Yesterday was a red-letter day for me … okay, it was more like a normal, black-letter day with maybe some red underlining, or an average day with a couple of red dots on it … aw, forget it, it was just a plain ol’ Thursday. No big deal whatsoever.
Well, except that it was my forty-first birthday. That was about it.
It’s kind of interesting, when you think about it, that it wasn’t a huge affair. When you’re a kid, birthdays are second only to Christmas in terms of your expectations, in terms of the celebration involved, and of course in terms of loot received. Your whole year revolves around it. You start mentally prepping for it months in advance — “how old are you?” “I’m almost nine!” And you remember what happened on almost every one of your birthdays, for as far back as you have long-term memory.
Over time, things change. Once you become an adult, you’re pretty much throwing your own parties. People stop buying you toys (especially when the gray hairs start coming). You no longer get cash in your birthday cards. And then you start having kids of your own, and the whole scene gets turned inside out. Now you’re throwing parties for other people — short, often ungrateful people — and (if you’re fortunate) you can get a babysitter and go out for dinner with your spouse and/or a few friends when it’s your turn. Eventually, you only have real big shindigs if the number ends in a zero. Sometimes not even then.
Funny thing is, I don’t really miss the emphasis I used to give my birthday. I’ve always been socially awkward, so parties were never all that much fun. Sometime in my twenties, I stopped worrying about it, and there were several years where I did nothing at all. Once I got married, it became a chance for Nina to get me something and make a fancier-than-usual dinner or take me out. Everything pretty low-key.
So low-key, in fact, that I can’t remember how I spent my 40th birthday last year. (Of course, given all that was going on in my life at the time, I’d be surprised if I did anything.) And this year, it was a normal weekday until about 4:30 — get Nina off to work and Charlotte to school, give Sean his feeds and exercise, read Dear Prudence’s Thursday column, blah blah de blah. At 4:30 I piled the fam into the van and we went to my favorite pizza place for an Anselmo Special (chicken, bacon, sun-dried tomatoes, creamy garlic sauce), which turned out to be a slight mistake, as I’ve been on a low-carb diet for months and all that crust gave me indigestion. Next time, I’m eating the toppings and passing off the bread.
And there was loot, natch. From my wife, a San Francisco Giants World Champions cap and commemorative plaque. (I tell you, a World Series title is a gift that keeps on giving.) From my daughter, a homemade bookmark — currently occupying a spot in my copy of Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal. But the biggest highlight was watching how straight Sean was sitting up (not in a wheelchair or anything — just in the booth with the rest of us), how well he was using his hands to play with the menu, and how much he ate of solid food, even after a full can of formula before we left home.
And on the flip side, the biggest drag to being another year older is that I won’t be able to reference this clip of the Oklahoma State football coach anymore. For me, at least, age really is just a number. My birth certificate may indicate I’m 41, but my feet still feel 60, my sense of humor is largely that of a 24-year-old (okay, maybe a fairly sophisticated one), and my wife will assure you that sometimes I still act like I’m nine. Or almost nine. As I joked with someone on the ‘Net a few weeks ago, “I contain multitudes … but not in the ‘we are Legion’ sense.”
So 41 … not a big whoop. Maybe next year for my birthday, I’ll crank it up a little …
… nahhhh. Why mess with what works?