As long as I can remember, I have given undue weight to birthdays. One of my favorite songs of the 1970's was a song by John Denver's that summed up the magical feeling I had about birthdays:
Today is the first day of the rest of my life,
I wake as a child to see the world begin.
On monarch wings and birthday wonderings,
I want to put on a face, and walk in the wet and cold.
And look forward to my growing old.
To grow is to change,
to change is to be new,
to be new is to be young again,
I barely remember when.
It is not the process of aging, not the passage of years though, that birthdays signify to me. My focus has always been on the celebration of the day itself. Unless one is a member of a multiple birth (twins, triplets, etc.), then generally speaking one's birthday is experienced as a unique moment in time. It seemed to me that remembering someone on his or her birthday (or being remembered) was an expression of interest and attention to that person as an individual -- as someone special.
There's a whole world of advertising and cultural convention that reminds people to remember others at Christmas, Valentine's day, Mother's and Father's days. But to remember someone's birthday requires some effort (even if it is programming it into Outlook so that a reminder pops up). As a result, since the age of 13 I've always made remembering people's birthdays a priority. Unfortunately, I also made the mistake of assuming that other people remembering my birthday was a measure of how much they cared about me. This, of course, set me up for many disappointments in life.
Year after year, I continued to remember with cards and lengthy letters to birthdays of more than three dozen family, friends and co-workers. Out of that group, a few people, Betti, Sharon, Andy, and of course my parents, never failed to remember and mark the day with calls and cards. In the last decade, I've come to realize that those disappointments resulted from my expectations, rather than from the failure of friends. My wonderful husband, John, has contributed to my changing view. A loving and caring man, who is always there day after day, with genuine support, John's record on remembering and marking "events" like birthdays and anniversaries is only so-so. Some years he goes all out with flowers, cards, gifts, and other years, they seem to slip his mind entirely. But his love is never wavering and has little to do with his ability to remember such conventional milestones as anniversaries.