A number of years ago (I refuse to say how many, but more than 10 and less than 20, but closer to 20 than 10 by a landslide...) I ended up celebrating my 40th birthday on a cold and snowy South Dakota evening with my little ones. My husband had to direct a symphony rehearsal in another city that evening, and my mother had planned to have us over for a roast beef dinner, complete with pumpkin pie. I've always loved pie far more than cake, and as a teen my mother would make a pumpkin pie and my dad would make homemade chocolate malts to go with the pie. It just didn't get better than that! Unfortunately, my mother came down with a ferocious headache and had to cancel the birthday dinner. It was cold, it was snowy, and I had four children between the ages of 5 and 11, so the idea of bundling everyone up and going out was distinctly unappealing. So we celebrated my 40th with frozen pizza on paper plates in the family room while we watched Gordy, The Talking Pig (who made it Big!), a Disney rental from the library.
And while 99.9% of the time I loved hanging out with my kids, I had somehow imagined something a little more elegant and sophisticated than frozen pizza and talking pigs for my 40th. I have a sneaking suspicion I may have looked about as woebegone as I did on my 4th birthday:
Since then, it's become a pet phrase of mine at birthday time--"hey, this beats watching Gordy the talking pig!" or "yum, this is sure better than frozen pizza!" So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered I was going to be celebrating my birthday alone on Wednesday--my husband again had an orchestra rehearsal in another town. Some things never change! And of course we are in a terrible cold spell--way too cold to want to bundle up and venture outside in search of dinner, so my son graciously offered to run out to get us something for supper. You guessed it...pizza. At least we managed to move from frozen cardboard-tasting pizza to a Mediterranean chicken pizza, a real step up in the world, complete with real plates instead of paper!
And I also managed to find something a little more interesting than poor Gordy--a Hallmark movie starring Tom Selleck as a cattle farmer. I consider cows a step up from pigs, don't you? And Tom is way up the ladder from any of the farmers in Gordy!!
But even though I had to work all day, and spent the evening on the sofa with Tom Selleck for company, what good things happened on my birthday? For starters, I woke up in a warm home with food for breakfast, a car to drive to work in, and a job to go to. I don't take life for granted. Shortly before my 40th birthday my cousin and his two young sons were killed in a car accident on icy roads, and I promised myself at their funeral that I would never, ever take a birthday for granted or bemoan the fact that I was turning another year older. And today another cousin of mine is being laid to rest, his life cut short by cancer, and once again, I'm reminded that life is a precious gift that comes with no guarantees.
And part of what makes life so very precious are the loved ones that surround us--phone calls and texts from loved ones far away, Facebook messages from friends and family, birthday greetings from my work colleagues, cards from dear friends in the mail, and while my mother is too far away to bake a pie and my dad is no longer here to treat me with chocolate malts, I came home to find a note on my kitchen counter from my husband that read "Enjoy a piece with Gordy!" with a pumpkin pie just for me. I think he's heard my talking pig/40th birthday story one too many times...
And the blessing of having a man who knows me so well? That's something I will never, ever take for granted!
It doesn't sound like Robert William Service took a dim view of growing old...I love his Birthdays poem because it makes me smile...may I always sparkle with the birthday spirit too!
Let us have birthdays every day,(I had the thought while I was shaving)Because a birthday should be gay,And full of grace and good behaving.We can't have cakes and candles bright,And presents are beyond our giving,But let us cherish with delightThe birthday way of lovely living.For I have passed three-score and tenAnd I can count upon my fingersThe years I hope to bide with men,(Though by God's grace one often lingers.)So in the summers left to me,Because I'm blest beyond my merit,I hope with gratitude and gleeTo sparkle with the birthday spirit.