My birthday is this week.
I would tell you how old I will be, but I have a disorder that affects my speech. When I pronounce any number above 25, it sounds like “39.” It’s called Jack Benny Syndrome. The only cure (so far) is playing the violin and stockpiling cash in a vault. I have a few dollars in my wallet, but I don’t own a violin.
I arrived on Planet Earth Aug. 24, 1962. I don’t remember my earlier birthdays, (and truth be told, a good deal of the recent ones) but somewhere there is a photo of me sitting outside in a high chair with a birthday cake. In the photo I am wearing a short jumper and my “Birthdays are SO cool!” grin, my chubby little arms outstretched with glee. You can see a few neighbors gawking in the background.
Some people. You’d think they’d never seen a grown man in a high chair before.
Several years ago, an older person told me that birthdays didn’t mean much to them anymore. At the time, I didn’t understand that. Now I do. You reach a certain age and you realize, what’s one more candle on the cake? Does it matter if I’m 50 or 51?
Then again, it’s another candle. One more year of inhaling oxygen. 365 more sunrises. Maybe you didn’t witness all 365, but they’re still happening every day, even the days you sleep through them.
When you’re a kid, birthdays are major events. To a 9-year-old, a birthday is cake, gifts, and parties. It’s finally getting the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle or the G.I. Joe With Kung-Fu Grip or the Steve Austin Super-Duper Bionic Fuel-Injected Disco Van which also converts into a wood-paneled family station wagon/camper/Jeep. A birthday means you’re one year closer to the day when you can drive a car, go on dates, eat as many chocolate chip cookies as you want, and stay up after midnight. Adulthood marks the day when you can cast off your shackles and run helter-skelter through the house with a pair of scissors.
That day finally arrives. You’re now a full-fledged, card-carrying, “official adult.” You have a car, a job, and a girlfriend/boyfriend. You’re earning a paycheck, you drive wherever you want, and you’ve got a stash of chocolate chip cookies in the cupboard. Free at last! Life is good. Soon you’ll be running around the house after midnight in your underwear, a pair of scissors in one hand, a bag of Chips Ahoy in the other, living the wild life, having more fun than humans should be allowed, soaking up adulthood.
Except you never read the fine print. Choices have consequences (elections as well, but that’s another topic altogether).
They took taxes out of your paycheck? Oh, you never read that clause? You drive a shiny sports car. Say what? Auto insurance? Surely you jest. Staying up too late has been proven to cause dark circles under the eyes of laboratory mice. Pants a little tight around the waist? Too many chocolate chip cookies.
And that gash over your left eyebrow that required 20 stitches? Were you, by any chance, holding a pair of scissors when you ran through the house, Mr. Adult?
Hmm. No one told me about this stuff. This is not freedom. This is not what I signed up for. I ‘ve been duped. I was robbed!
I should have stayed a kid.
Now you know you’re an adult. 78