I believe in birthdays, especially mine. Most people make resolutions on January first, but for me July seventeenth signals renewal. I always want to exercise more, lose five pounds, or achieve something significant by that date. My official blow-out-the-candle birthday wish is reserved for the health and happiness of my husband or toddler. That wish aside, every birthday I pledge that this year I’ll achieve greatness: start a garden, write a novel, or complete an unassisted chin-up. Even though my enthusiasm for progress is usually fizzled by September, each birthday I set grandiose goals, confident that this year, I will meet them.
The month before my birthday, I start counting the days. On June 17th, I’m sure to tell my husband, “Hey, guess what? It’s a month till my birthday!” He’ll smile and ask what I want, or tell me he has my gift ready. My wonderful family humors me, going along with my plans and demands.
I map out my birthdays to the hour, each year trying to get as close as possible to the perfect day. As a teacher, I’ve never worked on my special day but my husband usually does. If my birthday’s on a weekday, I get two celebrations, the actual seventeenth and the closest Saturday. I eat my favorite meals at exceptional restaurants. I’m disappointed if the day doesn’t include horseback riding and a movie. Now that I have my son, my plans include his grandmother spending the day with us. My birthday is the one day of the year when I don’t change diapers.
I’ve had thirty-two birthdays. Most were good. I still have the treasure chest from my pirate-themed party at age seven. When I turned eighteen, we partied while my mom was out of town. The cops were nice when they ordered the band to stop. Some birthdays were bittersweet. On my twenty-seventh, my family threw a surprise party that almost no one could attend. A few birthdays have been perfect. When I turned thirty we gathered the parents at the fanciest Italian restaurant. We surprised them with the sonogram of the first future grandchild. My mother cried; his mother cried; the lady at the table next to ours cried.
When my family members have birthdays, I try to give them their perfect day. My mother hates to acknowledge getting older; my husband is just as happy to eat pizza at home. None of them has the enthusiasm or expectations for birthdays that I do.
My son Jack won’t turn two until February. I’ve already started thinking about his birthday. If he’s still Elmo obsessed, the theme’s a no-brainer. As he gets older, I know there’ll be parties when friends can’t come, too much cake that makes him sick, or the birthday the same day as the big algebra test. Nevertheless, I hope each year he’ll be as eager as I am to plan his perfect birthday, filled with wishes and dreams for the year. Birthdays are special; this I believe.
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