Most baby-boomers know that birthdays are more of a time for thanksgiving and reflection than they are for celebration. My own annual event occurred last weekend, and since my actual age is what mathematicians know to be a prime number — divisible only by 1 and itself — I had a lot of fun telling people who dared to ask, I am now 19.
It’s the 19th prime number.
You can play too if you know your primes. Count them from 2, 3, 5, 7 and so on until to reach your age, and you’ll discover you’re in the “prime” of your life. If your real age isn’t a prime, stop one short. Don’t add to it until the next prime arrives, even if it takes several calendar years.
People shower you with best wishes, cards, and Facebook posts on your birthday. Before Facebook, your birthday could pass unnoticed by everyone but relatives and close friends. Today, Facebook prods you into wishing your friends — close or otherwise — happy birthday. I fared extraordinarily well this year, even though I’m horrible at reciprocating.
Meanwhile, few ever extend credit to the one person who really deserves all the praise: your mother.
At the end of the day, literally, you realize that your birthday is over, another year has passed, and life goes on. Thanksgiving is appropriate, indeed.
Greetings you receive often include jokes about aging.
“Remember when” cards point out how much better things were years ago. Those were the days when people not only knew the names of their neighbors, but also the names of their neighbors’ children and grandchildren. Those were the days when a “drug crisis” was forgetting to refill your prescription. Those were the days when “a hard drive” was going from El Paso to Beaumont in one day.
Other cards remind us we drove without seat belts and child safety seats, “and we turned out OK.” Yes, and we were darn lucky.
We fall victim to the phenomenon of selective memory. The passage of time helps magnify the good things from our youth, but also helps suppress other things not so pleasant. Think of the medical advances, the household conveniences, and other comforts we didn’t have. And if you happened to be a person of color, well… you should know about that.
People with summer birthdays are lucky. If your birthday falls during the months when schools are usually in session, you don’t know what you missed because of that twist of fate.
For me, as a child, a July birthday meant a party outside with all my friends. My parents sometimes hosted us at a pool or park. Above all, we didn’t have to go to class. School homework and cold weather weren’t waiting to spoil their plans for my special day.
This year, my birthday fell on a weekend when my wife and I had something we were going to do anyway — go to Austin to see our son perform in a play. We enjoyed dinner at a favorite restaurant and an evening of theater, then capped our overnight trip with a French breakfast at a place she selected.
It was a delightful celebration for a man still in his “prime.” Maybe we can do it again in four years, when I turn 20.
Gene Deason is Editor Emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.