On Celebrating Birthdays

At an early age, I learned that birthdays were meant to be celebrated.

Mom always made a really big deal about mine when I was growing up, but that was part of who she is. All year long, she was always stopping at the card shop to pick up birthday cards for friends, family members or anybody whose name was in her little date book.

It wasn’t just Mom, though. I remember a big homemade sign Dad and a few friends (yes, it was big enough he needed help) put in our yard on the occasion of her 50th.

This was, of course, before Facebook, where everybody knows your name, and your birthday. And it only takes a few keystrokes to send along a nice note. (Thanks, by the way, for all those nice wishes today). And it was before you could just call a company and have 50 flamingos planted in the yard overnight. Mom was diligent about going and buying the card, getting the address right, affixing postage and, if it was for a friend’s kid, slipping a few dollar bills inside.

Of course, as an adult, I was too lazy or too busy to pick up Mom’s habit.  She’s never stopped, though, and I’ll bet you there’ll be a lonely card from her in the mailbox today. And when she had her 83rd on Tuesday, she got more than two dozen cards in the mail.  A lot of them were from those kids who got two bucks from her when they turned 11.

For a few years at Tennessee, we had a weird tradition that when it was your birthday, you had to bring in a cake for everybody else in the office.

My kids always get signs in the yard, favorite meals and a break from doing anything they don’t want to do on their big days.

As an adult, I’ve usually celebrated my birthday by not going to work. And after finishing this post, I’m celebrating the rest of the day. I’ve got a solitary bike ride, lunch with Mom, and a racquetball game on the schedule.

There’s no talking me out of it.  OK, if Rick Pitino holds another press conference, I’ll cover it. When I was working for other people, I rarely checked in at the office on the big day, and I’m not starting now.

What’s even more fun is sizing yourself up against the famous who were born around the same time. My fave is my baseball idol, Cal Ripken, Jr., who is four days older than me, but looks a lot older — I’ve still got hair. Sean Penn is 11 days older than me. I’m an age contemporary of David Duchovny, Antonio Banderas and Timothy Hutton. And I share something with Shania Twain, Jack Black and Leann Rimes. But they’re all younger.

This morning I learned, (thanks Facebook) that I share a birthday with Karen Blach Held, who I went to WKU with and who married one of my fraternity brothers. I went to high school with a close friend named Curt Camp, born the same exact day, in the same Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital, and we usually call each other by phone wherever we are. To fellow Facebookers Robyn Cranmer and Trevor Howie — I hope you’re both taking the day off too.

Mark Hebert (9/15/59) and I used to celebrate our birthdays together with a big party, a tradition we should really start again, especially since he’ll be 50 this year. And Monday, I’ll be giving my good friend Cary Stemle a call, born three days after me in 1960.