Yesterday was my birthday. Thanks to Mark Zuckerberg and the results of his short-lived Harvard education, I had one of the best birthdays ever. All day long, my iPhone was ringing with the Happy Birthday wishes that all and sundry, new friend and old, known and not-so-much, were sending me on Facebook. I felt quite loved, in a Sally Field-ish sort of way.
Yes, I know that most of those well-wishers did not have the 3rd circled in red on their calendars (some of them did…the ones I could get to). I know that most were responding to the prompt sent them by Facebook that it was my birthday. The effect on me, however, was the same. I loved it.
It made me reflect on all those birthdays past that I have not loved so much, and what was different. I’m appalled that I have to say this, but those birthdays were spent with my nearest and dearest, and the purpose of our being together was solely to celebrate my birthday. Fifty Facebook acquaintances trump my blood relatives? How can that be?
Birthdays in my family have always been BIG DEALS! It started with my mother, who was the sixth of seven children and the fifth girl. She always felt slighted, forgotten, woebegone on her birthday and she vowed that would not be the case with her children. She put a lot of thought and effort into the birthday parties she gave my sister and me. One year, for example, she staged a play wedding, pulling out all the ball gowns and fancy suits she and my father had worn over the years. Another year, she put on a Big Lady Games afternoon, setting up bridge tables with board games that we rotated among. I have good memories of those birthdays when I was a child.
When I became adult, however, the M.O. changed. My sister took over the arrangements and the venue for family birthdays became a restaurant, chosen by the birthday person, yes, but still requiring that some eight or nine of us suit up and be on our best behavior for a fancy night at a fancy restaurant. My memories of most of those birthdays is of being tired and depressed from trying so hard to have such a good time so that my family would know how honored I felt that they were celebrating my birthday. Whew–exhausting.
I know my family always started out with the best of intentions, but I think that wrangling that many family members, some of whom were children, some who just acted like it, was too much. Who would be in a bad mood? Who would send their food back? Who would end up in tears because someone said something mean to them? Happy Birthday, Janie!
This year my sister wanted me to go to LA for my birthday–”we haven’t celebrated it together in years!” Instead, I stayed in Elk Grove and received my birthday acknowledgements all day and evening. We ate in and my next-door neighbor, Deb, baked a blackberry pie. Then we all went outside to set off legal fireworks. It turns out that I don’t need a dinner out; I just need people who know me to say, “hey, Happy Birthday,” and Facebook is the perfect medium for that.