So today, January 3rd, is my birthday. Wheee!!
When I was a kid I loved that my birthday was at the beginning of the year, so that, for the entire year, I was that age. I liked the black and white certainty of it. I also loved that I was born on the third day of a new decade, so that, not only could I spend the entire year at a certain age, I could also easily know my age based on whatever year it was. So, it’s 1979: I’m nine years old. Now that I’m old and forgetful it’s helpful, too.
Picture me, filling out a form. “AGE?____” the form asks innocently.
“My age? Ummm…I barely know my children’s ages. Oh, wait. What year is it? 2012? Okay, then I must be 42. Phew!”
Now if I can only remember to write the proper year on my checks.
My dad wasn’t as impressed by my choosing January 3rd to be born. He still teases me that he missed an entire year of writing me off his taxes by waiting 3 days too long.
I share my birthday with my grandfather, my dad’s dad. I always thought that was cool, though, to my knowledge, we never spent our birthdays together. I also share it with J.R.R. Tolkien and Victor Borge, thank you very much. Does it get any better than that?
Sadly, January third also is the day that my cat refused to get up. Columbus (so named because he was an explorer from the time he was tiny) was the only kitten of our cat, Josephine (so named because she had a coat of many colors but, being a female, she couldn’t be called Joseph). Columbus liked to sleep beneath the front steps. On the morning of January third circa1980, after I’d left for school, Mom discovered that Columbus, strangely, didn’t seem to want his food.
He never wanted it again.
I realized, a few days later, that I hadn’t seen him recently. My mother, however, in her great wisdom, did not tell me until years later that he had died on my birthday, knowing that I was the kind of kid who would find that to be a dark cloud over my day, an omen of a bad year ahead. Moms are so smart.
I used to try and write a letter to myself, to be read a year later, each year on my birthday. I even wrote one once marked, “To Be Read When You Turn 24.” I was 14 at the time. Yes, believe it or not, I still had it ten years later, though when I read it I was dismally disappointed in the shallow girl revealed therein. Somehow the poignancy of the moment gets lost when you read, “So, do you still have a crush on ____?” I’ve never been good with sentiment.
The luster of birthdays, of course, gets lost as you age. What was once a shining beacon of self-centered joy, luring you on for an entire year, becomes a reminder of mortality, where having a birthday is “better than the alternative”, as well-meaning acquaintances quip.
I always swore I’d never dye my hair. But now that the gray is taking over my temples and the clerks stopped carding me years ago, I’ve had my second-thoughts.
That reminds me of a story. I’ll leave you with this.
My husband and I were out for dinner a couple years ago, somewhere around my birthday. Feeling reckless, I ordered an after-dinner drink, something I rarely do. The waitress, not realizing the absolute daring of my order, dully wrote down my drink on her little pad of paper. She then, with bored tone, said, “Can I see your – ”
And then she looked up at me.
“Oh, nevermind,” she said, and walked away.
My husband, darn his forgiving heart, still tipped her.