My birthday was last week and it was quite a drop off from last year. Before I go any further, let me say that this is not a criticism of anyone, especially my wife and kids. Last year was my 50th so we had a party at my house with family and friends, and it was awesome. For those without math skills, this year was my 51st. Go to any card store and I can guarantee that there aren’t any “Happy 51st Birthday” cards. So, it was kind of a non-event compared to last year.
It’s kind of strange how we do that with birthdays. There are Sweet 16 parties, usually for girls, but nothing for 17. Have the girls gone from sweet to bitter in just one year? That would be terrible if someone did. Then when someone turns 18, the birthday is a big deal again, probably because kids graduate high school and we see that age as when someone becomes an adult. Then comes 19 and nothing, you’re just a year older. Maybe it’s just the even years that count for something, so you’d think 20 would be a big deal, but it’s not. Ah, but 21 is a big year because then you can legally buy and drink alcohol. Then nothing for the next few years until you get to 25, which is usually a big one. I don’t know if it’s because you’re a quarter of a century old or because many young people start thinking they’re getting old. Some day they’ll look back at that and realize how silly their thinking was.
After that we celebrate 30, then 40, then 50. Nothing in between those years matters, they’re just numbers. Go to any party store and try to find a “Happy 34th Birthday!” banner. There aren’t any, but there’ll be one for 30 and 40. Maybe it’s our young-is-good-old-is-bad culture that says anyone over 30 is old that makes us stop celebrating the years in between the nice round numbers. Not to mention there’s always one wise guy who gives you the “over the hill” birthday card when you’re 35, as if you’ve seen your best days. To have seen your best days at 35, now that would be terrible.
When I was growing up, we didn’t do a lot for birthdays. We got a card, a cake and everyone sang “Happy Birthday”. I’m not complaining. We had at least six kids at home as far back as I can remember and couldn’t afford to invite our friends over and have big parties like some of my friends did. Besides, I’ve never been one to refuse a homemade chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and a little bit of ice cream on the side. Yum!
One of my friends took about ten of us mini golfing one year for his birthday, to go along with his cake and ice cream. I found out that day that cake and ice cream do not go well with golf clubs on a warm June day. The next year, he took me and a couple other friends to a Red Sox game! No cake and no ice cream, but plenty of hot dogs, soda and popcorn - and no, we did not have peanuts and Cracker Jack. As a side note, I still have the program from that game in my memorabilia pile.
I think that we should make a big deal out of every birthday we have, especially as we get “older”. Statistically speaking, you have a bigger chance of not making your next birthday as you get older, so why not celebrate every one of them? Not to sound morbid, but you just never know which one could be your last. My son, who turned 16 a month ago, told me that one of his classmates, whom he’s known since elementary school, has cancer. My wife’s uncle died not long after his 40th birthday. My grandmother lived to 98! You just never know.
Overall, I did have a great birthday this year, even though there wasn’t a big party. I relaxed, I watched the home team win their hockey game, I got a bunch of birthday wishes on Facebook and I got some phone calls and emails from family. But the best part of my day, heck the whole weekend, was spending time with my wife and kids. We went out to dinner and talked and had fun. After dinner we went back to the house and watched Get Smart and laughed some more. That is what I’ll remember about my 51st birthday; the time I got to spend with the people I love the most – my family.
And starting now, I’m going to make sure that I make a big deal out of everyone’s birthday, including my own, no matter what number it is.