I have a friend with a birthday this month, so I thought I would muse on birthdays today.
We have exchanged birthday greetings and cards with each other ever since university.
One year I was on holiday in Portugal and sent a card late, which apparently never got there. Another year her house was being revamped and neither my card nor her mother’s arrived. She blamed the builders. I was annoyed as I chose a very nice card with a resplendent peacock. A year or two ago she sent me an email on the day and said there was a wonderful card in the post. Might as well have been a wonderful cheque in the post as it never arrived.
Since then, we have tailed off to an email greeting. I email her on hers and don’t get a response. A couple of months later, she emails me ‘happy birthday darling,’ and I reply. I don’t get a response until I receive a Christmas card. Actually I don’t get a response at all, I just get the Christmas card and a scribbled note on the card.
Still old habits die hard, and every year, until she stops, I guess I’ll still mail her. No more cards though.
As people know, I’m not really a card person. I think they are a bit of a waste of space – although – it is lovely to receive them sometimes. Conflicting views there. For my 50th I received one card, from a neighbour. But it was unexpected so it was nice. Oh, I might have received one from a UK couple, can’t remember.
When I was working, we used to take holidays around my birthday as we have them on consecutive days. It made a far better way to celebrate a birthday in some exotic, warm and sunny location. Now as I live in an exotic, warm and sunny location, it gets even harder to decide what to do to make it into a special day.
It was easy when I was young. My parents managed a class bit of family planning with my birthday incidentally. As December babes, they were subject to the Christmas and birthday present-in-one routine. They claimed their child would not be subject to that. It was probably total fluke to be honest but they managed the date furthest away from Christmas in the whole year for my birthday.
There were kiddies parties when I was young with magicians and stuff like that. There were family parties before I was school age. When I became a teenager it became (boring) celebratory meals out with my parents. Presents were very traditional, clothes, jewellery, a silver watch at 18 because they didn’t consider I had come of age then.
At 21 I was allowed a gold watch. I chose a very nice low-key Longines. Some years later, I was dashing to Euston for the train home. I looked at the time and the watch wasn’t there. I was horrified. I retraced my steps to the tube station – but not surprisingly, there was nothing. I reported it to Lost Property at BR. Yeah, someone is just going to hand in a gold Longines aren’t they? Too busy to replace the worn-out strap – and – lose a precious watch.
I never dared confess. But at the time I wore my watch all the time and my parents would have noticed. I bought another. It looked the same but it wasn’t as good. It had a battery and the other had been manual. It’s sitting in a box somewhere with a load of other watches that don’t work.
My other presents as a kid were the standard ten shilling note, upped to a pound at one point, and premium bonds, from my two grandmothers. The one always gave me more than the other, I suspect there was a little competition going on there. Anyway it all got safely put in my piggy bank.
Suddenly, though, there were no more presents. A card from my
mother parents, and no presents. I think a couple of times she slipped a note in the card, but no presents. Why didn’t anyone send me flowers? I like flowers, and it isn’t exactly difficult to organise. I think the only time my parents sent me flowers was for my wedding.
So what is it about birthdays as we get older? Do we want or need presents, cards, a celebration? Or just an acknowledgement that someone thinks enough about you to remember that it is your day?