The Forgotten Birthdays
For my friends celebrating their birthday during the holidays.
I turn 43 at the end of this month. It’s an unremarkable milestone. My birthday is a mere four days after Thanksgiving. Most years, my birthday is quiet because all my friends are away with their families, hunkered down and working on their third (and hopefully last) day of turkey sandwiches.
This year there will be no party for a different reason, sort of. The responsible among us will be staying put in our various bubbles to avoid the largest COVID spike to date. Our significant others, our children, maybe a friend or two if they aren’t super-spreaders will (and should) be the extent of our celebratory bubble.
Those of us with birthdays between now and January 2nd (probably longer really) will be afterthoughts.
To have a holiday birthday means not having a birthday party. It means having our birthday present mushed together with whatever gift-giving celebration we happen to celebrate. “HAPPY BIRTHMAS!”
But with everything we all have endured this year, the woes of us with holiday season birthdays are as insignificant as they ever could be. Except they bring an added layer of longing and missing.
I haven’t seen my brother since my fiance and I hosted an amazing New Year’s eve party. Our home was filled with family and friends drinking, laughing, dancing, hugging, and kissing. Things we took for granted until this year. I miss him.
Missing holiday events with family can be tough. It is, however, a shared sadness. Knowing that others were in the same position somehow makes it more bearable. It’s why we created things like Friendsgiving. Ragtag gatherings of lonely souls breaking bread together and enjoying fellowship they might not have had otherwise.
Birthdays, on the other hand, are singular affairs. They are individual celebrations that we hope others deem worthy of celebrating with you.
I have had all of four birthday parties my entire life. The first one at age two, the second at age thirty, the third at age forty, and the last at forty-two (a magnanimous gesture by my future wife to scrape up a small gathering of folks willing to grace me with their presence on my “big” day). There was also the surprise “Shane Day” birthday party she threw for me in July. But that’s a story for another day.
Outside of those four parties, my birthdays have been quiet affairs. At best, they were spent with the closest available loved ones. At their worst, it was just me. This year I am fortunate to be with my soon to be wife and my children. Given the extraordinary circumstances we all find ourselves under, that is more than enough.
I’m lucky. Many others will be less so.
In a year where finding something to celebrate has been particularly difficult (presidential elections aside), maybe the holiday birthday can be a way to throw some extra happiness into what has a bleak year.
To those of you who have the misfortune of having a birthday at this most inconvenient time of year, please treat yourself if nobody else can. Make your own party if you must. Zoom parties don’t hit the same, I know, but for better or for worse, it maybe your best option.
For the rest of you, send that friend with a Christmas eve birthday a gift, a meal, a drink if they indulge. If that person is a part of your bubble, make this birthday, regardless of age, a big deal.
Decorate, sing, and eat cake because any reason to laugh is worth it for all of us.