My Birthday Post

Just so you know, this is not a cry for attention. Actually birthdays are hushed affairs in my life. Being a summer child, I have always had to delay my parties, and my bar mitzvah, until the fall because everyone was away. As I got older, I would get out of town most years during my birthday. I actually dread too much attention.

This morning, there was a post on a local blog about a missing “senior.” Her age was listed as 63. I am 56 today, so I guess the “senior’ title is just around the corner. Pretty soon I can relish in those MTA and movie discounts. I already have my AARP card. But in truth, I feel better than ever. I have been on a disciplined diet of no bread or pasta, little rice and reduced inflammatory foods. Mostly protein, fruits and vegetables. I have not been watching the scale, but I feel lighter. I feel ready for a new phase. New channels for expression keep presenting themselves.

I was going to remove my birthday from Facebook, but then had a change of heart. Mostly, I am curious to see who out of my 455 “friends” will send me their well wishes. It is an interesting phenomenon. People who I have never had a living conversation with, wishing me a happy day. It is very entertaining. Then there are the questions about how I am going to spend my “special” day. This drives me to reminiscing about birthdays past.

Birthdays were never really joyous occasions for me growing up. The only kids birthday party I can remember was when I was 5. My mother once told me that they did not do again, because I had a meltdown at my party. It seems I did not want the other kids messing with my new toys. I have observed this at parties I have taken my own kids to. Maybe the overwhelming amount of attention, sugar, and gifts causes this terrible result. I can tell you that my mom had little awareness about the affects of sugar and hyperactivity. Cake, soda, candy all add up to a heavy dosing of the blood to cause a manufactured case of emotional distress. Maybe that is why as an adult, I tend to lie low, or go somewhere quiet on my birthday.

When I was 21, I used my birthday to take my first solo journey out of the country. I went to Quebec City. I took an overnight train on my birthday to Montreal. Hung out near the Olympic Stadium (1976) for an hour talking with Moonies and Hari Krishnas, and then took an evening train to Quebec City, where I disembarked into this strange, European like town in the evening hours without a clue as to where I would stay that night. Fortunately, I had a copy of  Canada on $5 a Day.

Another birthday I like to remember is just after my first marriage ended. My daughters had just moved to Switzerland, and we took a trip into Italy. I arrived in Venice on my birthday and a man came up to us in the train station asking if I needed a room. I went into the bank there and asked if these men were legitimate, and the bank teller told me if they had what I wanted, then they were perfectly fine. I decided to splurge a little being it was my b-day and we took a room in a fancy little place right on the canal. My daughter, Rebecca, who was about 7 then, woke up with mosquito bites all over her body. We took a train a day or so later to Florence. One of the better European trips.

The last birthday gift I got from my dad was when I was about 11 or 12. It was a NASA space station. My father bought it with S&H Green stamps. These were coupons you would receive from grocery shopping. They were saved in booklets and then redeemed at an S&H store in Jamaica, Queens. My father was king of the cheap ass, at least where I was concerned. Most of the stuff he got for me was usually acquired from guys fencing stolen goods. I think it is safe to say that my father did not have a good time growing up as his father was a hardened immigrant who used his children as workers. They grew up in the depression, so I doubt birthdays were made a big deal of. It must have been hard for my dad to adjust to the birthdays of the consumer culture. I think in retrospect, this is a good thing. Birthdays and consumer consumption have a nefarious relationship.

My Bar Mitzvah, which should fall on my 13th birthday, was celebrated in the fall, for the reasons I stated above. The relatives were usually away during the summer. Looking back, I think I might have preferred something less ostentatious, but there was competition among the neighbors. Renting a hall, a band, a photographer and a caterer was the standard practice. I have heard this has escalated to ridiculous proportions nowadays, but back in the late 60’s, it was still a huge investment for people who were only modestly middle class. Our photographer, who also did magic tricks, would not leave me alone. I think the theory was that the photos were more important than my memory of the event. My memory was that I had a lousy time, and it was a few months before I began to drink and smoke weed, and lead the life of a wild teenager.

So if you really must know how I intend to spend my birthday, it is not really that exciting. My wife and I celebrate ours a day apart (hers was yesterday.) This is extremely expedient. We do not have to go out multiple times. We are satisfied with just going out for a glass of wine on a summer night. I am going to take my son out later to see Captain America, and hopefully wake up tomorrow and not think about my age for another year.


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