Full disclosure: I love my birthday, always have. I am not one of those people who has an aversion to racking up age-numbers, because I love all the things that come with age: driver’s licenses, renting hotels rooms, coming into your own as adult, and lowering your car insurance rates.
I get a lot of pleasure out of celebrating my birthday, from the simple to the elaborate. I’ve done everything from the basic “cake and card” days (always appreciated), to a private movie night at the Alpine (fantastic idea for all of us!), and even larger. For one of my birthdays, my friends (the always-creative Snyders) threw me a party with a surprise BOUNCE HOUSE. You read that right: 15 adults, one backyard bounce house, hours of fun, and has since got me aspiring to one day have a party with an adult ball pit, as soon as I can find a friend with an empty pool.
But like most kids, my parents have been the ones to come through with great birthdays. The most memorable one was the time they took me out of school for ten days in April to visit Philadelphia and spend time at the beach in Ocean City, Maryland; memorable mostly because we came home from that birthday trip to a letter from the JCO truant officer, outlining why ten days for a birthday trip was perhaps too many unexcused school days. A letter my parents proudly hung of their refrigerator door for a good three months, because they always understood that there were consequences for everyone’s actions, but a lot of the time, the good outweighs the bad. And since they weren’t the ones who had to make up ten days of fourth-grade math homework, their consequences were pretty light, lol.
For this year, my mom on Corona-tirement had the time to really think about doing something special for me, although she is a master every year at doing good birthdays, because she is by far the best gift-giver I’ve ever known. She can’t remember the last names of some of my oldest friends, but she can recall a pair of earrings from six months that I vaguely said I liked in a store. So when I went up to see her Saturday evening, I expected something to match the energy of the 7 a.m. phone call I received from her wishing me a happy birthday and reminding me that I “came into the world two hours later, at 9:34 a.m.” When I pointed out that’s actually the time my brother was born, she helpfully reminded me that she almost called me at 4 a.m. Saturday morning, so I should be grateful and thankful I came into the world at all.
We sat happily on her porch, watching the spring storm clouds roll in the distance, and she said: “So let me tell you what I had planned, Ceason. I was going all out this year: I was going to send lunch to the office for you all to celebrate on Friday, but half of you weren’t going to be there, so that was out. Then I was going to send flowers, but I couldn’t get ahold of Evergreen Florist to order them. Then I was I going to get your favorite meat-lovers pizza for dinner, but I only had time to go to Sam’s, and you don’t like their frozen pizza, so I hope you brought your own birthday dinner in that Kroger bag. Then I tried to go to Hallmark to get you a card, but I couldn’t get in the store to pick you out one, and you can’t just tell the clerks through the window ‘Please find me a meaningful birthday card about my daughter that you don’t know’ and expect that to happen. So then I thought I’d just get you some celebration cupcakes, and I picked up six of them, but then there was an accident at the house, so now you’re down to three. So happy birthday: I tried.”
We laughed for a good five minutes over her Corona-ruined plans, because that’s where we are at right now in the world: the “I tried” phase. The March-April-May-June-July birthday babies: we are always going to remember that 2020 was the year where the effort someone put in for our birthdays is going to count as much, if not more, than any gifts or elaborate celebrations. Because the old adages about celebrations are true: you rarely remember the gifts you were given, but you always remember who you were with and the memories you made.
I’m sure someone gave me a gift at the Bounce House party, but all I remember is 90s hip hop and bouncing with my buds. I’ll certainly hold on to the cartoon “Princess Sophia the First” birthday card my mom scrounged up for this year, but I’ll remember even more how she tried to do something really nice and was failed at every turn. And I will remember how much we laughed about it as we sat on her porch on a spring evening, and for that bit of time, COVID-19 wasn’t doing anything more to our world than providing a factual backdrop for why we only had three cupcakes and a snack-size bag of Goldfish crackers to celebrate with.
So to all you spring and summer babies whose birthday plans have been or will be ruined by quarantine, take this to heart: you are worth celebrating, no matter what’s happening in the world, so let the people around you (and you! Take time to celebrate yourself) do their best to make your day special, and take the missteps for what they are, the greatest gift we all get on our birthdays: one more good memory.