Saturday, June 02, 2007

Birthdays on the River

Kind of cloudy today and a bit cooler. Mom says that I was born on a day like today. Birthdays are a funny thing. A celebration of a monumental event called birth. Of course, the special event is celebrated early in life mostly by parents and surrounding relatives.

When you're really young, birthdays are a hazy memory of birthday cake and Aunt Margaret pinching your cheek. Balloons surround and silly hats sit on the heads of the family. I remember the candles and blowing them out.

Adolescence brings a sense of greed. Its all about the presents and hanging out with your friends. Usually, a parent or relative has arranged for a simple backyard gathering with a picnic and birthday cake. Or, an extravaganza at a local party place filled with activities and games. It didn't matter as long as there were presents for the birthday child. Those birthdays, I remember the most. Filled with family and friends and tearing open a bunch of presents. I remember the bowling ball I received when I was around 9 years old. I was so thrilled since my mom and I were on a daughter/mother bowling team. That ball was all swirly and creamy... that's all I remember.

In the teen years, birthdays were about money. Cold hard cash. Birthday money. I remember hoarding it once I received it from parents, grandparents, uncles and friends. I would save a bundle then head out to Tower Records and buy music and magazines. Shopping for makeup was more or less a stick of mascara and a tube of lipstick all purchased from the local drugstore. The money would burn a hole in my pocket and hand. I'd give it a month, before all the funds were gone.

Young adulthood enters in and you just can't wait until you're 21 years old. Ready to vote and ready to drink grown-up drinks. Once there was a surprise birthday party in my early 20's. That was the one with the singing gorilla that arrived unexpectedly and swept me away to a party at a local restaurant. After a few margaritas, I really don't remember much about the party except that I know I had a good time.

In your 30's & 40's, birthdays are spent with close friends and/or possibly a spouse. Usually a weekend getaway plays in the scenario while celebrating with a loved one. There was the time on a wilderness rafting trip that I spent with about 10 close paddling friends on our favorite river. I remember the birthday cake coming out of the dutch oven. We were plied with cheap booze, and I still remember spreading the icing on the cake and my fellow bakers.

Now, as age creeps up more quickly, birthdays are to be ignored. That day is no longer a celebration but a relief that I've made it that far. Celebrating the day includes going about the day as if nothing was special, nothing was remembered. I join just a few close friends and we spend our time at a nice lunch or maybe shopping in a cool place. This past birthday, I spent it rafting with 3 of my closest friends. We didn't do a wild class 4 run this time, though... just a great whitewater trip on the South Fork American... just enough to make me remember how wild I used to be. Now if only I can stop the birthday cards coming to keep reminding me that I'm a year older and hopefully a year wiser.

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