A Bevy of Bad Birthdays

Have you been one of the lucky ones to commemorate your birthday during the pandemic? Actually the way things are going, you might have the opportunity.

When Florida was under lockdown restrictions last spring, I felt sorry for those people whose birthdays were affected. Families felt desperate to do something special for their loved ones and began organizing drive-by celebrations. Friends waved, screamed, and honked as they drove past the home of the birthday boy or girl. Sigh…I wondered if these short-lived celebrations left the recipients feeling even more alone as they watched every car disappear from view?

I remember thinking, “Surely the pandemic will end by the time my birthday comes around in June. My birthday will be awesome.”

WRONG! Three days before my birthday, two family members tested positive for Covid-19. I spent my birthday in quarantine waiting to see if I would exhibit any symptoms. Fortunately, I was in the clear, and my family members recovered. Herb surprised me with a cake and candles, but guests were out of the question.

Fast forward to Herb’s birthday in August. We planned a family party, which is normal for us and I bought a cake mix. Then I realized, “I’d better make cupcakes because Herb will blow out the candles. I can’t serve cake to everyone after he breathes on it.”

So I did. I also gave everyone personal bottles of hand sanitizer and masks for party favors. How’s that for a pandemic birthday?

Did you ever wonder how our birthday traditions came about? Here’s the scoop.

Birthday cakes were first made in Germany during the Middle Ages as part of a child’s celebration known as Kinderfest. A candle was placed on the cake to represent the “light of life.”

Over time, people began adding one more candle to the top of the cake to represent a person’s age. We were all told to blow them out and make a wish.

Since everyone is more fearful of Covid-19 spreading, here’s a little known bit of information. A study by Clemson University in 2017 discovered blowing out your candles increases bacteria by 1400%. (Actually, this isn’t a huge problem unless the birthday boy is ill.) But in the year of the Covid, nothing is sacred.

Yum! More cake anyone? Don’t be surprised if birthday cakes will be next on the list for a Covid-conversion. I expect to see a shortage of cupcake papers in my local grocery soon. I honestly feel like the world will never be the same again.

How many candles fit on a single cupcake? Just look on the bright side. This year you can extinguish the flame of your candle in one breath—and no one will know your age.

Always Be Celebrating

Last week I received a beautiful card in the mail for my birthday. The sender recognized my affinity for nature and knew my favorite colors. The card meant a lot to me. Each year, as my birthday draws nearer, I tend to reminisce a little about past birthdays.

When I was a child I didn’t like the fact that I was born in June. Usually school was out for the summer.  My school friends were often away on vacation. Sometimes my family would be on vacation as well. Even so, one birthday memory stands out from all the rest.

My tenth birthday was celebrated at a campground in the Smoky Mountains. As a family, we  were busy living the camp life and I thought my birthday would be ignored. Boy was I surprised when out of nowhere my mom presented me with a cake. We were miles from a store or a bakery, and she had no oven in our little trailer.

Children always look forward to their birthdays with excitement. They feel as they grow older, each year brings new freedoms. Their parents might consider them old enough to care for a pet, date, drive, or eventually move out.

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All of us keep birthday traditions. Our celebrations include a cake with candles, the song, “Happy Birthday,” and making a secret wish before blowing out the candles. If we don’t blow out all the candles with one breath, our wish will not come true.

But how many of us remember all the wishes we’ve made? I guess if we did, we wouldn’t tell anyone about it. After all they were all secret wishes.

As the years roll on.. birthdays are no longer a rite of passage. And by the time we enter our retirement years we would rather slow life down instead of speeding it up.

Women especially, go through a lot of inner turmoil about growing older. We experience a season of not wanting anyone to know our age. When I hit sixty I didn’t care anymore. On good days I feel proud that I can still do many of the things I’ve always done. At other times I use my age as a reason to excuse myself from activities I’d rather not do. I no longer feel a burning desire to spend a whole day at a theme park.

Last year I wrote a poem about turning 64, entitled…

“Wishful Thinking”

hot pink candles

drip wax on swirls of chocolate frosting

everyone smiles as

the usual off key voices

sing the last note of the classic melody

panic stricken

what to wish?

For an encore allowing more time to think?

Or perhaps more years to live?

I inhale until the pressure forces me

to let go

 

 

What do birthdays mean to you? Do you have a special birthday memory? Leave a comment. You might be interested in two other age related posts: Now I’m Sixty-Four and Redefining Age With Valerie Ramsey.