Guest Post: What's in a birthday?

Today Squeaky Books welcomes Miss Clark from The Blue Castle. She talks about what exactly a birthday means.

“After all, what are birthdays? Here today and gone tomorrow.” A.A. Milne

Indeed they are. They last for but a brief twenty-four hours and we are rarely even awake to enjoy all of them. And they are such tricky things, for after all, what are they?

I love celebrating birthdays. We look forward to this day as children because of the presents, the cake, the attention, this special day meant just for us. As we grow older, we still anticipate our birthday because of these things, but we also start to wonder more and more about just why it is we are celebrating and what makes it a birthday.

Growing up with five siblings, my birthday was indeed the only day in a year that was just mine. The one day I got to choose my meal, choose a game that everyone would play or a movie we would all watch. Weather permitting, I could choose somewhere to go. I got to pick my cake flavor or dessert (as I went in for pie as often as not), declare a theme for the decoration of it and was allowed to give suggestions for gifts. My birthdays were rarely exciting affairs and never extravagant parties. One of my earliest birthdays was spent sick with the flu at my grandparents and it is one of my favorite childhood memories. Not because I was too sick to have cake or eat ice cream. Certainly not because I was stuck inside the whole duration of our visit and not allowed to play with my cousins. No, it was because my grandpa spent most of it with me putting together the puzzles I had received for my birthday and he died a year later yet I’ll never forget those hours we spent at the kitchen table. Because I’ll never forget how excited I was that my uncle brought me an Angelina Ballerina book to read in bed, the first I ever owned. I have spent numerous birthdays since on the road whilst traveling since my birthday tends to fall during a family ski trip. I am usually away from part of my family with various other relatives and acquaintances, but they have all been good days. I rarely receive any gifts until I return home and cake doesn’t usually make an appearance. Men in my connection are not good about such things – I am lucky if they remember it is my birthday until halfway through the day. Even more of my birthdays have fallen during the rush of getting ready for this or that and it is always, always a last minute event. But I have loved each one because of what each birthday has truly been celebrating.

A birthday is a day we are able to show a person how much we care about them and what they mean to us. We spend time with them, we get a gift, we share a special outing or meal with them, we’ll play a game, we sit down and write them a letter or give them a call when we cannot be there in person. There are as many ways and customs to mark a birthday as there are cultures and nations around the world. It all comes down to the honor and delight taken in acknowledging the powerful presence that this life has on the world, on our world, by being there. That is why birthdays are such happy times – they are all about life – the wonder and sheer joy of it.

I love birthdays because they mean birthdays hugs (from dad which are the most perfect hugs), and birthday kisses (from little baby brothers which are the most adorable), and calls and letters from my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my friends, all these people who let me know that they care about me.

And yes, the gifts. Birthdays are not quite what they ought to be without a gift or several. But so we are clear, it is not the mere acquisition of items that matters. It is the thought behind a gift, especially a gift that is so clearly the product of someone really knowing you and really caring about you and wishing to show that in a tangible manner. And great food and family and friends.

So, Enna, here is wishing you many happy returns of the day. I pray you have many, many more birthdays and may they all be a true celebration of the gift of your life.

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