by Jeff Oaks
Conceived on the ninth day of the ninth month in 1963, my parents’ 13th wedding anniversary, I was born in June, the month of strawberries, and indeed I have a strawberry birthmark. My birthday came twenty years after D-day. At 5 am, to the sound of my mother’s yelling (I imagine), I came out of her and into me. I share the date with Alexander Pushkin and Thomas Mann, neither of which I’ve read much of still. June is a fantastic month to have a birthday in– it’s warm enough to play outside. You can eat ice cream cake. It’s a month in which one feels a love that seems celestial for the whole of creation. Zephyrs tickle everything. In the old days, it also marked the end of the school year. In the exacting and complicated ranking system of school, I was almost always the youngest classmate, the last birthday before school was over, so my growing up coincided with a sense of ease, of impending pleasure. You could feel the fetters of polite behavior falling away. You could feel the pressures of being whatever you were in school–nerd, stoner, queer, weirdo, whatever–dissipate. In June, the recovery began. June restored you to yourself, to the world of just your friends, to games all day long, to explorations of abandoned places at the edge of town, to books whose depths, because uninterrupted, could be transformative. You could practice or test a self you might want to return to school with. You could, as we did nearly every year, burn one of our stolen textbooks in a ceremony in the woods, then get drunk on cheap wine and fall asleep in our pup tents, the whole dark world whispering and destroying itself around our little safe firelight.