Growing up I basically had the best birthday parties ever. At my sixth birthday party, a man came with a horse and cart and gave us rides around the block. At my tenth birthday party, we had an inflatable bouncy castle. Middle school brought sleepovers and in ninth grade, my friends made me a garland of flowers to wear all day long. In tenth grade, my parents hired a chef who cooked over an open fire pit.
One of my first jobs was actually party planning. The Satellite Center, our local community center, offered birthday parties to elementary school children. As high schoolers, my friend Rachel and I took on the job of choosing and organizing party games while supervising the children. It was essentially glorified babysitting but we were up for it. I have no idea how long we did it or even why we stopped. However, I do remember holding a dance contest at one girl’s birthday. Rachel and I, lovers of all things artsy and dorky, chose the girl who was off in her own world doing her own thing. She did have excellent rhythm and was extremely graceful but that was not noted by the other girls in the group. The girls all strongly objected to our choice and the birthday girl felt we were unjust. I’m sure that we did make the birthday girl feel special and that she had a lovely day but that brief moment of disappointment sticks with me. She had thought her day would go a certain way and one simple moment did not.
When I was a teacher, I had a student who always counted down to his birthday. His excitement was palpable; you really felt that he might burst at any moment. I loved it but I always wondered if he too suffered disappointment afterwards. When you look forward to something so much, can you not help but be a tad bit sad when it’s all over?
The truth is that I just love birthdays. I love my own and I love celebrating others’. In college, we would decorate others’ rooms and doors. One of my favorite memories is the year I woke up to Pride and Prejudice quotes taped to my door. Just two years ago, I set up a mini Christmas tree for my apartment mate, Sarah. Underneath the tree were several “brown paper packages tied up with strings.” It was a “Favorite Things Birthday”. Now that I’m married I no longer live with Sarah, but I still managed to sneak into her apartment in December and leave a mini Christmas/birthday tree. I thought about hiding behind it, waiting for her but that seemed just a tad too stalkerish.
Last week, I turned 31. It’s a relatively anticlimactic age and I was not feeling uber celebratory this year. In fact, I was feeling rather down in the dumps. My birthday was just two days after Easter. Both of these celebrations made me super homesick for my family, none of whom live near me. My husband hates his own birthday so it seems ridiculous of me to put demands on him. However, he rose to the occasion by not only acknowledging my Birthday but also my Birthday Eve and my Birthday Boxing Day. My dad has long celebrated a month-long birthday (see where I get it from;) but has instructed the rest of us that we are far too young to deserve such festivities. This year, however, I was granted special dispensation. My parents have sent me several packages over the last several weeks. Today, I opened even more presents from friends.
So, next year, I plan to embrace the ongoing joy that a month-long celebration brings. I realize that makes me seem ridiculous and that I should really just ignore my birthday until next the big milestone. But what on earth is the fun in that?