Ever since I hit the wrong side of fifty, I’ve been a little confused about how I should celebrate my birthday. When I was a child, birthdays were simple: I got a cake (in the flavor of my choice), a nice party with my friends and family, and best of all, a pile of presents to open. I couldn’t even imagine anything nicer, except perhaps getting my very own pony. Later came the teen-age parties, the obligatory booze-soaked twenty-first birthday, and of course, my “over-the-hill” thirtieth birthday party.
But as a middle-aged woman, birthday cakes, parties, and presents no longer hold much attraction for me. I know that no matter how good a cake tastes, it’s just going to end up on my hips. These days, I can throw a party anytime I want to, and don’t need to wait for my birthday to come around as an excuse. And when someone asks me what I’d like for my birthday this year, the answer that springs to mind is that I’d like my eyesight, my memory, and my youthful energy back. I’d also like some things I’ve never had, such as coordination, common sense and strikingly good looks, but no one can give me those, either. I have friends who don’t really want to have their birthdays acknowledged or celebrated any more, and I understand where they’re coming from.
Still, there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to ignore my birthday altogether, even if I’m at the stage where being another year older doesn’t sound like such a good thing. But like all middle-aged people, I’ve seen too much death and serious illness to not want to celebrate the fact that I have, indeed, lived through another year that was blessed with good health, family and friends. My life is far from perfect, but I know that I have a lot to be thankful for, and I am.
So while I won’t be having a big birthday party this year, and probably won’t be eating any birthday cake, I will still celebrate my birthday this weekend. I’ll have the usual birthday dinner with my family and get a few presents and cards. But mostly, I’ll try to remember to be grateful for the year I just had, (the good and the bad), and to promise myself that my next year will be as meaningful and positive as I can make it. Middle-aged birthdays are more about celebrating the milestones of our life than parties and presents, and that’s as it should be. But I still wouldn’t mind if someone gave me that pony…