Today is my birthday. I don’t say that with any jubilation, nor regret. It simply is a fact. I was born October 3, 1943 and today I turn 78. Yippee.
Birthdays were never celebrated in my family growing up. Usually just another day like any other, occasionally mom made a cake. Though I do vividly recall one exception. I think it was my 10th birthday. She bought plastic figurine dolls from the dime store for which she sewed crepe paper antebellum dresses, pantaloons, and hats–each a different colored outfit, one for each of my birthday guests! My mother probably enjoyed doing this even more than we enjoyed the surprising dolls!
In contrast–or perhaps like my mom on this one occasion–I kind of did the opposite for my three kids: it was my norm to give them creative parties with pretty homemade cakes and artistic activities for them and their friends to enjoy, though gifts were not always expected.
I’ve come to think of a birthday as a day to acknowledge one particular individual as unique, worthy, a glorious gift to humanity. It’s never been about years. In fact, if you ask me my weight (which I’d prefer not to tell) or how old I am I might even get the two confused! [This is not a sign of early dimentia, merely an adverse attitude toward numbers in general].
A birthday is a day to joy in who one is. All the great attributes of an individual can be honored, remembered, appreciated. But they ought not be hanged on to as if the day itself were important. It’s about the individual. I look at each of my three kids as unique and amazing individuals with more talents and goodness than I could ever have imagined. When their birthdays roll around, I send them a card and monetary token of their day, but I also think about them–their creativity, diversity, kindness, energy, and ability to generously give and care for others beyond themselves. How did I ever get so blessed?!
That’s how I think all birthdays might best be honored: appreciating each one’s unique attributes. Let them know you like who they are. Encourage their goodness. Appreciate what they bring to your life and to others’.
My husband hates all celebratory dates: birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, even Christmas. “No gifts for me!” he starts hollering a month before the expected special date. Perhaps because he is an historian? “History isn’t about dates! Its about ideas!” Basically, I’m o.k. with that. It’s easier when it comes to gift-giving, though I cheat now and then (what’s wrong with giving him a set of boxer shorts to replace his worn-out ones? Or a Martin guitar, once in a blue moon, when it practically shouts out in glee it belongs only in his hands to be stroked by his talented fingers?).
When it comes to my own birthday, I really have no expectations. Haven’t had any since I was a child. I did take myself to France for my 60th to paint in Antibes, in Provence–now that was special! Maybe for my 80th I’ll return. Otherwise, all I hope for today is that my husband loves me, my kids call with greetings, and I don’t have to do any housework (a nice slice of homemade chocolate cake with chocolate frosting would top it off perfectly, but then who would make it?). At 78, a day of rest is a good enough birthday.
About the Artwork: This is a full sheet watercolor, matted and custom framed, about 36″ x 28,” which I painted while in Antibes, Provence, for my 60th birthday. I invited two friends and my daughter to join me if they paid their own way, entertained themselves while I painted every day, then we’d catch up at dinner, and I treated them all to a delightful 3-story residence with views. Sadly, I do not recall the name of this piece nor to whom I sold it.