Today is my birthday.

T’ain’t, but i wish it were … i get so darn riled about the prospect of getting presents and feeling special that i do my best to make every day, from about the three-week-early mark, my birthday. That means spending money, usually on toys.

When i was very young my mother didn’t have a lot of money. Or so i was told. i don’t necessarily doubt that was the case … it wasn’t easy for a single mom to get by in the 80’s. But there’s a difference between not having much money, and not having much money for toys. There still is. Having a very limited income doesn’t have to mean no toys … it means making the choice between toys and food. Or shelter. Et cetera.

So daily, and especially in the days and weeks leading up to my real birthday, i medicate myself with toys to fill the void that only my birthday can – with the promise of more toys. As i do, i vividly remember the days leading up to my sixth birthday, when my mother brought me to the toy department at Sears and asked me to point out the toy that i wanted. After looking around for a while, i came back to her with my head hung in shame, crying. She asked me what was wrong. i told her i was filled with guilt because i wanted TWO toys.

Today, my condo is stuffed to the nipples with toys. Shelves groan with the weight of my Muppets playsets and action figures. Is that some kind of therapy? i dunno. i do know that my wife was forbidden from eating candy as a child and now she crams the stuff into her cheeks like she’s smuggling it past the border patrol.

It makes me wonder what deep-seeded neuroses and dependencies i’ll breed into my as yet-unborn children. Maybe i’ll forbid them from eating vegetables, so that when they grow up they’ll skip down the produce aisles with unbridled glee and pile their carts high with cabbages and cauliflower? Maybe i’ll deny them exercise, so that they’ll find themselves squirting sweat on a treadmill some day hissing “i HATE you, daddy! i HATE you!” Maybe i can warn them never to get fun, high-paying jobs? How far does this conditioning stuff go, anyway?

Christmas morning, i remember pulling open a plastic bag that had been unceremoniously filled with three He-Man figures, and then stapled shut. i remember thinking “gee … i’ve never seen He-Man 3-packs filled with assorted figures before. And where’s Stinkor’s gun?” Years later, mom confessed that my Christmas toys were second hand.

And today, i pull a shiny factory-sealed toy out of the bag, cut open the machine-molded package casing, and drink in the plasticy scent of a new action figure. Let no man deny me these pleasures of the flesh.