In a week and a half, I’ll be 37. My birthday’s coming up and I could not be more excited.
That’s unusual for me. Because as sad as it is, if I’m being honest, my birthdays stopped being interesting around the time I turned 22.
It’s hard to imagine you’ll ever get to this point; when you’re a kid, your birthday is VERY important. It’s the party, the presents, the favorite meals. It’s all about you. It’s your day.
Plus, it’s fun to get older. Being ten feels more grown-up than being nine. Turning 16 is a big deal. So’s 18, and 21. (“Now I can drink and drive!” a friend once proclaimed.) But after that, unless you’re biding your time to take a run at Ted Cruz, ticking off another year on the calendar seems less and less exciting. There’s not a lot of difference between 35 and 36, is there?
Of course, some adults still retain a child-like glee on their birthdays. I had a coworker who (half-jokingly) encouraged family and friends to celebrate her for a whole 30 days. “I don’t just have a birthday, I have a birth-month,” she explained. That sounds fun.
But it’s not my style.
When I was growing up, my parents downplayed their own birthdays. They didn’t insist my brother and I get them presents, or hold a big celebration. Sometimes I imagine they must have paid for a babysitter and gone to a restaurant, but it was subtle, nothing like the big fuss they raised every December 10th for me: the pinatas, the sledding parties, one year a surprise with all my friends waiting in the dining room. For a long time, I had trouble even remembering when my parents’ birthdays were, something I actually think says less about what an ungrateful jerk I am and more about how far they went to keep the focus off them and on their children. The opposite of self-centered.
I think that’s how it should be.
Soon enough, I’ll get to find out.
In four days, on December 2nd, my wife and I are expecting our first child, a boy.
There is a chance, if he comes late, that he could be born on December 10th. There’s a chance that we could share a birthday.
I cannot even picture the range of emotions I would feel.
But even if we don’t share a birthday — even if he’s born tomorrow, or on Sunday, or on some other day — I bet I’ll feel an even stronger connection to whatever day he’s born than I ever felt to December 10th. Because this time I get to realize the true meaning of a birthday: the celebration of bringing human life into the world. And that, at any time, is a tremendously hopeful moment. I have been reminded of this fact over the past few months, astonished at the outpouring of goodwill from friends, and coworkers, and family members toward my wife and me. I have been thrown surprise baby shower parties by eighth graders who strung the room with balloons; by colleagues, English teachers, who piled the table so high with books; by a house full of family members, two generations about to become three.
I’ve found myself thinking this over the past few months: I can’t wait to pass all this on to him. This world — to see it through new eyes and to share all that I know. I have thought about this as I read my favorite books, climb my favorite mountains, or run into my favorite people. I can’t wait show you this.
I can’t wait to pass along the magic of the December birthday to him.
Maybe even the magic of December 10th.
I’m about to turn 37 and I couldn’t be more excited.