Okay, friends and relatives, it’s the end of September and another birthday is here. Mine. (Yes, I realize my hinting technique is not subtle.)
What I want to do about it, or not do as the case may be, is, as usual, unresolved. I’m open to suggestions.
I have a friend who has completely ignored all her birthdays since she reached 21; there is some wisdom in that, I think. I have other friends who go all out: They invite pals to events they find mutually interesting — an opera screening at Guild Hall or a summer benefit, say — and suggest that any gifts go to a good cause. One friend is even apt to have multiple celebrations, a lunch with family at the American Hotel one day, an Indian potluck dinner with friends the next. She loves having fun and knows how to provide it for others.
Of course, by the time most of us become adults we compromise in one way or another about our birthdays, expecting less in the way of presents and cake and fuss. Many decide only their “big” birthdays should be recognized, although I have to say that I don’t think there is anything inherently special about reaching 40 or 65, rather than 43 or 62. Nevertheless, if, like me, you’ve reached the time of life that makes time itself go faster and faster, it’s not a bad idea to start skipping years between festivities. You don’t really want that many happy returns.
For a long time now I have worked hard to thoroughly convince my family that I don’t want any birthday parties. I guess I should come clean and admit that the annual approach of the date sometimes puts me in a morose frame of mind. “I’m not in the mood for a party!” I have been known to sigh. (My daughter says that this reminds her of Eeyore’s birthday in A.A. Milne’s classic: “ ‘That’s right,’ says Eeyore to Pooh. ‘Sing. Umty—tiddly, umty — too. Here we go gathering Nuts and May. Enjoy yourself.’ ”) So when everyone allowed one of those apparent milestone years to go by without much ado, I was sorry, even though I knew I had brought it on myself.
Still, there have been many years when the affection of friends and family has warmed my heart, and when presents were especially thoughtful. The year I was given bunches of daffodil bulbs, and then helped to plant them, is an example.
Once, I organized a party in honor of myself. It was the year I turned 49. I simply decided it was a slightly madcap and hence happy way to avoid having to face the fact the following year that I would turn 50. At the time, that was older than I could imagine myself being. I still remember the food we served (grilled leg of lamb, baked brie) and a few of the presents I received (one was a small leather pouch with a big metal “H” on a key chain). That I remember it so well indicates that the event was of more significance than I liked to pretend.
I’m not going to tell you how long ago that was. Suffice it to say that my three children are all in their 40s now, and, guess what, the eldest was 49 on his last birthday! I don’t know what he thinks about the big birthday he has coming up next year, or if he thinks of it at all, but I know it only gets harder to pretend to be a kid after one of your kids turns 50.
So what do you say: Meet me at the roller rink?