Tag Archives: birthdays

Birthday blues?

My birthday has me down. It’s not the age itself. As a matter of fact, there’s something appealing about the alliteration of fifty-five. It helps take the sting out of a number that it would be tough to argue is still middle-aged. No, this year, anticipating the number, which climbs inexorably every year, didn’t provoke anxiety or even mild teeth gnashing. The most I could muster was indifference, and that’s not like me.

I’ve always looked forward to my birthday, co-opting the date, December 25, as my own. I call it Judymas. Yes, I was born on Christmas. (When I say that, people ask, “Christmas day?” Yes, Christmas day, otherwise I would say Christmas Eve or the day after Christmas, or whatever.) It’s not the most convenient day to have a birthday. I’ve written about that before, so I’m sure you know the drill; no one to play with because everyone’s busy with their families, and thank goodness I like Chinese food because there are no other restaurants open. But despite the whole, “I’m Jewish and don’t celebrate Christmas,” thing, I do love the attention I get when people discover my birthday; that brief moment when I feel special. I don’t feel special any more.

Maybe I’m finally starting to grow up. I can no longer selfishly put myself above everything else that’s happening in the world to expect, nay demand, attention. Or maybe I’ve finally realized that I never was special. I generated my own PR and acted as a one-woman cheerleading squad. When I stopped cheering, things were strangely quiet.

I don’t want you to think that my husband and daughter failed me on my birthday. They didn’t. An appropriate fuss was made. There was breakfast in bed, with presents, and I got to pick the movie we went to that afternoon. My grousing is no reflection on them; it’s all about me (suggesting that maybe I haven’t overcome that selfish streak after all).

It’s commonly accepted that there are people who tend to get depressed around the holidays. Since the big one is Christmas, which I don’t celebrate, it doesn’t seem sporting of me to claim ‘holiday blues,’ but maybe that’s all it is. Yes, holidays and a touch of seasonal affective disorder—two sick parents, friends who are mourning, the loss of a beloved pet, disruption of personally satisfying pursuits—wait a second, I may be onto something here. That’s a lot of weight to have been carrying around (not to mention that I’m a stress eater and the last few months have been stressful so you know what that means). Could it be that on the run-up to my birthday I ran out of energy?

Yesterday my father had an encouraging doctor’s visit and we left feeling upbeat for the first time in a while. Our new kitten, Harper, is adorable (and we don’t really need a plant in the living room). Andrew likes his job and I’m confident that Hannah will go to college next year. Tonight we’ll be celebrating the New Year with friends. Objectively speaking, life could be worse. It seems obvious to me now; my New Year’s resolution will be to learn some new cheers, for me and you. Happy 2014.

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It’s your birthday! Don’t just sit there!

My gift-giving history has some people wondering if I’m trying to kill my husband. For his thirtieth birthday I gave him a ride in a hot air balloon. When he turned forty I arranged for him to go sky-diving. Last year I sent him up in a bi-plane. You know, the kind of old-fashioned plane that has no ceiling and the pilot sits behind you. The kind where, theoretically, the pilot could flip the plane upside down and the only thing between you and disaster would be the worn leather straps crossed over your chest.

There were some sharp intakes of breath when the family heard about the hot air balloon ride, but most thought floating over the countryside sounded romantic. They were much more nervous about the idea of sky diving and one aunt made it very clear that she thought I was being downright irresponsible. Despite her fears, he made it up, and down, in one piece.

In any case, I am most emphatically not trying to kill my husband. He likes to be up in the air, and I like to give experiential gifts, particularly for significant birthdays that end in zero, that leave him with memories. Dementia aside, memories last forever. Tangible things go in and out of vogue; they break, wither or fade; or are too expensive to contemplate in the first place.

(If you read my blog regularly, you may be getting tired of reading about presents, but this is a big year for significant birthdays in my family, and they’ve been on my mind a lot lately. I promise, after this, no more gift posts.)

My sister told me flat out that she wasn’t interested in jumping out of a plane ─ I wasn’t even going to suggest it! ─ and my sister-in-law suggested I curb my Fear Factor urges for her husband’s upcoming birthday. Apparently I’ve developed somewhat of a reputation for giving gifts that leave people feeling that they’re living on the edge. And maybe I do, but isn’t it more memorable if your heart rate goes up a bit?

I can provide earthbound experiences as well; a trip to a day spa; a B&B in Maine. I’m dying to give someone the opportunity to swim with a Beluga whale at the Mystic Aquarium. What an experience that would be! Who wouldn’t love that?

As it happens, one of the upcoming honorees is a homebody who wants nothing more than to let the significant birthday slide by unobserved, no hot air balloons, no field trips, no Beluga whales. I’ve been pondering this problem for a while now and have concluded that in this particular case, the best way to remember a significant birthday might be to pretend it never happened. But there is a helicopter tour of Newport that looks awfully inviting…

This post is dedicated to Paul. Happy Birthday