“There are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents… and only one for birthday presents, you know.” –Lewis Caroll
I have found a perplexing phenomenon among my friends: they do all that they can to avoid celebrating their birthdays. While we are entering our mid-twenties, which is a bit disheartening, it’s not that we are too old to want to talk about our age. I miss being in college, wonder what happened to the past three years, but I am not avoiding my age. I don’t know what it is that causes this problem with birthdays. For that matter, I don’t even know what the problem is. It could be the ambivalence we all feel about aging and facing our own mortality. It could be embarrassment when people throw parties and have waiters sing. It could be wanting to appear cool because no one else wants a big celebration, so they have to fit in. I really can’t make sense of it.
I love birthdays! There are few things more worthy of celebration. I firmly believe that a birthday can, and should, be stretched for a full two weeks: the week prior to and the week following the actual day are fair to claim. I had a friend in college who celebrated her birthday month, and I love her for it. It’s a day that is yours, specifically and intimately. You entered this world on your birthday. After months of waiting and preparing, your parents welcomed you, literally labored to meet you. You share the day with them, but it is yours. It is a day to recognize what your life has been, what it will and can be. Perhaps this is the depressing point that causes some to shirk the day, but I think it’s the hopeful, beautiful part. It’s a time to revel in the love that others feel for you, the beautiful uniqueness that is only you. Presents are always a plus, and who doesn’t love cake? We live in a world that does all that it can to bring us down, instill fear and blend us into faceless demographics. We are reminded on a regular basis that, by and large, we are not special. One day each year, that message is erased. We are special. We are something to celebrate, simply for being alive. The act of living, to being who we are for another year, that is enough to warrant a party!
Today is my uncle’s birthday. I hesitated for a moment and almost said “was” his birthday. The reality is, despite the fact that he died, this will always be his day. He won’t be blowing out candles or opening gifts. I did not send him a card and my mom will not call him. All of that is irrelevant. This is still his day. We are all still thinking about him, about who he was and the years that he lived. We are celebrating all that he was, even if it is without him. Your birthday does not stop being your birthday just because you also had a deathday. He was born. He was David, a part of the world, of my family, of me, and that will always be worth celebrating.
“This is the start/ This is your heart/ This is the day you were born/ This is the sun/ These are your lungs/ This is the day you were born… These are the scars/ Deep in your heart/ This is the place you were born/ And this is the hole/ Where most of your soul/ Comes ripping out from the places you’ve been torn/ And it is always, always, always yours…” –Switchfoot, Always