Tonight I want to talk about birthday celebrations. It’s impossible not to notice how most adults celebrate their birthdays. They don’t. Here are but a few of the happy reasons adults decline to have fun on their own personal holiday.
• The it’s-just-another-day birthday.
• The birthdays-are-just-for-kids birthday.
• The I’m-just-getting-older-so-what’s-to-celebrate?birthday.
• The don’t-remind-me! birthday.
• And last but not least, the Put that camera away, George! Last thing anyone needs to see is a picture of my old wrinkled face birthday.
My but aren’t we a fun lot?
As people read and my family hears about my blog, I learn that folks are concerned I may not appreciate the gifts that come with time; that perhaps I have declined to recognize that with the passage of years also comes the wisdom of accrued experience. Not true. Those who know my full story, and that may be most of you by the end of the year, know that I’ve led a life that makes me appreciative of two things: the fact that I am alive and the fact that the fires I’ve walked through have left me as fine and strong as tempered steel. My balking at the starting gate of another decade has nothing to do with believing that what I’ve gained is somehow less than what I left behind. Regardless, that is too big and too heavy a subject for tonight.
Tonight I want to talk about how we celebrate our lives.
When my husband turned 40, I asked every guest to bring a pie, his favorite food. When it came time to sing, I plunged all 40 candles into the first pie of the evening, which as luck would have it was apple and a good thing, too, for by the time the song finished, the top crust was a lake of wax. Instead of a rousing round of Happy Birthday, I pulled out an old record by The Monkees and set the needle to “Peter Percival Patterson’s Pet Pig Porky” who loved pie. Trust me when I say that you’ll just have to listen to know why every person in the house laughed until they had tears in their eyes. There was no black crepe paper for this party, just pie and laughter till our bellies ached.
When I turned 30, it was just two weeks before finals and everyone my husband and I knew was either in grad school or teaching grad students. I didn’t care. Thirty was my I-have-arrived year. We threw a party and everyone came. And everyone brought someone else and that person brought her cousin and he brought his dog. The throng was so thick that I couldn’t get to the door to answer it. And gifts! People brought gifts. I love gifts. I don’t care what they are. I’m just thrilled that anyone wants to wrap something in pretty paper and give it to me. I had ice cream cake. It was like being a kid. Oh, yeah, when it comes to birthdays, I totally am a kid!
When I turned 21, I wasn’t with people who knew how to celebrate me, but no matter. I had my own little celebration at the Greek deli where for two years I’d been buying the city’s best pastrami sandwiches. And wine. Every time I purchased wine, it was one of the young guys who rang me up. Whenever I was at the deli counter waiting for my sandwich, the old auntie would give me the evil eye. Maybe she knew I was stealing candy bars, I dunno. The day after I turned 21, I brought my candy bars and a bottle of wine to the counter. Looking triumphant, old auntie demanded my ID. I smiled broadly and handed it over. WooHoo! That’s right, honey! Two years.
When I turned 20, it was hard. I knew I’d never be a kid again. I certainly didn’t feel like a grown woman, but I was no longer a child either, and being in that limbo made me uneasy. When I had turned 16, my mother, much to my everlasting embarrassment, threw me a Sweet 16 party. It was supposed to be a surprise, but mom was running so late she asked me to get the cake and act surprised. That happened rather a lot during my teen years. Mom was a drunk and couldn’t always hold it together, but one thing she did right, and I mean ALWAYS did right, was celebrating my birthday. I had more surprise birthday parties than any kid I knew. Remembering them still has the power to make me smile.
Perhaps the best birthday was the year I didn’t get a party, a present, a card, nothing. I was newly out on my own, living on the coast with my boyfriend, and he went to work that day just like any other day. I was crushed. Not a single shred of happiness came from others toward me to celebrate my day. Late that afternoon, my neighbor noticed my low mood and when I told her why, she said, “Well, why didn’t you say so?” It was a light bulb moment. As human beings we are made to be joyous. People are just waiting to help us celebrate. All they need is for us to tell them what and where and when. And so I do.
On FaceBook, I’ve already posted that I’m now taking reservations for fun. My birthday is on the second of March. I start the celebration at my niece’s birthday party, on February 27th, and I celebrate for the entire month of March. Really, the whole month. I highly recommend it. Not only is it a lot of fun, but aiming for a month (as opposed to a day) is like aiming for the broad side of a barn. You can’t miss. No one is ever late for my birthday. Everyone has fun. Especially me.
I’m taking reservations for fun!!
Come help me celebrate my birthday :)