparently they thought I could help them "keep it together"! That's always been a special memory for me. BTW, the kid is 22 now!

Unknown said...

Have a wonderful birthday, Liz!

Lonnie Cruse said...

Happy Birthday, Liz! Hope you got your taxes done on time!

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Lonnie, I got my taxes done early, in the interests of a relatively carefree birthday. BTW, my Aunt Hilda, about whom I've blogged before, turned 98 on the 11th. Still playing tennis, still dancing. She says the one thing one needs most to cope with aging is resilience!

Sandra Parshall said...

Happy birthday, sister!

I've always felt sorry for kids born on Christmas. All those "this is for your birthday AND Christmas" gifts.