I had a birthday last week. Another one. They seem to be coming faster and faster.
If a birthday does nothing else for you, it at least reminds you to be grateful that you weren’t the special guest of the funeral home this year. Birthdays also serve as markers of how much you and life in general are changing as the years roll by.
When you were a child, you had a different attitude toward growing older. Remember telling people you were “six and a half” or “eight and three-quarters”? As if getting older was the best thing that could happen to you. You never hear anyone say he’s “80 and a half” -- 80 is plenty.
And, no, I did not just have my 80th birthday so don’t go spreading that rumor on Facebook.
Remember how much you looked forward to your birthday party when you were “six and a half”? You had a cake covered with gooey rainbow colored icing and two scoops of ice cream. You got a new, frilly party dress to wear (if you were a girl-- boys got off with just new pants.) You and your guests wore silly party hats and played Pin the Tail on the Donkey.
Now my preferred party is none at all -- too many people standing around asking me how old I am and looking sceptical when I say “39-ish” and wanting to know where I plan to be buried.
If I have to have a party, I like the kind my husband and I had last week. He and I have almost the same birthday, though he is much, much older
Anyway, our party this year began the night before my birthday at the Magee Chamber of
Commerce banquet. We had a wonderful meal, I was given the Spirit of Magee Award, and I found a gift card in the “happy” by my plate. Best of all, nobody mentioned my age, though I’m sure they heard my knees creaking as I walked up the steps to get my award.
The “party” continued the next day, when my husband and I celebrated our joint birthdays again with dinner at Koestler’s in Ridgeland. The food was delicious, the service was great, and the atmosphere was elegant. A friend had given us a gift card that even allayed most of the cost of the meal! Now, that’s my kind of party!
And there was no silly party hat to smash my hairdo, no rainbow icing stuck to my nose, no donning a blindfold to pin a tail on a paper donkey that I would have had trouble finding with my reading glasses off, not to mention blindfolded, which might have resulted in my pinning a tail on the waiter.
Nobody sang “Happy Birthday” off-key, and nobody asked me about my age, which is none of their business.
We skipped dessert at the restaurant and got to come home to our favorite, a key lime pie that served as my husband’s “birthday cake,” which he was sharing with me. Instead of eating it in a party outfit that was squeezing my middle, I got to eat it in my sweatpants with its roomy elastic waist.
My whole attitude toward birthday gifts has changed over the years too. At my eighth birthday party I was delighted with paint-by-number sets, paperdolls, coloring books and crayons, a Chinese checkers set and Trixie Belden mystery books. The more the better.
Now, less is more. I don’t want anything that comes in parts that I have to assemble, finish, alter or add to. I don’t want gifts that sit on a counter or have to be stored under a counter, or be dusted, watered or taken to the vet, or anything made out of spandex.
My husband and I now take an entirely different approach to gifting each other at birthdays. Each of us knows what the other doesn’t want: he knows I don’t want anything to dust, I know he doesn’t want any more ugly ties. So we’re giving each other a trip to the beach that he will like more than a tie and I will like more than a 57-piece Salad Slinger that has to be assembled, washed and stored under the counter.
Though I don’t enjoy birthdays, I don’t mind being older. I can actually say that I feel better now and am happier than I was at age 20. With every birthday I’ve become a little more confident and a little more at peace with myself. It’s easier to let things go and more fun to just be where I am.
Along the way, I’ve learned that problems will pass with the years. I’ve had enough birthdays now to know that I don’t have to change my child or my grandchildren or save the world or make anyone’s dreams come true. I don’t have to be good at everything or anything, for that matter. I don’t have to impress anyone.
Not that I’m giving up as I age. I’ll still knock myself out at aerobics two days a week and travel every time I get a chance. And shop.
And when I do reach “80 and a half,” maybe I’ll give myself a half-year birthday party. With a whole key lime pie just for myself.