Today is my daughter's 25th birthday. As such, it invites a discussion of the whole birthday thing as celebrated in America. Here are my diffuse thoughts:
1. Birthday cards=$3.00 for a weak joke that can only be enjoyed one time. No one (that I know) goes back through his or her cards to revisit their sentiments, except for the hand-written ones that were added, of course.
2. What is the most important aspect of a birthday celebration? Is it gifts? Or money? Or food? Or time? Or a party? You may not choose all of the above. I think it's the gathering. Having a bunch of friends gather, even without presents or cards or special foods is what makes for a successful birthday. Why? Because, let's face it--a birthday is a mortality day.
3. When my father was a child, you got off school for your birthday. Which is cool, except that you are a child and none of your friends would be off of school.
4. The older you get, the less interested you are in "getting something" for your birthday. I think there is a simple reason for that, well, two. One, the older you get, the fewer things you want. And two, the older you get, the more likely you are to get what you want when you want it, instead of waiting for a holiday.
5. Birthdays connect you with famous people and events. My daughter and Jerry Garcia share a birthday. I share a birthday with Charles Lindbergh crossing the Atlantic. But I don't think any of that means anything, much as we might hope otherwise. Weird bragging rights maybe, when you are a child or an adult.
6. I like to cook for people's birthdays. Most of the time, you find out exactly what they want, exactly what will give them momentary comfort, and so your mission is clear, your purpose unpolluted. This year, it was crab. My darter wanted crab. And the weekend before, I ended up in Pascagoula, Mississippi for another birthday, and was able to secure two tubs of lump crab. We ate it "Mobile style" earlier in the week; we had crab cakes tonight. It was exactly what she wanted, and I delivered. That's a great cooking moment.
7. This child also likes a special cake. When she was younger, I had to make her a cake out of Better Homes And Gardens magazine that had a blue Jello swimming pool on top with blankets made of Fruit Stripe gum and a bunch of other strange decorations, like Chick-lets, which we purchased from a machine in a bar in East Ridge. This year, the challenge was Baked Alaska-- cake and ice cream surrounded by a meringue and browned in the oven. She likes to challenge me; I like the challenge.
8. My wife has an incredible memory. Maybe you know someone like this, too. She can go back the her child's birthdays and tell you something about most everyone. It's fascinating to hear; it's a family history lesson.
9. As adults, we have acceptd the social norms that only certain birthdays matter--40, 50, 60, etc.-- and that the new n between are hardly worth mentioning or celebrating. We treat them as bench marks. If you can get there, we'll have a party. If not, well, no one will ever remember.
10. Some people have Birthday Avoidance Syndrome. Whether this is the result of not wanting to acknowledge the aging process or not wanting to be the center of attention or not wanting to be seen on the context of a certain age, I don't know. What I do know is that most people, if you make the effort to celebrate their birthdays, however low-keyed or over the top, appreciate the recognition, despite all of their protestations.