I don’t like birthdays. One year, my parents almost forgot mine. I had to remind them at the end of the day… and I’m an only child!
The good-natured, broken-English response I received was, “Everyday your birthday!”
Truthfully, I’m not that bitter. Maybe I need some therapy. But I’m not bitter. Snicker, snicker.
Don’t misunderstand, my childhood was and my parents are wonderful in many ways. But when it comes to birthdays, my family has an obvious deficiency.
So as my big 4-0 approached (or encroached) I welcomed it with arms open wide, like I would an obnoxious nagging in-law, come to stay a few weeks.
Only, getting older never goes away, at least, not in this lifetime. So I’ve had to find a way to make the most of it.
Some of my more celebratory friends believe that birthdays are often things for which to look forward. In the spirit of growing older with grace and wisdom, as opposed to becoming the town’s grumpy old woman, I have tried, really hard, to see it from their perspective.
So I attempted to make sense of and unearth my own way of honoring a milestone. And what did I discover?
I am a beauty whore. (Please don’t stop here, lest you receive a completely deranged version of what I’m about to dissect.)
I am infatuated with and addicted to beauty – not the kind in Cosmopolitan magazine; but of all things beautiful, I am obsessed (scenery, art, food, well-behaved children, you get the idea.)
What does this have to do with birthdays? For me, it’s a time to remind myself of beauty in my life, past, present and future.
I’ve been known to find beloved authors and devour their works in a week (if they have fewer than 3 books). When I find music that inspires, I will listen to it continuously until my children’s ears bleed and they’re begging for mercy. And God help me if I find a television series that sucks me in, I will go without long stretches of sleep for days, resembling a zombie to find out who done it.
But I’m not only neurotic with beautiful mass media. One year I decided to visit just about every museum and architectural gem in LA (buying membership at half the sites and finding “free” days for the others), determined to revisit all year long and soak in the masterpieces that surrounded my South Pasadena home.
Inspirationally beautiful dance, artistically delicious food, visually breathtaking vistas, powerfully awesome weather and selflessly caring people can make me downright emotional when I glimpse their depth and grandness.
And more often than not, the old adage rings true, the simplest things in life do bring the greatest joy. I love listening to my kids play the piano or crack silly mindless jokes. I enjoy the farmers market, watching my children play around the ginormous exposed roots of the old Moreton Bay Fig by the library, walking by historic structures, and taking our dog and kids for a walk at Garfield Park. I look forward to breakfast at Gus’s on the weekends and a good red velvet cupcake from My Sweet Cupcake that can cure all ills.
My heart sings when humanity trumps selfishness, when friends fight for and find reconciliation, or when love is enough. Beauty and a healthy dose of your mortality combined can move and motivate. Birthdays are an excellent reminder of these.
When my 40th birthday arrived this year, to my pleasant surprise, it felt good. I was hopeful to fulfill my bucket list, to experience beauty and share it with others.
Whether at Christmas, in death (remembering a life), or during cheeseburger week (a recent reality in Pasadena) or on your own birthday, a friend’s birthday or a city’s birthday, whether you’re 4, 40 or 124… celebrating is important, giving us reminders to live life in the fullest most beautiful way possible, no matter our current circumstance.
It’s a time of renewal, to align or realign all the riches you want out of the short time we have on earth. And if you look deep enough, monetary value has nothing to do with it (although, money doesn’t hurt.) Rather, your riches and gifts are made more beautiful when shared with those who need it the most, in your community and around the world.
I still don’t like birthdays. But drown it in beauty and I may tolerate it.
Happy 124th, South Pasadena! May we, the community at large, be a landscape of all things beautiful, embracing the challenges (and challenging people) while celebrating what we already have and the beauty yet to come.