Last fall our middle daughter celebrated her 19th birthday. This is a girl who, when growing up, almost always celebrated her birthday with friends anywhere from a few weeks to several months late because it was always hard to get something scheduled at the same time school was starting. All those years, she still enjoyed her birthday even though it was rarely celebrated on time.
This year, our family celebrated her birthday a mere one day late and yet, even though all of her siblings were present as well as a very special friend and her dad, I sensed that our daughter was disappointed in the celebration. Afterwards, as I hugged her goodnight, I asked her about the evening. She said she’d had a really good time but that it had lacked some of the excitement and anticipation that she’d come to expect from birthdays. I gave her an extra hug and said, “That’s part of growing up. Birthdays don’t maintain their magical quality throughout our lives.” It’s true – the childhood quality of birthdays, the surprises, the hopes and dreams, the cake and candles, the gifts, they all dim as we grow older. We may be thankful for the gift of another year, but we don’t stay up at night dreaming of what wonderful pleasures await us at our birthday party.
A month later we celebrated our oldest son’s 32nd birthday with a Sunday brunch at a local restaurant. All but one of the kids was there. We talked and laughed. There was really only one gift and two cards, but I don’t think our son was disappointed or had focused on that part of the day. It seemed that he simply enjoyed the time together.
For the last several years, I have requested that I not receive any gifts for my birthday. There’s really nothing I need and what I want most of all is time with my family. I know that the best gift I can receive is time – time with those I love, time on this earth. Yet, if I have the opportunity to make a wish and blow out a candle or two, you can bet that I will do so with a heart full of magical wishes.