The year I turned 4 was my first memory of a birthday. The only reason that I can remember that one is because I came down with the German measles just a week before my birthday, and along the way that first week developed pneumonia also.
My mother kept me in a dark bedroom the whole two weeks and the doctor came to our house each day to check on me. Back then they thought the measles would ruin your eyes if you were not kept in the dark for the whole time.
On my birthday they bought me a little red wagon, and because it was in the middle of winter and I had the measles, dad pulled me around the living room in a circle in my new wagon. The living room was probably not much bigger than 8’ by 8’ so he had only a small space in the middle to pull me. But I loved it, and enjoyed every minute of it until mom would make me go back into the dark bedroom.
The doctor told mom that every year at about the same time I would get sick, and probably with pneumonia, and he was right, so I had very few birthday parties as a child. I had pneumonia almost every year.
The next birthday that was exciting to me was when I turned 16 and I could get my driver’s license. It was the most thrilling day of my life to that point. Having the driver’s license was a ticket to freedom.
Dad bought me an old 51 Chevy when I turned 16, and it was the most wonderful present ever. Even though it was an ugly green and did not have a radio or heater, and the driver side door flew open if you went around a corner to fast, it was a set of wheels to get me where I wanted to go.
I had been so envious of the country kids because they had been able to drive since they were 14, to do errands for their folks. Some of my friends took advantage of that rule, and would carry some nuts and bolts or a loaf of bread in the back seat, so if they got stopped they could say they had been on an errand for their parents. Now how fair was that?
As I think back over the years, the only birthday that really bothered me was my 25th. I had a real hard time getting through that day. When you said 24, it still sounded like a young girl, but TWENTY-FIVE. I was now a quarter of a century old. A QUARTER OF A CENTURY!! Egad, how did I get to be that old?
The girls I worked with at the beauty salon had decorated my mirror with a black cloth drape over it, and picked on me all day about being a quarter of a century. My cake had black decorations and 25 candles all ablaze. I did not see the humor in any of this; I grouched all day and snapped at everybody when they teased me about being a quarter of a century.
Then birthdays just came and went without incident until the 30th and the girls all got on my case about the big 30, but it was a non event to me, even though my best friend had decorated the windows of the salon and my mirror with big 30 signs and had even come out in the middle of the night and put a large sign on the house.
When I turned 39, I got so annoyed at people who asked how old I was, and then would say “sure Jack Benny Jr. and how many years have you been 39?” So by spring I decided to just tell them I was 40.
I remained 40 years old for two years and no one seemed to notice. The 40’s seemed to pass by without much fanfare; there were none that really seemed to bother me or mean that much.
When I turned 50 it didn’t affect me like it did most, but birthdays are a reality check as you pass the half-century mark. They make you consider whether you have more behind you or in front of you. Since I come from a family that usually lives well into their nineties, I figured I was just a little over half way.
Fifty years old didn’t seem to sound as old as HALF A CENTURY. But that still didn’t bother me as much as the 25th did. I decided birthdays are better than the alternative.
The big 60 turned out to be another one that I didn’t mind. I still had a few years to prepare for the next big milestone of 70. I was looking forward to the 62nd so I could apply for social security and then Medicare when I was old enough.
When the birthday reality check comes around every year to slap us in the face and we turn another year older, I guess it is all a matter of mind over matter. If you don’t mind then it doesn’t matter. Isn’t the new 40 now 70?? If so then I am not even to middle age yet! To email Sandy: [email protected]