How Do You Feel About Birthdays?

How Do You Feel About Birthdays?

Remember being 10 years old? Such a milestone, 2 digits! I was thrilled when I turned 10 that I could say something happened 10 years ago. A new type of “me” arose by the time my life contained that august number of years. Everyone has an annual birthday whether it is celebrated or not. But some are more important than others. 12 was also a big year for me, as I became a woman on my 12th birthday, much to my mother’s amusement.

16 was the year that marked my freedom from childhood. I went to the DMV to get my driver’s license after school on my birthday As I drove out of the parking lot with the official “tester” sitting next to me, my car accidentally ran over the curb. (Of course, I was driving it so it was my fault). I went on to take the entire test and when it was over the man said “You have failed your test.” I was shocked because I thought I did everything correctly. But the man said, “When you ran over the curb on your way out of the lot you failed immediately.”

Such a disappointment. I was crushed. Normally I would have had to wait for three days before retaking the exam. But my father was the Chief of Protocol at the time. He was friends with all sorts of people in the police department. He pulled some strings and I was allowed to take the driver’s test again the next day. I passed. I don’t believe I ever ran over another curb for at least a quarter-century. Gratitude for having my license was acute. It made me powerful and independent all in one afternoon. Being issued a driver’s license was the most exciting thing that had happened to me in my entire life.

Of course, there have been many milestones along the way to my most recent birthday but now I am 80. And that is a big one. If I were to breathe my last, there is simply NO way anyone could ever say, “oh she died too young.” 80 is OLD. I do not feel old. But if I tell someone that I am 80 they think I am old. It is a strange feeling because it doesn’t seem real. My inner self hovers around the age of 27 with occasional slips into my late teens. Very rarely, like when getting out of a car after a couple of hours on the road, my body feels old and stiff. But that passes quickly. For the most part, my physical problems are few. Lucky with my genes I guess, for which I am thankful.

There is a difference in my reaction to life. I know that I will not be here in 50 or 40 or 30 years from now. If I have the misfortune to live for 20 more I hope it will be as healthily as my mother, who was never sick a day in her almost 102 years. The point is that my time is no longer limitless. When I was fifty, I felt as if I had another fifty years to live and that was extraordinary. It gave me permission to do anything I wanted. To make changes in my life, some of which were really drastic.

me and Charley about 1977

Now I am more circumspect. I do not want sudden changes or drastic moves. I am content to live here in this house with my dogs. My family is near me and because of the Internet, they are constantly communicating in one way or another. Their lives are often on view online as they frolic around the country. It is lovely. For some time they have been asking what I wanted to do for this particular birthday. But they did not have any suggestions that worked out. My birthday is so close to Christmas. This makes me less enthusiastic about planning a big party. I have had a few big birthday parties in my life, but it is not my favorite way to celebrate.

One year my husband planned a surprise birthday party for me at Heathfield. I think I was about 35 years old. We had five children aged 14 down to a 3-year-old. Our large house was a great place to entertain. We had an active social life. Charley planned the whole thing. I never suspected or found anything suspicious. He told me we were going to go out to dinner with another couple. They were going to come to our house for a drink first and then we would go out together. They arrived and I remember sitting in the living room with them, chatting. Charley left the room a couple of times which was odd. But after a half-hour or so, he said “Well, it is time to go.” And we got up and put on coats to go outside, but he said “Let’s just check out what the kids are doing in the playroom”.

When we walked into the playroom which was at the other end of the house, I was greeted by a large group of 20 or 30 of our friends who all shouted “SURPRISE!” At the top of their lungs. They had all arrived quietly parking at the back of the house where there would not be seen or heard. It was such an unexpected scene that my whole body was in shock. It was hard to register that everyone had lied to me. People I knew well had said Happy Birthday on the phone earlier that day but never breathed a word about coming to my house for a party. My own children knew about this. Not one of them had given it away. It was a lovely surprise. But it took me about an hour into the party before I could relax and enjoy it due to the utter unpreparedness of my mind and body. I don’t think I want any more surprise parties.


So to forestall anything like that happening for my 80th, I planned my own party. Just our children were invited. And Charley (my ex) and his wife, I did invite them too. But he declined due to health. One of our sons was in Texas but the others all came. One son-in-law was sick at the last minute, sadly. However, the party was a great success in my eyes. It was just what I wanted. Seeing my children and their husbands and wives all having fun together makes a warm glow inside me. I think it Is my heart expanding with joy.

My dinner was delicious and easy as I had prepared much of it ahead of time and the main course was a turkey. There was my famous wild rice casserole, steamed green beans, a dish of artichoke hearts and black olives, and another with pickled beets. Gravy for the turkey and its stuffing was super delicious and there was enough to use for a couple of days afterward. I had taken the trouble to buy some fine wine. We had wonderful serving help from Emelio and Adella. Things went smoothly. They were a great help in the kitchen for clean up. I did not have to worry about anything as both of them have helped me for many parties in the past. In fact, when my guests arrived I was sitting in front of the fire sipping a drink prepared for me. My dogs, my orchids, piles of books, and other cherished photos and mementos surrounded me, as I waited for them.

It was an evening I will remember forever. My children are grown, maybe even middle-aged, and such admirable human beings. I am proud of them and I love them very much. If this all sounds just too sweet and sappy I don’t care. I am too grateful to bother being worried about what others think. It is important to write this down so that each of my children can see it and realize how much they all mean to me.

Copyright©. 2022 Bonnie B. Matheson

7 thoughts on “How Do You Feel About Birthdays?

  1. Loved it! So reminescent of much fun over many good years, Bonnie. And how they have flown by! So glad you had your party on YOUR terms! Since you and I are Capricorns, my birthday is NYE! And another one who has never cared for celebrating on NYE! Prefer a date in June !!
    Happy B Day and many more, Bonnie!

  2. Happy Birthday Bonnie! Would never have guessed your age…..NEVER! Thanks for sharing your sentiments…..I hate surprise parties as well! Your current celebration with your wonderful family sounds as perfect as it gets! Cheers for a happy and healthy 2022! MILLICENT

  3. Happy First Day on Earth Day Aunt Bonnie. Looks and sounds like a perfect birthday surrounded by family and a lot of love!
    Much love, Heather

  4. Dear Bonnie, wishing you a Belated Happy 80’s Birthday. You look fabulous, never would have thought you could be near 80, much less be 80. You definitely have your mother’s genes.

    Wished you were living a bit nearer, miss seeing you. Maybe we can catch up when the weather gets warmer. 🙂

    Loved your birthday blog.

  5. Happy 80th Bonnie…I remember driving to Charlottesville with you and Charlie while we were
    attending Mt. Vernon. I felt safe and protected with you
    both. My 80th is 9/22 ..Hope to see you one day. Tandy

  6. Bravo for capturing this bittersweet age! I chuckled when I read your story of not being able to imagine being various YOUNG ages. It brings back my own childhood when I remember thinking about about the year 2000 and could not believe that I would ever live to see it. I worked out my age and thought that no one could ever be that old. I was only 39. Congratulations for throwing yourself a party that way you wanted. It’s all about love, and being surrounded by your family and loved ones sounds just wonderful. I do not think of you as 80 because of your joie de vivre, youthful appearance and great sense of humor. Just keep on doing what you are doing, kisses to the dogs (and family). x Pamela

  7. Loved your blog and pictures. Seems like yesterday when I used to crash at your place in Kalorama after a date or deb party. Although I emailed you on your Birthday, I wanted to say it out loud! Although I don’t always agree with some of your views, You will always be my sister-in-law and I love you. 80 is not old, it is your first day of your next chapter of the next 20 years. After all your mother lived to be 100!

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