Sharon Randall: Rules for a happy birthday
Who gets to make the rules for birthdays? And why has no one ever told me what they are?
Birthdays are like the people who have them: No two are the same. Each of us ought to get to make our own rules for how to celebrate another year of life.
That’s what I told my mother and my grandmother the day I turned 7, and came home from school to announce I’d invited my whole class to a party.
They squinched up their eyes as if I’d said Jesus was coming back to take me to heaven and leaving both of them behind.
“The whole class?” said my grandmother.
“Yes, ma’am,” I said. “And my teacher and the janitor and….”
“When?” said my mother.
“Today,” I said, “4 o’clock.”
Never have two women moved so fast. By 4, the house was clean, a cake was baked and I was waiting on the steps, face clean, hair combed, eyes wide.
Only two people showed up: A boy, who gave me a candy bar. And a girl, who ate it.
With that, I decided birthday parties were unnecessary.
Unfortunately, in years to come, my children did not share that opinion. Especially, my daughter, who by 3 years, planned every detail of her parties, including who’d sleep where at sleep-overs where no one ever slept, least of all, me.
The only birthday tradition I try to keep is to wish someone a happy birthday and add these words: “So glad you were born.”
Everyone should hear that once in a while. And when better to hear it than on your birthday? I said it to my kids so often when they were growing up they now say it to me. It’s the only gift I ever want or need.
OK, maybe some cake. And ice cream. Store bought is fine.
Years ago, a reader from West Virginia sent me an honest-to-goodness birthday cake. It sat at the post office for two weeks while I was out of town. The next year she sent me a do-it-yourself birthday cake kit.
This year (my birthday was last week, it’s OK if you forgot) that same kind woman sent me a West Virginia Mountaineers coonskin cap. She said to give it to my brother, Joe, to replace the Clemson hat he sleeps in.
I’m keeping it. Women my age often feel invisible. But you’d be surprised at how people will sit up and take notice when you’re wearing a coonskin cap.
That cap was only one of the things that made this birthday my best ever — so far.
I had cards and calls from family and friends, and videos of my grandkids doing things to make me laugh. Randy, who is 5, and Wiley, 3, sang duets of their favorite Beatles tunes.
Eleanor, who is 1, said “nana” for the first time and did a happy little belly-laugh dance.
And 4-year-old Henry, all lathered up and diving with a rubber shark, wished me happy birthday from the bathtub.
I wish you could’ve seen them.
My kids all said they were glad I was born. My husband said it, too, and took me out to dinner.
And early in the day, I mailed off contracts to newspapers that had agreed, God bless them, to continue carrying my column.
Talk about a celebration.
I hope for your birthday you get to make your own rules. But feel free to use some of mine:
1. If you have a party, only invite guests who’ll show up.
2. No surprises. The honoree will feel more honored if given a chance to put in her teeth.
3. No gifts, unless someone really wants to give one. Same for cards and phone calls.
4. Do not spend your birthday alone. I tried it once and it was no party. More like a wake.
5. For a truly “happy” day, make someone smile. It always seems to work for me.
Finally, no matter how you celebrate your “special day,” always end it (or begin it, or both) like this: Count your blessings. Feel your heart swell with gratitude. Then look into a mirror and say, “I am so glad you were born.”
May this be your best year and best birthday ever — so far.
Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 777394, Henderson NV 89077, or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.