HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!I shall use your occasion to talk and write about birthdays and writing about them. Anyone who has a few years on their timeline has some birthdays that they remember more fondly than others. The fond memories may include parties — surprise or otherwise, special gifts, special celebrations. The not-so-fond ones may include passing dreaded milestones, generally ages ending in zeros. These occasions are worth writing about, as essays or stories.
One of my best birthdays was the year I turned 18 and my parents turned an ordinary gathering of friends into a really special event with a huge surprise: an ice cream birthday cake from Baskin Robbins.
Turning 21 was a real non-event. I had German measles. Besides, I was already married to a grad student, and we hardly had an extra nickle to celebrate, even if I hadn’t been sick.
On birthday 23, I decided to quit having birthdays. By late afternoon, nobody but my hubby had even wished me a happy one. No cards, no phone calls. (Not that anyone outside the family knew what day it was.) Just as I was imagining lighting a million candles on my pity party cake, my mom and brother drove up with a huge split leaf philodendron plant and redeemed the occasion. I made a resolution not to ever again let the absence of recognition spoil my birthday.
When 30 rolled around, I knew I was supposed to start feeling old or angst-ridden, but I couldn’t convince myself anything had changed, and hardly noticed. 40 was a different story. I’d always assumed that by the time I turned 40, the full extent of my astonishing wisdom would become appreciated. I expected all sorts of new respect and red carpets. To my horror, the day came and went, and not a thing changed. I was fell into a black pit of disappointment that lasted for weeks.
On number 41 I threw a dinner party for nearly 20 people, knowing it was the last year our family would all celebrate together for a long time, and my last chance to celebrate with friends in Richland. Nine days later we bought our house in Pittsburgh was accepted.
I threw my own party again to celebrate half a century. The next day I hopped on a plane and flew off to Seattle to meet our first grandchild.
Number 50 found me at an Elderhostel at the Volcano Center on The Big Island, joking that I was now old enough to be there unescorted.
I spent birthday number 60 in Austin with our daughter and her in-laws and moved on to celebrate Fiesta in San Antonio.
Last year I began celebrating my birthday high above the North Pole, arriving in Beijing before the day was over.
That’s the short list of my Big Birthday Moments story idea list. To do them justice will require pages and pages, with plenty of narrative to interject the meaning they held and hold for me as a time of transition, a season of beginnings and endings, and an occasion for gratitude. And then I shall decide whether to continue celebrating or swear off.
It's five o’clock somewhere, and somebody’s birthday to boot, and what a great excuse to celebrate now!
Write now: jot down a summary of your memorable birthdays, both good and bad. Include as many details as you can remember, food, drink, friends. Or maybe you spent some alone. Did you enjoy them or hate them? How d you feel about your age now? Let it all hang out. Then pick one specific birthday and write a proper story about it.