Monday, February 01, 2010

Happy Birthday, to Me... -- by Jamie

It’s my birthday today. Or, as I like to call it every year, the start of my “birthday month.” I love my birthday, and this year, as I launch a new decade, it seems like more of a reason to celebrate than ever. Weeks ago, as this milestone day was approaching, and Jayda became involved in the party planning and discussions of all the festivities, she asked me, “Are you going to be 2-1/2?” I answered, “No,” and with resounding enthusiasm, informed her, “I’m going to be FORTY!” “Wow!” she responded. But since she can only count up to 20, she really has no idea of the magnitude of this birthday. I have, however, raised her to understand how important birthdays are, in general, thanks to my own upbringing. My parents always made (and continue to make!) a huge fuss over me on my birthday, and I do the same for Jayda. My daughter knows that a birthday equals tons of attention—and is intended to be a perfect day filled with presents, fun activities, and cupcakes, of course (or, in a worse-case scenario, a sheet cake with tons of gooey icing).

When I was a child, on the night before my birthday, after I’d gone to bed, my parents would hang a string of balloons outside our house, from the front door to a tree several feet away, “announcing” my birthday to the whole neighborhood; they did this for my siblings—and for themselves, too—as it was (and still is!) a Levine-family tradition. Every year, when I woke up on the morning of my birthday, I’d look outside my window and see the balloons, and smile. It’s amazing how happy and hopeful those balloons could make a person feel—even a 40 year old.

For children, birthdays are often all about parties, presents, and treats—and who can blame them? Personally, I fondly remember going to ToysRUs with my mother and picking out all kinds of toys for myself as an annual birthday tradition. I also remember my deliciously messy make-your-own sundae parties, Carvel ice cream cakes, candy-filled piñatas, and staying-awake-all-night-long slumber parties with a houseful of giggling girl friends.

But as an adult, birthdays take on new meaning. Some people choose to ignore their birthdays; I like to embrace them. On one level, I think it’s important to acknowledge—and celebrate—having lived another year. And while it’s true this has been an unusually challenging year for me—full of plenty of ups and downs—I do still have so much to be grateful for—namely, my daughter, Jayda. It would have been heartbreaking for me to reach the age of 40 without having become a mother, and I’m so thankful I made the choices I made, and was able to have a child on my own, almost three years ago.

On a more selfish level, I simply love the idea of having one day (or one month?) out of the year that’s focused on celebrating me! Because let’s face it: I like the attention. I don’t need presents. I don’t need expensive dinners out. It’s not about money being spent on me…but really the thought that counts. I simply enjoy having people calling me, sending me cards, and wishing me “Happy Birthday!” Of course, this year, I did want a slightly bigger deal: I wanted my friends and family to “really” celebrate with me. Which is why I decided to have a party. Fortunately, my incredibly generous parents helped me organize it, and I had wonderful friends who were able to eat, drink, and be merry with me. It was a great way to kick off my birthday, which I hope will be filled with all the phone calls, emails, and attention I crave—from loved ones around the country, and the globe. I just want people to remember me—and to continue to celebrate with me—as I turn 40, and beyond. That’s all this birthday girl really needs. Because birthdays—like life—should be filled with loving friends and family, happiness, a little sugar, and a few nice surprises along the way.

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