Almost My Birthday
January is my birthday month, and recently I’ve found myself thinking about the birthdays that I’ve had, in what is very quickly becoming a long life. I’ve never been one to get excited about my birthday, although as a child, each year after starting school, I was given a birthday party with school friends invited. My main memory of these parties are there was always a beautiful ice cream birthday cake, and that they were joint parties with my cousin, Ross. Ross is a couple of years younger than me, and his birthday is just a few days after mine. My aunt and uncle and four cousins lived next door to us, so we were quite close. I can understand why it made sense to our mothers to combine our birthday parties. At the time however, I could never understand why we had to have joint parties, meaning that younger boys would also be there. Of course, as soon as I had children of my own, I understood completely.
Finally, in 1967, I was told I could have my choice of birthday party. I’m sure that it was stressed that it be within reason of course. I chose to invite my two friends, who were sisters, to dinner, or tea, as we called it in those days. After that, we would go to the movies. I often went to their house, but now it was my turn to return the favour and I was very excited. I asked Mum if we could have meringues topped with cream and strawberries. This was quite fancy in those days before the pavlova became popular. The day arrived, and as was usual for my birthday, the temperature quickly rose to unbearable heights. In those days before air conditioning, I felt thankful that we had decided to go to the movies after our meal. The movie theatre was the only place in town with air conditioning. But I still remember to this day, that when it came time to serve up the meringues, horror of all horrors, the cream had gone off. Refrigeration then wasn’t as it is today, and our fridge was found wanting in very high temperatures. Mum was not happy, and we didn’t have our dessert, but we weren’t bothered about it at all. We went off to he movies and watched the screen adaptation of the musical, South Pacific. I loved this movie so much, and for days and days after, was constantly singing I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair. Even today, when hear that song, it brings back memories of my thirteenth birthday.
At the time of my 21st birthday, I had already been married for eighteen months and had given birth to my son Steven, just two months earlier. My 21st was the last thing on my mind, with all the worries of a young mum who was struggling to do everything right for her first baby ,and not at all confident that she instinctively knew what to do. I had no idea how to look after a baby until he came along. My whole life revolved around my son, and really my birthday wasn’t on my radar. My cousin invited us over to visit with no mention at all of my birthday. They lived out of town on a farm, and had small children themselves, so we would often go out there to visit pm Saturday nights, and this day was no different, so I made no effort at all to dress up. Imagine my horror to hear ‘surprise!’ shouted at us as we entered, and to see all my family, waiting for my reaction and looking forward to the birthday party that was to follow. I’ve always been thankful that my cousin was thoughtful enough to organise a suprise party for me, but I never was a party girl, and spent most of the night feeling quite embarassed about it all.
When my 60th birthday in 2014, was approaching, for some reason, I started to feel the need to celebrate. The years after 2006 had been quite stressful, after the breakdown of my marriage, but I was in a new relationship, which at the time, I was holding high hopes for. Turning 60 for me felt like a time of renewal and I felt the need to mark it in some way. I knew immediately that I didn’t want to have a big party, or even a small party. At the time, I was extremely fit, probably the fittest that I had ever been in my life. I was cycling, training in the gym, and competing in many fun runs. In a lightbulb moment, and without giving it much serious thought, I decided that for my 60th birthday celebration, I would go to Spain and walk the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimmage walk, finishing at Finisterre, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. This would be a walk of over 1000 kilometres that I would do alone. I’ve posted about my experiences many times on this blog, and probably will continue to do so in the future, as this walk was the best thing that I have ever done in my life. When I think of it now, the joy and self satisfaction that I felt on finishing the walk, and still feel, bring tears to my eyes. Walking the Camino de Santiago was the perfect birthday celebration for me!
As you can see, there are large gaps between memories of my birthday celebrations. I never felt the need as an adult, to celebrate my birthday until I turned 60, and I probably won’t celebrate my birthday again in the future, even though these days my partner and I usually go out for a quiet dinner celebration for both our birthdays. He is very similar to me, and feels no need to celebrate his birthday in a big way.
Do you have a special birthday memory? I’d love to hear about it and promise to reply to all comments.
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