If you’re like me, you remember some of your birthdays, the really good ones and the really bad ones. The older you get, the more focused they become as the other ones fall away. Why are birthdays such a big deal? Everyone has one every year, and we each share the date with millions of other people.
I don’t remember the dress-up party I had when I turned five, but there’s a black and white photo of me, my sibs, and all the neighbor kids in old dresses, hats and gloves. I don’t remember any other childhood birthdays until I turned thirteen. I had to lobby for a slumber party, because all the other girls were doing it. It was probably in the musty old basement, and I probably had fun. I remember wanting cherry pie instead of cake most of those early years.
When I turned twenty-two I had just returned from back-to-back trips to South America where I student-taught Spanish and went to Machu Picchu, and Spain where I finished up the Spanish half of my dual degree. My mom rented a park clubhouse and threw me a big bash. I showed slides of my travels to a captive audience. It was the best party ever.
I might’ve been in San Diego for my 30th, because I married a San Diego man (Nebraska transplant) six months later.
I remember my 39th birthday well, because I’d just had my third and final baby eight weeks prior. I remember my 50th because I asked my husband to throw me a party, and he did, but he only invited my friends, not any of his. I found that so odd until I realized two and half years later that he and I were doomed as a couple and that divorce was coming.
I remember six years ago when my boyfriend at the time threw me a big party (58th), and all my kids came. It was great fun but exhausting, especially since he insisted on real dishes (not paper) and made me help him wash them all until 1:00 in the morning. And his drunk buddy instead that I drive him home since he was drunk.
Four years ago I shared a birthday party with a girlfriend in my driveway. Yes, you heard it. It was going to be at another friend’s house, but she asked us to buy an insurance policy which was so weird that we moved it at the last minute. It was a big one for both of us, so we had expensive champagne and a big toast, yes, on the driveway.
Two years ago my boyfriend at the time stood me up. I thought he was dead on the side of the freeway until two girlfriends came over and pointed out that maybe he was just a jerk. They were right. I still have the two girlfriends but not the guy.
Last year the doctors told me my sister was going to keep getting pneumonia and that I needed to sign a Do Not Resuscitate order so that she wouldn’t keep bouncing between hospitals and rehab centers. I signed it on my birthday, so last year’s birthday was crap. The good news is that she’s still of this Earth.
Now I have another shot at having a good birthday. Wish me luck! It’s this Friday, Flag Day. I have plans to go dancing with a male friend whose honey is traveling abroad.
My mom used to tell me that everyone hung up their American flags on my birthday for ME! Maybe that little white lie was the best gift of all.
If you have the Beatles’ album, Sargeant Pepper’s Hearts Club Band, you can get it out and play the song that sums up this year’s celebration for me. It goes like this:
“When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now . . .”