Remember when your birthday was so cherished? When the cake and ice cream and Coca Cola flowed from the cornucopia of the kitchen, and clowns and mimes and magic shows were what it took to satisfy your soul? Okay, those last three sound creepy and offensive and they were, and that’s okay, because we were so hopped up, we just wanted to PARTY and smear icing on our faces and never let this day end and ohmygod you crashed on the living room floor in a diabetic coma, and all was right in the world.
Then we became teens and we were surly and zitty and counting down the days till we could drive and escape the horrible oppression of our parents. We wondered if we were too old to be virgins, if we were too old to smile when our parents took the time to think of us and give us a gift, if we were were going to finally get OUT of this miserable town. We weren’t comfortable in our own skins and then we let it show and birthdays became merely tolerated, not celebrated.
Our roaring 20’s arrived and we were on the cusp of drinking legally with the passing of a birthday, and then in one of life’s most anticlimactic moments we lost considerable interest when we turned 21 and one day old. We soberly realized ALL that was left to celebrate with a birthday was auto insurance costing a little less. So we got back to drinking, heavily, year round. We got jobs, got married, got kids, still got carded and that’s what convinced us that we had life by the short ones.
The third decade approached and with each passing birthday we noticed a few more wrinkles, and maybe your hands started looking like your old man’s from the passage of time and hard work and many mistakes with wrenches. Rather than discuss the party the night before, we became more apt to discuss the ravages of the hangover with our co-workers, and wondered why, O Lord, we keep doing this to ourselves? We begin to really appreciate the kids’ birthdays more, outside of waiting in the Jumpy-Inflatable Place, catching communicable diseases from kids with parents who don’t bathe them regularly. We cherish their joy at tearing into Lego boxes and we hover over Coca Cola consumption, worried that they’ll be hopped up too soon and interfere with our own 10pm bedtimes.
And then we get kinda angry at the passage of time. I don’t want to be this old. I am, in the immortal words of that heartthrob Rod Stewart, Forever Young. I can’t be 38, 39, whatever, I’m around 26. I’m almost sure of it. Then comes the resignation when you add the years up, trying to figure out if 1974 really WAS that long ago. It was. You’re old. So you sit at home on your birthday and you realize that your parents aren’t ordering up an ice cream cake for you, and if a clown showed up at your door, you’d probably stab him. You play the blues on your acoustic guitar to an audience consisting of the dog and you eat some cheese, probably too much and then decide that yes, you WILL go for a run today, because NO ONE wants to drop dead from artery blockage on their birthday.
You find yourself wishing for your birthday that your kids didn’t forget it. You wish for a nice dinner with them, where they aren’t trying to choke one another, and you’re not trying to choke them both, simultaneously. You hope they don’t grow up too fast, but you know they’re counting down the birthdays till that elusive concept of “freedom” will become crystal clear, even if it isn’t yet to you at age 39. You wish for time to play Legos with them, while they still find your company good, and you find yourself ordering up an ice cream cake for no other reason than you’d like to smear a little across your faces and run around the house with them, no rules, no curfew and, for the briefest of moments, no worries. And that alone is a cause for celebration, no matter how old the calendar says you are today.