Everyone has a story about their 21st birthday. Most of them involve imbibing large amounts of alcohol, making a fool of yourself in front of total strangers, and a wicked hangover the next day. Mine, on the other hand, started out with me wandering through the pope’s garage sale.
It should have been a perfectly normal birthday. I was in Cincinnati visiting my boyfriend and we’d made plans to go out with some of his friends that evening to celebrate my right to now legally flush my common sense down the toilet along with some article of jewelry or clothing. Have I mentioned that I’m a disorganized drunk? Anyway, we had a plan. It was supposed to be a night I would remember for the rest of my life: an epic story that I could display like war wounds when vying for street cred. Clearly, I have very little to begin with.
The truth is I don’t remember much of that evening’s festivities, and not in a Hangover-style, I-woke-up-with-a-tiger-in-my-room kind of way. It was largely unremarkable. I ordered some neon green, horribly sweet, chick drink like a Midori Sour, drank two and stopped because there was more sugar coursing through my veins than alcohol. We laughed, we chatted, I’m guessing we didn’t dance, and in the end we probably ended up going to a movie. We weren’t really a party couple.
It was a perfectly civilized 21st birthday celebration, much to my culturally-driven disappointment. If our pitiful bar-hopping had been the highlight of the day, that birthday would probably have faded into the recesses of my memory along with the myriad of insignificant holidays and events I have squirreled away in long-term storage. Thankfully, it was not.
My boyfriend at the time was an Ancient Greek and Latin major in college (and it’s every bit as glamorous as it sounds, ladies), so when he heard that there was a traveling pope exhibit at a local museum that weekend, we simply had to attend. Thinking back, I might be overstating his excitement just a smidge. It was probably something one of his professors was coercing him into doing on pain of a bad grade.
Either way, we were going, and it just so happened that the final day of the exhibit was on my birthday. There’s nothing like a little religious guilt to help a girl prepare for a night of drunken debauchery.
I remember that it was a remarkably sunny day in early March. When I was a kid it rained every year on my birthday, but not that year: the year of the pope, as I would soon begin referring to it. The air was already starting to get warm as we pulled into the parking lot of the art museum at some absurd hour of the morning for a Saturday, like 9:00am. I was clutching my second cup of tea for dear life. LIfe was hard back in the days before children.
What exactly goes on in a travelling pope exhibit?
Well, it turns out a pope exhibition is less of an educational or artistic display and more of a church sanctioned garage sale, except you can’t buy anything. We were herded, along with about a thousand sweaty art enthusiasts, along a series of narrow hallways containing “artifacts” from various popes throughout history. Unfortunately, the pope must have needed most of his interesting belongings because it looked like someone had raided the basement of The Vatican and brought a bunch of things out of storage.
We saw a pair of papal bedroom slippers, a couple of tattered robes, some gold-plated cutlery, a papal chamber pot, his holiness’s toothbrush, and a copy of the Sunday New York Times that he may or may not have read. Ok, so I might have made up those last couple, but you get the idea. Where was the good stuff?
I thought we’d at least get a chance to see one of his trademark hats up close. Maybe even catch a glimpse of the pope-mobile. I would have even settled for an answer to the age-old question of “What does he wear under those robes?” Boxers or briefs? Even on my birthday, I was left unsatisfied.
I had precious few seconds to marvel at each surprisingly ordinary object before being shoved by the person behind me toward the exit. The corridors were so cramped that there was only room to walk single file. In order for the next person to appreciate the ornately monogrammed hand towels, we had to quickly move on. My attention span was waning so we made our way toward the exit feeling a little short-changed.
It may not have been the most wildly exciting birthday I’ve ever spent, but it was certainly unique. How many people can say that they spent their 21st birthday staring at the pope’s junk? It was actually kind of perfect because who wouldn’t need a drink after that?
Photo Source (The Name of The Rose)
This post was written as part of the Remember The Time… blog hop over at The Waiting Blog. This month’s theme was “Remember the time…it was your birthday”. Head on over to her blog now to check out some of the other birthday memories she’s collecting.