Two little words which say so much and so little.
My birthday is very soon. It is a “big one”. For a number of years peer pressure has been on. “What are you doing for your 50th? You have to have a party.”
Well, actually, I don’t. And I am not.
I am not worried about turning 50. In reality I will be one day older than the previous day, an experience I have coped with every day since the first morning after my birth in 1964. I am really looking forward to being in a new age group for running. Fist pump!!
I am worried about the birthday rituals.
Growing up birthdays were big. One of my early memories is standing on a chair in the kitchen beside mum. She was mixing a cake. For me. For my third birthday. We were talking. I remember happiness.
I remember turning five and going to visit Granny, a little wizened body in a bed. I showed her my new school suitcase. It was brown. It was a Sunday. I started school the next day with two others. I was only in that class for three weeks, getting fast tracked through the primers.
I had a party at seven. Again at 10. I remember my friend giving me a card telling me how great it was to be in “double number digits” – I remember her getting the words muddled. I was also one of the last in my school year to hit the double digits. Only Rachel was younger and she was a Seventh Day Adventist so they didn’t even have birthdays. I remember being horrified at that thought.
I quite like the idea now.
I had my 19th birthday in London, accidentally finding a gay bar in Hampstead. My 23rd birthday in Vancouver, almost getting arrested for drinking on the beach. My 24th birthday in the Sinai, riding a camel with no steering!
My 30th was set in 1964 – ladies a plate, men a crate. My 40th was a girls’ own karaoke party. And a big family dinner.
I like birthdays. But recently not my own.
Is it the advent of FB where your worth is measured by the number of people listed as friends. Where you post your birthday openly. And total random strangers wish you a happy day. My birthday is not listed. The people who matter to me know when it is.
So the big five oh. A couple of years ago I said to Andrew I didn’t want a party. But I wanted to acknowledge it in a big way. Like doing the Coast to Coast. Not Ironman, too cliched. He vetoed that idea. Put me on a lifetime ban. Too expensive to enter. To expensive to outfit yourself. Too much time/money to be spent in training. I acquiesced.
The Big Five marathon in Africa? Nope too expensive for us both to go. I wanted to share such an occasion with someone.
He said he would take me away for a week in the sun. I chose northern Queensland. He would organise it. Time ran out. He had no passport. No flights booked. Nothing. I offered him an out and said what the hell. Let’s go to Queenstown.
But less than three weeks out, I cannot trust him to have done anything. With three children, a business, his mother having a heart attack, I can see my birthday just slipping down the priority list.
I wish it would just slip off the radar completely.
Because honestly, I would rather not have it. Then I cannot feel disappointed.
But it is not presents I crave, but presence. It is not a FB reminder to post something inane on my wall, it is knowing that someone thought of me and what would make me smile and feel loved. Any day. Everyday. Not just one day.
I am over birthdays. I think we should celebrate our love for people every and any day. I am part of this initiative called paying it forward, where you randomly give or do something for someone because you have been thinking of them.
It has been fun. A dinner voucher emailed to a friend in the US for her local restaurant. Flowers to cheer up a friend having a bad day/week/life at work. And the smiles on three friend’s faces when I gave them little brooches I had made (pretty badly) celebrating their unique careers – priceless.
I like birthdays. I like presents. I like cake. I like parties. I’m just not that keen on my own. Unfortunately, the alternative is death!
Happy birthday. So cliched. Here’s to celebrating Happy random thinking of a special person day.
The title picture is from Mick Inkpen’s storybook, Kipper’s Birthday. About a dog who invites all his friends over for a birthday party “tomorrow” but forgets to deliver the invitations. Consequently he celebrates alone, feels unloved. But the next day, his friends turn up with things for a party. Kipper is a much loved character to my kids.