Well, that annual event has again occurred…the anniversary of me, otherwise known as a birthday. So many cupcakes and white cake ago, which today swirl the bowl in a punch line many never live to see…but I’m here…and so are 54 years of memories.
My mother was the original homespun Martha Stewart of birthday parties, so much so I was actually set-up and called into the principal’s office in 6th grade, after a girl hadn’t been invited and wanted revenge. Go figure…guess 1972 was rougher than I remember. There were always plastic nut cup baskets with candy…like me now, vintage… and selling for $9.99 a piece on eBay, cake from scratch and ice-cream (also homemade) that melted too fast, but oh how the flavor lasted. I also remember the faces, and a few of the gifts, a Partridge Family Album, Little Kiddles, comic books and once a do it yourself ear piercing set that put my mother on her ear! The times were as simple as the games we played, and the prizes from the drug store, which mom wrapped so carefully.
By the time I accepted the mantle and was planning birthdays for my own girls, times were different and the evolution of ‘loot bags’ and boy/girl invitations had changed dramatically. However, the family version was still innocent, with cakes featuring a special ‘gift’ that often themed the party. Oh, the year it was Little Mermaid! There sat Ariel amid long strands of pulled sugar seaweed…no one noticed the burns on my hands were as red as her hair, which was okay because my daughter was thrilled. Birthdays after all are a celebration of life for everyone, all those faces and places that made up the village that got us to our place on the calendar.
As we age, birthdays have benchmarks like 13 – 16 – 18 – 21 – 25 and dreaded…..30, which put us into society as useful members that hopefully make a difference. However, once we’ve joined, unless it is AARP there aren’t as many cards sent, the parties are more political and those nut cups have points attached, limiting how many we get. Yes, things just aren’t as sweet as the memories we unwrap when the day arrives. However, we were born, we grew and we lived, and with any luck we will have accomplished something important before the candle burning at both ends goes out.
I was luckier than most since my father and I celebrated in the same week, three days apart and later as a grandmother, the two day bridge between my only granddaughter and me is a gift in itself. I’ve been able to look not just at my own life as it has changed in a year, but to celebrate those I love, excited to be a part of their moments and yes, commemorate all that living!
This year, I will again celebrate with a furry companion, her second attempt at grabbing cake with me, and I will remember those before her, that barked and danced in excitement sharing my day in years past. I’ll have mom and dad here in spirit, remembering gifts too crazy to admit too, and tears too special to forget and especially those that didn’t celebrate as many as they should have, leaving this world too soon. After all, It isn’t passing the cake, opening a gift or anticipating the perfect card that makes a birthday special, and it isn’t even the person the day honors, it is instead, all that got them there and the delight and happiness in those that helped, and are able to express it. You see we are often the best gift someone has ever has had in their life, and although we get the cake, they will forever do the celebrating.
So here is to the partially baked cake or messed up frosting given from the heart, the stories how mom almost didn’t make it to the labor room in time, the child laying on the floor embarrassed at the singing of Happy Birthday and countless other memories, which make us who we are in the eyes of others and confirm in our heart and soul, that yes… we have indeed lived…and in gratitude to those I love, I say thank you for what has passed and what is still to come.