Today is my birthday. Believe it or not, I am 83 years old. I don’t feel 83 and my outlook on life isn’t 83 at all. In fact, I feel quite young in spirit and am ready to tackle many more adventures—like the big Turkish trip I took just last month.
I know when I was very young, birthdays were instilled into my psyche as something monumental. It took forever it seemed to get from one of these celebrations to the next. There was always some hoopla to celebrate my having been born. The same with the rest of my family from my grandmother to aunts and uncles and cousins. We all had this one magic day in our lives. I loved getting a year older and receiving presents for it besides.
As I got older and older, the birthdays started coming more rapidly than ever it seemed. I entered the world which I will call Hallmark—the swapping of birthday cards. I send you one, you send me one. When I was very young, some paper currency of a small denomination was generally in the card. Later on though I could shake the card and nothing fell out.
All of a sudden instead of birthdays being cake and ice cream and presents, they started becoming mind changers. When I hit forty, all I could think of was the saying: Life begins at 40. In my case that turned out to be true. My writing career took off and I was actually getting paid to write. Others though felt that 40 was the end of their youth and that Father Time had moved in next door. Not me though. I started kicking my heels up and life really became an hors d’oeuvre tray for me.
Then I hit fifty and I began looking in the mirror for wrinkles or laugh lines as many people prefer to call them. I stopped thinking about birthdays as fun days and began feeling that they couldn’t be stopped or slowed down and were to be avoided. (Some of my friends even resorted to lying.) So I kept having those yearly additions to my age and before I knew it, I was a senior citizen. About the only gifts I received were senior discounts.
So here I am at 83. It’s been a great ride and in spite of all these birthdays, I have not slowed down. I just refuse to give in to old age and this constant flurry of birthdays that seem to come every six weeks. I don’t really dwell on numbers. I count the adventures in my life.
Some people have a completely different take on Birthdays. My friend Ken in Paris who is a bit younger than I am says his family never put much stock in birthdays. I used to find that hard to believe—because where I came from, birthdays were a major celebration almost equal to the end of World War II. Anyway Ken’s psyche has not suffered one bit from not annually being told that his day of birth is a national event.
Look around you. Some people really overdo birthdays. These special days are treated with almost Broadway fanfare. This is where I side with Ken. Maybe a gentle remembrance and a birthday card are adequate but to celebrate this day as though it were a monumental event is over-doing it. In many present-day families, super gifts are involved such as Cartier watches, new cars, trips and lavish parties. I guess it’s okay but when you look at the whole birthday scene objectively, you can see that in some cases the event is completely blown out of proportion.
I thought today about birthdays in general as they pertain to a writer. I have figured that for a writer, a birthday can be a very good writing ingredient. Having a birthday in your book, screenplay or stage play is a convenient way to get all your main characters together in a very unique way. Then you can use this situation for something big to happen such as a murder, an accident, a secret revelation. Birthdays are good to incorporate in your writing.
Maybe in real life, birthdays—especially when you hit 83—are nothing really all that different from any other day. It’s still up to you to make the fireworks keep happening in your life.