Wednesday, November 17, 2010

You Say It's Your Birthday

Today is my birthday. Two weeks ago, it was Ryan’s birthday. In the past week, two of my friends have had babies. At my last job, I worked in a group with about 20 people and five of us had birthdays in November. November is a wonderful month to be born in! And after carefully counting on my fingers, I’m thinking that Valentine’s Day might just have something to do with it. But I digress…

Birthdays! They’re something that Americans celebrate with great gusto. On your birthday, not only do your friends and family give you presents and good wishes and balloons and cake, but complete strangers do nice things for you. Restaurants offer you a discount, a free meal, or a special dessert. When I was in college, a few friends and I spirited my roommate off to NYC for the night and took her to dinner at a Chinese place. We pulled our waiter aside to let him know it was her birthday, and before we knew it, the entire waitstaff came back with a giant orange taper candle stuck into a scoop of lichee ice cream on a plate, rang a gong, and announced, “Happee burfu-day, An-na!”

I was once in line at the registry to renew my license and during a conversation I struck up with the woman in line behind me, mentioned that my license expired TODAY and immediately half the people in line turned to me and wished me happy birthday.

It’s kind of funny, when you think about it. What are people honoring you for? Being born? It’s not like you had all that much to do with the event. It would make more sense to honor your mom on the day you were born – after all, she did most of the work. You just kind of went along for the ride.

Or maybe they’re honoring you for surviving another year. Congratulations – you managed to go for another 365 days without being hit by a bus, or catching typhoid, or falling off a cliff. Have some cake! Nope, that doesn’t make sense either.

I guess it’s just nice to be recognized for making a contribution to the world, even if the contribution is nothing more than existing. So what have I done in the past year that was a contribution to the universe? I’ve raised a wonderful little boy who’s brought sunshine into many lives. I’ve tried to make my husband’s life happier. I’ve joined in celebrating the anticipated birth of my cousin’s baby and the anticipated wedding of my sister, and I’ve celebrated the actual birth and wedding. I’ve performed on stage and hopefully helped to bring some smiles to people. I’ve supported charities and causes that help those in need. I’ve smiled at tired-looking cashiers, waved harried drivers into a line of traffic ahead of me, and offered a seat to a stranger in church. I’ve laughed and I’ve loved and I’ve tried to give others reason to do the same.

Yeah, I guess I’ve done enough this year to not feel guilty about all the good wishes that people are sending my way. So thanks to you all, and happy birthday to me! Let’s see if I can make this year even more worthy than the last.

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