Celebrating Birthdays

Birthdays are a funny thing. We each have one. Every year. Even those people who are born on February 29 still have a birthday every year; they just celebrate them either on February 28 or March 1. It’s a celebration of our entering into this world, but it’s also a way to keep track of how old (or young) we actually are. Because that’s important information, since it’s used to determine a lot of things which go on in our daily lives, and in the decisions we make.

When we’re kids we can’t wait for each birthday, because it usually means presents and cake and ice cream. As we get older we can’t wait to hit the magical age of thirteen because then we’ll be a teenager. And that’s really a big deal. At least we thought it was. (Not so sure about our parents!)

And then there’s 16. For us girls it’s better known as “Sweet 16”. It’s a rite of passage, a special day for us to get together with girlfriends and celebrate a special age. What’s so special? Looking back now I have no real idea. It just was. For many of us of that certain age it meant we were allowed to date, and get our drivers licenses. Many of us had Sweet 16 birthday parties and actually invited…boys!!! (Yes, that was years ago!)

Then we looked forward to turning 18. That was really important. We were becoming adults. Sort of. We thought we were so special! Invincible, really. Our life was just beginning and our futures were bright. There was nothing we couldn’t do. We were going to change the world! We graduated from high school. We went to college, or trade school, joined the military, or went right into the working world.

Then we finally turned 21. We could legally buy alcohol, and we thought that really made us adults! But the morning after our 21st birthdays we were still the same person we were the day before. Just a year older. And for some of us, a bit hung over!

And we learned that real life sometimes interrupts and changes our plans. College life wasn’t always what we thought. Jobs were tough and didn’t always pay a lot. The military sent many of us or our friends to Viet Nam. There were marriages. And children. And divorces.

Suddenly we knew the meaning of being adults. It wasn’t all the fun we thought it would be. When we were kids, it seemed we waited forever for each birthday to get here. And then as we got older the birthdays seemed to come quicker. And we wanted them to slow down. Because as we got older we realized our lives weren’t going quite the way we’d planned.

And suddenly we were wishing for time to slow down rather than hurry along. Twenty-one became 25, and then 30. And many of us weren’t where we’d thought we’d be, and started trying to make a lot of things happen when we should’ve been patient. Thirty-five was looming over us as a reminder of what we’d said in our teenage years: “Never trust anyone over thirty!”

Surely that really didn’t apply to us now!? We were in our best years, weren’t we? But those years were going by quickly.

Turning 30 hadn’t bothered me that much, but turning 40 sure did! I remember my husband taking me to the beach for that weekend to celebrate, and him having a huge bouquet of balloons waiting for me in the room. Yep! Forty of them! That just sounded old to me, even though he’d turned 40 the month before! Suddenly I realized I wasn’t that young girl of 20 anymore; life was hurrying on a little faster than I wanted it to!

It’s these so-called “milestone” birthdays that really get us. No sooner did we turn 40, but then here came 50!

That was the biggie!

My husband had been saying for months before his fiftieth birthday that he was dreading it because he was going to be half a century old! According to him, his life was quickly going downhill towards the end! Really? So what did I do? Woke him up at one minute after midnight to tell him “happy birthday“ and remind him he was officially half a century old! And he was still with us!

Of course with it being his 50th, that called for an invasion of 50 black crows and cows (he was into cows back then rather than flamingos!) in front of his office, which had also been artfully decorated inside with all sorts of “old geezer” signs. Not to mention the surprise party the following week complete with a roast featuring a book I’d put together called, “This is Your Life, Ben!”

It’s funny how as we get older we start to have a special kind of fun with those milestone birthdays. It’s sort of like bringing out our long-forgotten inner child who enjoyed those birthdays so very much!

Turning 60 was more of a challenge. We were certainly getting older, and we were starting to realize it. Although we didn’t feel any different, at least in our minds, there were a lot of reminders that we weren’t 40, or even 50, any more.

But the 60th birthday deserves a special celebration as well. Mind you, planning something big is difficult when your husband is home every night, which means all your work and plans need to be done after he’s asleep. Not an easy task, but on the morning of his 60th birthday, Ben was greeted with a fly-in of 60 flamingos on our front lawn, and a bunch of decorations in his office, including an inflatable walker and other “fun” toys.

And there was a pile of 60 gifts when he came home, each of them numbered to be opened in order! And each of them containing 60 items. Like 60 safety pins to use when he lost a shirt button; a 60 watt light bulb for when he had a good idea; 60 pennies for good luck, etc. it took him two hours to open them all!

And then there was the 60th birthday (adult) diaper cake, complete with a black crow on top and decorated with yellow caution tape and miniature false teeth. He still has it!

Turning 65 sort of started to feel

old, because it was always known as the retirement age. Retirement? Uh, no. Not in this household!

But in the last 30 days, Ben and I each turned 69. That in itself doesn’t sound bad, but next year we’ll both turn 70. And to me, well that actually sounds old. I remember so many years thinking how old it sounded, and how everyone in that age group just seemed to look old to me.

How times have changed. How our thought processes have changed. I don’t think I look my age, and in my mind I don’t think I’m that old. But then again, what should someone my age look like? Or feel like?

Birthdays come very year. We celebrate, and we enjoy with family and friends. And yes, we do get older every year, and no matter how we joke around and say “I’m counting backwards now,” or “I’m not having a birthday this year,” or we take a few (or several) years off our age when people ask us, being around to celebrate our birthdays is certainly better than the alternative, as a lot of us are now saying.

So when it’s your birthday, celebrate it. Flaunt it! Enjoy your friends and yes, any restaurant personnel who decide to serenade you or bring out a lighted birthday cake. Wear the funny hats and play along with whatever is planned for your special day.

Birthdays are special, whether you want to be reminded of them or not! So party on!

And if any of you have some great ideas for that 70th milestone birthday, let’s hear them!

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