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Sharon Randall: Take a ride on ‘Birthday Express’

By Sharon Randall

Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about birthdays. Why?

From the end of December to the middle of February, our big “blended” family celebrates 11 birthdays. The birthday people include my husband and myself; three of our five children; three of their spouses; and three of our eight grandchildren.

That’s a lot of cake. Not to mention, cards and presents and dinners and parties.

I call it the Birthday Express. It’s quite a ride. Only two more celebrations this week, then the grand finale next week, which happens to be mine.

The remaining eight family members were wisely born at other times of year. Some have a whole month to themselves.

Few things are more fun than celebrating the birth of someone you adore. My standard wish (besides “happy birthday!”) is “I’m so glad you were born!”

I started saying that to my kids when they were small and now they say it to me, too.

I love cards that have been handpicked just for me, or handmade by the grandkids with stick figure drawings that make me look skinny, and don’t crack jokes about getting old. Aside from good wishes and a lot of hugs, I don’t need gifts. When you’ve blown out as many candles as I have over the years, your mark of a great birthday isn’t presents or parties.

But there’s one birthday ritual I try to keep every year. I take a little time to think about my life’s journey, places I’ve been, people I’ve known, things I’ve learned along the way. Then I ask myself this question: What do I know now that I wish I’d known when I was starting out?

Here in random order is my latest list. I wish I’d known:

• My children would grow up healthy and strong to be people that I like as much as love. Had I known this, I’d have gotten more sleep and less gray hair.

• We shouldn’t take things so personally. Not everything is about us. We need to give others, and ourselves, a break.

• Actions are more important than looks. It’s better to be kind than beautiful. Unless you can manage to be both at once.

• Things change. Count on it. The best we can do is change with them, and pray that we are changing for the better.

• If you need help, don’t be too proud to ask for it. And if someone needs your help, try not to be too busy to offer it.

• It’s OK if somebody doesn’t like you. Chances are, they’re not very likeable themselves.

• Hair is like a child. It has a mind of its own. You can try to change it, try to make it do what you want it to do. But it’s better just to let it be what it is.

• Say what’s on your heart, but only if you mean it. Some words are better left unspoken. But there are three things that ought to be said often and sincerely: “Thanks.” “I’m sorry.” And “I love you.” And to telemarketers, “Please don’t call me again.”

• My mother was right about most of the things I was so sure she was wrong about. I wish, not only that I’d known it, but that I had told her so before she died.

• We don’t need someone to complete us. We can be whole on our own. But if we choose to share our life with someone who is also whole, the sum can be greater than its parts. And that can be a whole lot of fun.

• Those of us of a certain age shouldn’t fear that a birthday means the end of youth. Age is only a number. Forty (or 50 or 60 or more) is not the end of youth. Thirty was the end. The payoff for aging is getting to stay alive, and maybe, if we’re lucky, getting grandchildren.

• Finally, the best thing about birthdays is realizing we’ve been blessed to have lived another year and had a chance to keep learning, loving and laughing.

Here’s wishing you a happy birthday whenever it may be. Yes, I’m so glad you were born.

Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove CA 93950, or on her website: www.sharonrandall.com.

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