I’ve never quite understood why it should be that birthdays are such big deals. People have been fussing over me for three days now. It’s not that I don’t like it or that I’m ungrateful — quite the opposite — but it makes me just a touch uncomfortable. It’s that there doesn’t seem to be much good reason for it. After all, it was my mother who did all the work, not me, and that was thirty-six years ago. Whatever trauma I endured as a newborn is long gone and I have no memory of it today. I don’t feel any different than I did last week, and I predict I feel about the same as I will a week from today. I haven’t achieved much of anything today, other than surviving for thirty-six years. Survival is its own reward (assuming you enjoy life, which I do).
I don’t dislike having a birthday, but it’s kind of like having a friend take you out to a nice meal for no reason at all. You wonder what it’s all about; while you’re grateful and you enjoy it, it doesn’t feel earned or even deserved. So I guess it makes me feel guilty, like I’m taking advantage somehow.
Because my attitude about my own birthday is “Um, hey, no big deal,” I sometimes assume that other people feel like I do about birthdays. That makes me guilty of ignoring them until the last minute; I don’t treat them like special occasions and that might hurt other peoples’ feelings. It’s not that I don’t care about these people or want to insult them through disregard. Rather, it’s that, as with a religious ceremony, I just don’t feel a tremendous amount of emotional power to the event so it’s easy for it to slip my mind. Few people celebrate the anniversary of the first time they did their own laundry, and fewer still would think that was an event worth celebrating with an exchange of gifts, unusually nice meals, or special songs. So if I’ve missed your “laundry day,” you probably won’t be all that offended.
For instance, I found out this morning that my mother-in-law let the date slip her mind and only today did she remember. Doesn’t bother me a bit. Why should it? She’s a nice woman and I like her very much and she likes me; that doesn’t change because of some arbitrary date that’s supposed to be “my” holiday.
Another example: my wife wants to do all sorts of nice things for me today and feels moderately guilty about leaving the house to do something for herself with her Toastmasters group. I say, go, do your thing and enjoy it! I’ll still be here when you get back and we’ll spend time together then. My allergies are acting up this morning anyway; hopefully the medicine will have taken effect by the time she returns.
Like I said before, I’m grateful for the gifts and the attention; it’s nice to have those things and to see people I know and love step up and do and say nice things for me. That includes a lot of the Loyal Readership, who get a special thanks from the TL here. You think it’s important, and maybe that’s what really counts. So thank you, everyone, I do very much appreciate it.
Other famous birthdays of the day. Two great emperors: Gaius Octavius Augustus Caesar, ruler of the Roman empire (“as empires go, this is the big one!”); and Kublai Khan, who ruled over the largest empire the world has ever seen and sponsored the travels of Marco Polo. More recently and familiarly to three generations, Mickey Rooney and Bruce Springsteen, and (born the exact same day as me,) Ani DiFranco. Signfiicant events of this day in history include the Concordat of Worms, the Seige of Vienna, the first graduation ceremony at Harvard, Richard Nixon’s “Checkers speech,” Bob Marley‘s last concert, the peaceful division of Sweden and Norway, and the formation of the nation of Saudi Arabia, the Nintendo Corporation, and the New York Knickerbockers, the first modern baseball club. It’s also the first day of Rosh Hashanah for our observant Jewish friends, so happy new year to you all!