By Don Meyer, Ph.D.
“You know you are getting old when the candles cost more than the cake.”
Few family traditions imbed themselves in our memories more than our birthday celebrations.As a child, my birthdays were marked by modest family gifts and my mother’s homemade cake with candles creatively aligned in just the right way.
One of my favorite childhood photographs was taken on October 22, 1953, the same day I turned eight and my great-grandfather, Myer Gibble, turned 80. Evie remembers how her mother always prepared her favorite meal for her birthday—navy bean soup.
How could we celebrate a birthday without birthday cards?Evie and I usually give each other two or more cards because one just doesn’t begin to capture everything we are trying to say to each other.And, those which come from other family members and colleagues and friends all capture, in part, the cherished relationships we build over the years.
More and more birthday greetings come to us through E-cards and Facebook notes.Friends and family from across the years can easily reach to us across the miles through these amazing technologies.
Birthday gifts change over the years, too.But no matter what we give, we always want it to convey our love and appreciation and celebration for another year.Some caution is always in order for as Erma Bombeck once said, “A friend never defends a husband who gets his wife an electric skillet for her birthday.”
Then there was Steven Wright who said, “For my birthday I got a humidifier and a de-humidifier…I put them in the same room and let them fight it out.”
As the years move on our focus at birthday celebrations shifts.Early in life, we think more about what we are getting than what we are giving.When we fall in love or we have children or grandchildren, however, we think more of what we are giving than what we are getting. Evie and I remember when that happened to us.When our youngest son, Kevin, became a father, he described how that also readily happened to him.
Even though our sons, Darin and Kevin are now 44 and 42, we still send them each a card and a gift for their birthday and, on their special day, we call them and sing in perfect harmony “Happy Birthday” over the phone.
However, it is now Noah, our ten-year old grandson, who gets most of the birthday attention in the family.One of the gift highlights we give him is the book of pictures Evie and I prepare from the five or so times we are together between his last birthday and his next.Since he lives in Minnesota, those times are cherished indeed.That tradition has become one of our favorite…and his.
One of the most memorable birthdays we celebrate is our Golden Birthday, sometimes called our “Lucky Birthday” or “Star Birthday.”This birthday occurs when the day of the month is the same day as the age of the person’s birthday.This year, our niece’s two children have their Golden Birthdays.Nathan turns 11 on October 11 and Sidney turns 8 on August 8.And, ironically, their parents, Jeff and Tami, will celebrate their 17th wedding anniversary on August 17.What a year it is for their family.
Birthday celebrations are also a time to look back and also to look ahead.Recent birthdays have caused me to wonder where all of the years have gone.So many have now passed by that if someone references the evidence of a mild summer sun tan on me, I tend to reply, “Do you know what that is called when you are over 60?”To which I immediately reply, “Rust.”
Lauren Hutton said, “We have to be able to grow up.Our wrinkles are our medals of the passage of life.They are what we have been through and who we want to be.”
Happy birthday to you.
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is President ofValley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA
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