My mom always made a big deal over our birthdays. She would make a homemade cake and in very-detailed, time-consuming, 80’s perfectionist manner, decorate our cakes in secret under a banner of birthday wishes and streamer-lined dining room lights.
It was difficult for me to understand her when she told us all she wanted for her birthday was a cake. “A fancy cake?” we used to ask. “No, just a cake. That’s all I need.”
It wasn’t until last year that I believed her. Last year I sat at my brand new job, day two, in a corner struggling through onboarding. I didn’t realize how lonely it was to have nobody know it was your birthday. I realized, I don’t need a cake, or a party, or presents, or a big todo, but the value and warmth of someone saying, “Happy Birthday,” is highly under appreciated. I know people leave kind things on Facebook, but call me old fashioned, Facebook doesn’t seem as sincere as a person using their actual mouth to say, “Happy Birthday” with their eyes and a warm smile.
I’m clearly getting old. Authenticity is a hallmark for all that I value now. Well, authenticity and a clean laundry room. Before this I had a different take on aging.
I was being authentic when I said to people, “I just love when people wish me a happy birthday. I don’t need a lot. I don’t need presents or special things, I just want people to smile, be kind, and maybe share a drink with me. And I’m totally, 100% cool with that.” I sounded like my mother asking for a cake and only a cake. Suddenly I got it.
I don’t need much, but if you’re willing, I’d love a genuine happy birthday and a toast of cheers.
This year, I was blessed with so much more than that.
My husband and I had a real, genuine sit-down-date where you go someplace and they server you food WHILE YOU SIT THERE. I know, right?! The joy! And we chatted about things, not all job related or kids related, but about life and things and stuff and nouns. Maybe even verbs.
Back at work we had a heavy deadline and a review with our client. After the call, I was summoned to a central station where twenty-five work friends were waiting to sing happy birthday to me. Y’all: After last week, I can’t tell you how much this means to me. People who I adore, who are kind, and lovely, and forgiving, and hilarious, all came to sing me the (as Aaron Brooks said, “The Cake Song”) and we shared multiple cakes, including Gluten Free for me, and a cider or pumpkin beer to ensure a fun time. We then went back to our respective deadlines and happened to kill it. (A thousand shout outs to my team for being awesome and for pulling this out of our butts and getting it done in Real Time, Yo!)
I came home with my left over Gluten Free Chocolate-OMG-Amazing Cake and shared the night with my family. I then had a lovely night out with my girlfriends later in the weekend and am ready for the countdown to 40. The thing is? Most of my friends are already there. I see them laugh at my angst, they jeer at my goals, they mock my determination to change anything in the next 363 days. “Yea, I had goals,” they laugh, “now I just say CHEERS!”
I’m forever grateful for the people who show up in my life to leave their mark on my history and my heart and I hold, cherished, their truth. We all have a story and I’m grateful to include them in my own. Birthdays, to me, aren’t about selfishness, but about celebrating the entire road to where we are at now: and today, I’m most grateful for the people who keep showing up, day after day, in my happiness.