Birthdays I have Known and Enjoyed and Occasionally Regretted

By on June 12, 2012

I had a birthday yesterday. It lasted all day.

I woke up feeling no older than I did the day before, but not feeling I had slept the sleep of children. It was a nice day. Sunny. Not too hot. Read the newspaper. Paid a bill or two. Went out. Had lunch with a friend out-of-town and then dinner with a family member at a new place in the country. Very nice. Looked like an english country tavern. They served bubble-and-squeak, and bangers-and-mash. I had neither. (see below) Talked to several well-wishers (much appreciated) during the day. Got a slew of thoughtful emails. Went to bed about 10. TV was yammering away about the election as I dozed off the first time.

I am past the “Oh-Wow”-phase of birthdays. As a kid, they were eagerly anticipated. Presents, cake, balloons, ice cream, friends, celebrating, lots of favorable attention. Maybe a party. Any scolding would wait. Everything just came your way for a day,


I am past the It’s-My-Birthday-Again!-phase too. Something nice would intrude into studying or a summer job or a vacation or just ‘messing around.’ Birthdays felt good. Celebrating doing interesting things was great! Maybe you ate too much, or drank too much or did something slightly off-the-wall that you can’t quite remember, but hey, it’s your birthday, isn’t it? You were moving up in the world, and birthdays meant greater autonomy and stature was on its way. Girls your age like older men. You were getting older.


I am past the point of it’s-your-day-at-the-office-type birthdays as well. Cards. More jokes about age. A nice little moment in the work day, if anybody remembers at all. Usually your family remembers. A card always comes in a day late. You are glad people remembered you at all some years. What happened to all those girls who liked older men? Well, first you got married, and then there is this growing ring of flesh around your mid-section. And is that hairline receding at the temples???? Some times birthdays are just another day with a short break in it.

No, I am in the birthdays-as-another-milestone-on-the-way-to-senility phase. The day arrives. It’s on your e-calendar. Your realize it is really your birthday again. You have been trying not to think about it. You look in the mirror to see how much more visible aging has been going on lately. What hurts today? What will stop hurting once you get going? What won’t? Have you forgotten something? Are you active enough? Who’s been in the obituary columns. Oh him. I remember seeing him years ago in the movies. How close in age are you to him? Beethoven was dead by the time he was my age. So was Hemingway and Errol Flynn. Theodore Roosevelt and Secretariat.

There is no cake, no ice cream, no liquor this year. It is a sensible birthday. One of several recent sensible birthdays. No one will jump out of a cake. (They never did. Maybe people thought I was not the cake-jumping-out-of  type.) I know that former president George H W Bush used to jump out of planes on some of his latter birthdays, but I read recently he can’t walk now. So none of that. Sensible. sensible. Disgustingly sensible. No pitcher of Singapore slings. No baked potato with three kinds of cholesterol on it. This year I don’t even miss it, for the first time. No jumping. Sensible.

I am away from most of my family members this year. I miss them. And the good friends I have known. I miss them as well. Someone once observed that your friends come and go but your enemies accumulate. Luckily that is not completely true. Someone else said a good friend is someone who knows you well and likes you anyway. Well that’s true. About me at least. You want to hold on to those people.


Thank goodness for the internet and modern digital communications. Those friends who like you anyway can all be there for a moment, electronically. Great Day! What were Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘s birthdays like I wonder? Fairly grim, I would imagine. No instant messaging. No cell phone calls from friends in the stocks in the town square. No parties with your publisher. Sewing the books together took years. No texting from the stake in Salem Massachusetts. Nobody popping out of cakes.

So I went to bed last night for another year, not sleeping the sleep of children, and waiting for another milepost to appear up there in about a year, if I’m lucky. In between, there are things to accomplish: words to write, messages to return, good fights to fight, losing battles to wage, girls to kiss (see picture of Errol), dragons to slay, winning causes to celebrate, heroes to honor —  and megabytes to go before I sleep.



Tom Godfrey



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