Sharon Randall: What makes a birthday worth remembering?

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 15, 2022

My husband and I both celebrate our birthdays this month. One of us is getting older. Never mind who.

Actually, from the end of December until the middle of February, we celebrate eleven of the 21 birthdays in our immediate family.

Yes, that’s a lot of cake. My husband’s birthday was last week. Mine is next. We usually celebrate with dinner for the two of us or a family barbecue where he grills meat, I make potato salad and we buy a cake.

In the non-COVID years, we often celebrated our birthdays at some place with a warm beach and no internet. Maybe we’ll do that again someday.

I can’t recall what we did for our birthdays last year. Like so many things since the start of the pandemic, it’s just a blur.

What do you think? Should we (a) allow some of the happiest occasions of our lives to fade into nothing? Or should we (b) celebrate and remember them clearly as the precious, fleeting moments that they are?

If you picked (b), I like you a lot. Memories don’t need to be elaborate or expensive. They just need to be remembered.

This morning, my husband asked me what I’d like for dinner on my birthday.

As questions go, it was a bit odd. But when you’ve been together as long as we’ve been (20 years or so) you learn to hear more than just what’s said. I knew what he meant. If I wanted to go out to dinner for my birthday, where should we go? And if I wanted to eat at home, what should we cook?

For his birthday last week, we had dinner at a restaurant with a gift certificate from my son and his wife. Both the gift and the dinner were lovely. But I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.

“You decide,” I said.

He hates it when I say that.

Why is it easier sometimes to say what we don’t want than what we do? I’m certain I don’t want a party. I know too many people to invite. And I’d feel bad and never hear the end of it from those who got left out.

I’m also sure I don’t want gifts. These days, if I need something, I get it at the grocery store. But I certainly want to celebrate another year of being alive.

Recently, I read a story about a man who was given a birthday gift he would never forget. It was a jar filled with marbles — one marble for every Saturday remaining in his life, assuming he would live to be 100. Every Saturday, he was to remove one marble to remind him that he had one less Saturday left to live and that he needed to make the most of it. But no matter how many marbles remained in that jar, he would never be sure how many Saturdays he had left.

Here’s how I want to celebrate my birthday. First, I’ll sleep until I wake up. Waking up without an alarm clock is a celebration in itself. I’ll begin with a prayer of thanks for all my blessings and all the people who make my life such a joy. That will take quite a while.

Then I want two cups of coffee with heavy cream, the way my husband makes it for me.

Next, I’ll spend the day Face-Timing with my kids and grandkids and others I love, making big plans to see them soon and hug their necks.

At sunset, I want to sit outside with my husband to watch the sun go down, the stars come out and the moon rise up above us.

I want him to cook my favorite birthday dinner (whatever that may be) and clean up the mess without any help from me.

Finally, I’ll end the day as it began, with gratitude. That will be a birthday I’ll remember.

We never know how many “marbles” are left in the jar. I’m hoping for lots more for us all — for you and me and all our loved ones, for neighbors near and far and friends we’ve yet to meet.

Be assured, you don’t need to send me a birthday greeting.

Unless you really want to.

Sharon Randall is the author of “The World and Then Some.” She can be reached at P.O. Box 922, Carmel Valley CA 93924 or