That Thing About Birthdays

As of last Friday, I’m another year older. In two days, I’ll be one year and a week older. I feel older, but I don’t know that I feel wiser. Birthdays are funny in that way. As a kid, I treated my birthday as a social event. Naturally, back then I couldn’t flex my type-A planning talent, and my parents took the reins on planning. When I hit high school, I placed equal – albeit more controlled – importance on my day. My grandparents also contributed to my annual one-day sense of entitlement. They treated us, each of their 10 grandchildren, to “special days” – daylong shopping trips with lunch. I remember one year (4th grade, if I remember correctly) I opted for a Barbie (the FAO Schwarz Barbie) instead of a more mature option: pearl earrings.

This year, I did the 26-year-old equivalent of a Barbie trade. Adam offered to throw me a happy hour. He lives to surprise me. He even made a Facebook event (in my world – a world that’s dictated by social media engagement and activity – that’s a big deal). And, in classic Kirsch form, I decided that because it was out of my control, I didn’t want it. Even with a wedding on the way, the idea of being the center of attention is far less appealing in my personal life versus my professional life. We’ve had so many milestones in the past year, that I’m kind of celebrated out. So, instead of a happy hour, we did something that removed us far from the center. We attended a Knicks game, along with hundreds (maybe thousands, I’m not good at guessing these sorts of things) of other New Yorkers and the like. Hank Azaria was there, too. So that was something.

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I spent my birthday exactly how I wanted. I feel like that’s how it should be. I should be able to control my day, after all. I took the day off of work (which is hard when you love your job as much as I love mine), ate a solo lunch at Il Bambino (their crostini are delectable – get the olive spread, and you’ll have no regrets), hopped over for a mani/pedi at Kiki’s (it turns out that a spa pedicure is totally worth the up-charge), and perused the newly opened Lockwood Style, sister shop to Lockwood on 33rd Street in Astoria.

Maybe I’ll feel different in 2015. I don’t know. Until then, I’m grateful for the well-wishes, the macarons from my colleagues, the perfume from a dear friend, the cards and all other tchotchkes. Would I be deemed ungrateful if I said I could have done without the cold?

Jag-U-Are

When I was a kid, I envied my Bubby Cryille’s personality. She was warm and welcoming, but also outspoken. She knew everyone — and everything about them — and she loved life. I remember her beauty routine most of all — second only to my memories of her Entertainment Books. She went weekly to a salon called the Magic Touch in Oak Park, where she went for her hair, her brows, and her nails. It was like Bubby HQ. Bubbies here, bubbies there, bubbies everywhere. Bubbies doing nails. Bubbies doing hair.

Her hair was standard Bubby — brushed back curls — but her nails…her nails were her creative outlet. My dad’s mother is much more tightly wound, but my beloved Bubby Cyrille – she went for red.

Jag-U-Are by Essie was her signature shade. For years, I thought she was simply mispronouncing the name “Jaguar.” It took years, and four years since she passed away, for me to realize I was wrong.

I spent Christmas in Westchester this year — a slight break in my “Jewish Christmas” tradition of movies and Chinese food in Michigan and Amagansett.

We made our way up with Adam’s father, but on the one condition that I could get a mani/pedi before going to the house. Adam and his dad dropped me at the salon before heading to the gym. I walked past its hair styling section to the mani/pedi room, and the first color I picked up was the shimmery red “Jag-U-Are.” It was at that moment that I canceled my shellac mani in favor of a regular manicure with this color as an ode to my late Bubby Cyrille.

The rest of the holiday was lovely — good food, future family, and we even squeezed a movie in there. Most of all, it was nice to have memories of my Bubby with me, even if just on my nails.

Jag-U-Are

Protocol

The Kirsch family is all about order, protocol, and numbers. My dad’s parents have three sons and ten grandchildren. Because the sons and daughters-in-law don’t typically get along (something that they still, after years of drama, find ways to rhetorically gloss over), most family celebrations are separate. As a result, the real thing that seems to make occasions special for my Kirsch grandparents is the protocol phone call.

Last Tuesday was my Bubby Zita’s 78th birthday. Before I could squeeze in my birthday greeting (minutes from being belated), my grandmother informed me, in her predictable nature, that I was the final of her ten grandchildren to call and wish her a happy birthday.

For some, this treatment would breed resentment. For me, however, I delight in their predictable, competitive nature. I’ve stopped caring what order I call in, because either way, I know they’ll use it (the fact that they heard from all of their grandkids) to brag to their friends, and I’ll go on, guilt-free, until their anniversary in February, or my grandfather’s birthday in March.

Hanukkah

Since May, I’ve experienced a lot of firsts. This weekend, I had my first family Hanukkah party in New York.

Growing up, Hanukkah celebrations were split. On my mom’s side, parties consisted of the Detroit-based relatives gathering at a cousin’s house, and having a grab bag of gifts for the kids. While I always enjoyed seeing family, I tended to leave disappointed, with a monogrammed keychain and bookstore gift card in-tow.

My father’s side was a tad more material, and so the celebrations reflected just that. My paternal first-cousins would gather at my dad’s parent’s house for a simple latke-laden dinner and what seemed like never-ending gifts. My dad’s parents had this tradition of giving each of their ten grandchildren a bag full of gifts, videotaping each grandchild as the gifts were revealed. As we aged [and they aged, too], we started to receive monetary gifts as opposed to particular items we had wished for. Instead of unveiling the gifts, we had to justify how we would spend our newly earned [being a Kirsch is not easy work!] money. My answers changed quickly from “I’ll buy some fuzzy stickers,” to, “I need to pay my part of the heating bill.” You see, mo’ money, mo’ problems.

My New York Hanukkah qualified, too, as its own breed of celebration. My cousin Molly is a gifted hostess. Her Manhattan apartment is perfect for entertaining, and somehow, she can turn it from living space to a venue within a moment’s (or a week’s) notice. I gathered with my cousins and extended family earlier in the day to assist with set up. Wrapping gifts, draining cucumbers and scallions from their marinade, and arranging the challah into serving dishes: cake walk. Navigating an apartment filled with people whom I’ve never met: interesting. My cousin boasted about my social media skills [I am ninja, read my tweets], and so I was approached by many of her business-owner friends with questions about my line of work, and how it can benefit them. Noshing on latkes, some delicious orzo salad, sipping on a personally mixed vodka lemonade (I should not go into mixology), and schmoozing with a variety of people, I truly enjoyed myself.

For those of you who are celebrating, I hope you are continuing to have a חג שמח!