Today is my birthday. Not too many years ago that would have been written with an exclamation point. Isn’t it funny how when we were young our birthdays were second only to Christmas, then as we get older it fades away into just another day. Oh sure, there are important birthdays like 16 (well now 17) when you get your driver’s license, 18 and adulthood, 21 even more adult privileges, 30 and the last of your insurance breaks. I suppose all of those birthdays that end in a zero are also important milestones but really all of the important birthdays end at 30.
I remember what birthdays were like as a kid. All of the anticipation of what you might get for a present, what kind of cake you wanted and most importantly what treat you were going to take to school. Yes, I grew up in the days of taking candy or some other sugary treat for your birthday. That practice that is now frowned upon in some schools and classrooms because of the health implications and the policy in those places is strictly enforced by the fun police. For the record, my candy of choice was M&Ms, they were plain because I think I pre-date the peanut variety.
The cake was another difficult decision. There were so many choices and only one time that I got to pick. I think I almost always went with the chocolate variety. Mom wasn’t much on decorating or frosting cakes, but for this special occasion she made frosting and decorated. OK, so the decorations on every birthday cake at our house were the same plastic circus train, I am not sure where it came from but it made two appearances a year at our house.
We also got to pick our birthday dinner and that was not nearly such a hard choice. In my early childhood it was my Mom’s homemade pizza. She made pizza with square corners long before Little Caesars. It was out of necessity because Mom made her pizza on a cookie sheet. As I got older, I got worldlier and changed my request to steak. By the way, my standing birthday dinner order remains steak to this day.
Birthday parties weren’t an expectation at our house when I was growing up. My birthday is the end of September and my sister’s is the middle of October. You learn early as a farm kid that the farm always has the priority. I only had one party and it came to a screeching halt (pun intended) when I ran over my friend Gus with my bicycle (no brakes and a game of tag is not a good idea). Later on Mom admitted that she was not too keen on the idea of a birthday party and the bicycle incident only re-enforced that idea (a concept I fully understood after hosting birthday parties for my kids). Our birthday celebrations were usually quick dinners wedged in during harvest or wheat drilling.
I left the whole birthday present thing until last. Honestly, I can’t remember a single thing that I got for my birthday. Don’t worry, we always got a present and it was usually something fun that we had asked for, but I really don’t recall exactly what any of the presents were. All I remember was that it was my day and I was the only one who got presents. I do know that we only got one present from Mom and Dad and we appreciated it.
Fast forward to the present day, my birthday is still a really good day. My daughter got up early to cook breakfast for me and plans on baking a birthday cake for me later on. I am sure my wife is planning a steak dinner for this evening and I got a couple of great meaningful gifts. But to be honest, the best gift I could get today would be to start harvest. Sometimes I hate being an adult.
Maybe it is sad that our birthday goes from being one of the two or three best days of the year to just another day. Sure, every ten years is that “special” birthday when everyone pokes fun at your age and make sure the whole world knows how old you are. I guess in retrospect while birthdays may not be such a big deal when you get to be an adult, they are still important. After all it is a day to reflect on all the good memories and blessings in our lives that came in the past year. It is also a day to look forward and wonder what the next 364 days might hold.