Second worst / by Susie Lubell

I'd have to say that my worst birthday was when I turned 18. I had been living on a kibbutz in Israel for about three weeks and I was miserably homesick. The program that I had signed up for was postponed so I was completely lost. It was hot as hell. I was young and scared to just up and travel around by myself. I'm not even sure how I ended up in Israel with no friends, no family and my only plans postponed. The kibbutz found me a job in the interim so I worked in the chicken hatchery sorting baby chicks and cleaning incubators. My birthday was also the eve of Rosh Hashanah. So that day I worked from 4am until noon. Then the guys in the hatchery gave me a box of chocolates and sang happy birthday. They were adorable actually and had I been a little older and a little less pitiful I would have probably gotten a kick out of it. They even sang in English. But I was wallowing in a kind of self-pity that even chocolate could not cure.

I had made plans to spend the holidays with the sister of a rabbi that I had known from California. His sister had become religious and moved to Israel with her family and they lived with their three year old and six month old in a town about an hour away. So I had called them a week before and asked to be invited for the holiday. They were certainly happy to have me. So I took a bus and met the husband at the station and he took me home with him where I spent a weekend with a religious couple I didn't know from Adam and their two little kids. And these kids could have been actual Botticelli angels and I wouldn't have given a fart about them because I was a self-absorbed teenager. Anyway, to cut a long story short I spent my birthday depressed with strangers, dragged to synagogue for hours and hours in 105 degree heat. I was never happier to be back in that hatchery. I'm sure my adoptive family thought I was a giant pain in the ass. I can only imagine if some 18 year old showed up at my house for Rosh Hashanah and acted like a pill. Me with my two kids and husband and mortgage and job and you with your teenage angst and not a care in the world. How embarrassing to think back on it now. Anyway, this is not the point. Or is it. Where was I going with this...?

So yesterday's birthday was a close second. But I'll have to finish the tale tomorrow because I'm exhausted just thinking about it.