Monday, November 28, 2011

Birthdays Are Relative

Do you remember when you were little?  Birthdays were treasured events in our lives.  We couldn't wait to get to our next birthday.  We wanted to be grown up so we could stay up late, not have to follow parents' rules, and have fun all of the time (or so we thought).  We also looked forward to presents, cake, ice cream, and maybe a party with friends.  I can remember pouring over catalogs and avidly watching commercials between cartoons on Saturday to create a list for my birthday that could also be added to for Christmas the next month.  We never lived near relatives so family parties were not a part of my personal experience from my childhood.

There is one birthday that stands out in my mind.  I was in fifth grade and lived in Miami, Florida.  I loved to go roller skating at the roller rink; so we decided to have a skating party.  We invited about 8 of my friends, got a cake with a picture of a skater on it, and I wore one of my dance recital outfits that looked like a skating costume.  I was so excited!  When we arrived at the roller rink, I couldn't believe my eyes.  A cute boy in school that ALL of us had a crush on, Stacy, was skating at the rink, too.  We invited him to join us... and he did!  It made my day!  I won't forget how special I felt or how happy I was.  My mom was great to invite Stacy.  She made this a very memorable birthday for me!

When my children were young, I always agonized over planning a birthday celebration for them.  When they were very little, it was a family celebration with presents, ice cream, and cake with the grandparents and my brothers.  When they were in elementary school, it was parties with friends and games at home, the movies, the arcade, or some other venue that fit the theme of the year.  When they were in high school, it was sleepovers with all night gaming.  When they turned 21, it was a trip to Las Vegas or a new computer depending on the interests of the child.  No matter the age: it was important to me to make these birthdays important events to celebrate the milestones in their lives.

I recently celebrated another birthday.  My birthday always falls around the Thanksgiving holiday so it may be a little different than the experience of most people.  In addition, my husband has his birthday 2 days after mine.  So it is always a very busy time between our birthdays and preparing the Thanksgiving dinner.  However, this year I took the time to think about my birthday as a separate event and started pondering the birthday experience.

I didn't want to celebrate this year.  It's not an issue with my age.  I am proud of who I am, would not want to go back in time, and have no problem with getting older.  I have earned my age and wisdom!  No, it was something entirely different.  My birthday fell on Thanksgiving Day, and I knew I would be cooking all day.  I made a deal with my husband that we wouldn't get presents or cards for each other.  I wasn't sure why I felt like this, but it was how I was feeling.  So, the day came and went.  We spent my husband's birthday at a wedding; so there was no special celebration for him either.

Why did I feel this way?  I wasn't sure so I started trying to analyze my feelings and where they came from.  My husband is the one who said something that triggered my revelation.  We were talking about what we needed for Thanksgiving dinner, and I mentioned that we, of course, should have pumpkin pie.  He said that he needed a pecan pie because my mother always made one for him for his birthday.  That was when it dawned on me!  My birthday doesn't mean as much without my parents to celebrate with me.

My mom and dad always remembered my birthday!  It was important to them.  I remember when my mother had heart bypass surgery.  We were in Arizona to support my parents as they went through this scary time.  My mother was in the hospital after surgery, but she still remembered my birthday.  She told my dad to do something to celebrate it.  I will never forget my dad and brother grilling steaks and eating cake on the patio for my birthday!  With all that was going on, I couldn't believe that this was so important to my parents, but I certainly felt loved.  Parents think ahead to plan for birthdays.  This was never more obvious than my birthday following my dad's death.  Even though he died in February before my 50th birthday, I received a card signed by him on my birthday that year.  He and my mom had found a special 50th birthday card the year before and he had already signed it.  When I opened the card, I cried.  At the the the thoughtfulness.   I can never describe how I felt seeing my dad's signature.  It is a precious memory.

Birthdays (and Thanksgiving since they are intertwined for me) just aren't the same for me anymore.  I think it is because my parents, who were there when I arrived in this world, aren't here to share the day with me.  I just always feel like something is off about this time of year.  Maybe birthdays are really about the bond between parents and their children.  I think it's time to let go of my birthday and focus on celebrating birthdays of my children and granddaughter.  I think this is the natural order of life.  I now have a different place in the world.  It's time to cherish my memories but let go of the past and embrace the future.  After all, I have been well loved.  It is time to pass this legacy of love on to the next generations.  They are, without a doubt, my joy!

Have you found your joy today?

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