On a Thursday evening in April 1976, a couple in their driveway heard their neighbors call out, “Are you having the baby?”
The husband shouted, “Yes!”, much to the excitement of the neighbors. Followed quickly by, “April Fools! No, we’re just headed to Lamaze class.” You see, their baby wasn’t due for two more weeks.
Later that same night the couple headed to their car again, this time the husband shouting to the neighbors, “We’re having the baby!”
“Yeah, right”, replied the neighbor to the father-to-be who cried April Fools.
“No, I’m serious this time!”
“Really? Congratulations! Good Luck!”
And at 3:12 am on Friday, April 2, two weeks early, I came screaming into the world. The first and last time I’ve arrived early for anything.
Many birthdays have followed.
My first birthday, when my parent’s camera broke. I like to think I was just too cute and the camera couldn’t take it. The only evidence left of that day is two hazy, hard-to-see pictures taken with old film on a camera borrowed from the neighbors.
The Big Bird Cake birthday. I loved this cake! My mom baked all my birthday cakes and they were always delicious, but this one…this one had Big Bird’s nest made out of malted milk balls and gum drops to hold the candles. Are you kidding me?? Unbelievable!
The year the weather attacked my birthday. In April in the Midwest it could have been a snowstorm or a thunderstorm. I can’t remember what delayed my party, but as you can see by my expression in the picture above, I was none too pleased.
And then there was Golf Land. The “invite your friends from school” year. I don’t know whose idea that was. It certainly wasn’t mine. And I don’t think mom was too keen on the party planning and the wrangling of other people’s kids. Dad? You’re the only one left. I’m pegging this as your idea. I saw these kids seven hours a day, five days a week already, I didn’t need to play miniature golf and drink punch with them on a Saturday afternoon. I preferred an evening of relatives, cake, and presents…and cake…and presents. Maybe a little crepe paper and a couple of balloons. Thankfully, the Golf Land experiment only had to happen once for all of us to confirm it wasn’t our cup of tea.
This past Tuesday was my 37th birthday. I was looking forward to spending it completely on my own. Time for new traditions. These days I can take or leave the cake and I don’t need any presents. I’m all about low key, so I took the day off work and decided to just relax and do all the things I love to do.
The celebration began Monday night at 5:01 pm. Nearly pulled a hammy race walking to my car after work. Should’ve stretched first. Ate dinner at Panera and read a book. Bought a chocolate chip cookie and an orange scone for my birthday pastries. Spent too long reading at Panera so by the time I got to Barnes and Noble I only had 55 minutes for my birthday book browsing extravaganza. Made it through magazines, the display tables, mysteries, history, and was right in the middle of biographies when they politely informed us all we had 5 minutes to hit the door. Made it out purchase free, a rarity for me in a bookstore. Went home and watched the 100th episode of Castle. (Thanks for coordinating that with my birthday, Castle creator, Andrew Marlowe. It was great!)
Tuesday, ate lunch at…Panera and read. Yes, twice within 24 hours. Would like to tell you I at least ordered something different, but that would be a lie. Spent the rest of the day roaming about town, responding to Facebook birthday wishes between stops. At night I read, I watched a movie, I ate my weight in ice cream. It was a lovely day.
I’ve never dreaded growing older. On the contrary. I’ve always been fascinated by all the stories those who were older than me had to tell. My grandpa could sit and tell stories for hours. I knew each one by heart, but still loved to sit and listen to him. He would sit in his chair and rock and look off in the distance as he talked about growing up, and life in the Air Force, and driving to job sites at four in the morning when he inspected highway construction. Each day you live you gather more stories to tell.
When I was little I distinctly remember looking down at my hands, waiting for the day they would look “grown up” with veins winding over the bones. Even at that age it intrigued me to think when your hands looked like that it meant you had worked hard and you had stories to tell. When the lines on your forehead deepen it means you’ve questioned, you’ve been surprised, and, yes, you’ve probably been outraged once or twice too. When you develop lines at the sides of your eyes when you smile it means you’ve smiled a lot and you’ve got stories to tell.
Well, here I am after 37 years on this planet. Only 37. I plan on many, many more birthdays, but I can tell you my hands definitely look “grown up”. And when I smile into the mirror and see the lines starting to form around my eyes, I’ve never once thought anything other than “my eyes look happy”. And I’m excited for each new day that brings a new story to tell.