Being that I just celebrated another birthday yesterday, I felt it apropos to cover the subject in today’s blog. My first idea was to go back and review birthdays I had celebrated. Most of my birthdays as a kid were not extravagant deals. I really was afraid of birthday parties. I was actually the shy type.
(Featured Left: Dad Everette with Jack on his actual birthday. Featured Right: Party for my 5th birthday with neighborhood kids, including the tall girl Mable Rae Corley, who is in her 90s and still going strong. )
In thinking back over how I spent my birthdays as an adult, I’d have to say one of the most memorable was when my friend Tom took me to see Joan Rivers at Carlos & Charlie’s in West Hollywood in 1992. Being that we just lost Joan, and a great loss it is, that evening Tom and I entered her world is now even more memorable. That was my 60th birthday and I needed cheering up. Joan did that admirably. So thanks, Tom and Joan, for making that birthday so memorable.
For most kids these days, birthdays are celebrated as though they are national holidays. I don’t think the Pope in Rome celebrating public mass in St. Peter’s Square is a bigger spectacle than what people do for their kids in our present day world. Kids get expensive gifts and parties—the older ones get a new car, trips to Europe and you name it.
Birthdays when I was a child meant that a new school year was beginning. I really wasn’t overboard about school so no big deal there for me. I generally got back-to-school clothes and shoes and that was the height of my excitement.
I do remember three birthdays that knocked me for a loop though. The first was when I was 29 and turned 30. I thought I had instantly become old. Really, that one was a kicker. Then 40 didn’t vex me because that is the year my writing career took off. So, I thought 40 was a very good year.
The next year that made me stand up and pay attention was when I passed from 59 to 60. All I could think about was that suddenly I was old—all in one fell swoop. However the sting was taken out of that birthday by Tom’s coming up with tickets to see Joan.
The birthday that sizzled my libido was when I went from 79 to 80 and read a statistic that claimed 70 per cent of the people born the year I was (1932) were dead. That meant that Father Time had become my roommate all of a sudden.
Yesterday I turned 82 and it didn’t seem to bother me at all. You see, I’m still going and doing and traveling and writing. I even finished my latest novel MURDER IMPOSSIBLE four days ago. So, I guess I have finally arrived at the point where I don’t believe in calendars anymore. I actually feel young. I remember my grandmother when she hit 87 saying,. “There’s nothing wrong with me except I need a new body.”
So in honor of birthdays, I thought I’d end this blog with a few unusual piece of birthday lore.
- I had forgotten but some people used to smack their kids on the bottom when they had a birthday—one for every year and one to grow on. That would be called child abuse these days.
- In Canada and the USA, Sweet Sixteen parties are thought of as extra special and can cost parents big bucks. In Latin American countries it’s one year earlier at fifteen and is called a quinceañera. It really is a big blowout.
- In the United Kingdom, cards from the Royal Family are sent to those celebrating their 100th and 105th birthdays and every year thereafter.
- In India, on a child’s first birthday, his or her head is shaved while being held by a special fire. Removal of the hair cleanses the child of any evil in past lives, symbolizing a renewal of the soul.
- In China when babies are born, they are 1 year old. Twelve months later they are two. Thus, they all start school a year before we do.
- And here in the USA, we practice the pleasant custom of having a specially decorated cake with one candle for each year on top. We make a wish and if we blow out all the candles, our wish will come true.
- We celebrate certain people’s birthdays: Jesus, Washington, Lincoln, and Martin Luther King and generally get paid for it. Many Catholics have a saint’s day, which is the day of the saint after whom they were named. Presents are also are accepted on that day.
- Based on a Harvard University study, September 16th and October 5th and 6th are the most common birthdays in the United States and December 25 is the least common. September is the month with the most births and some say that is due to a lot of New Year’s celebrating.
Happy Birthday to you too—whatever date yours may fall on.