Today is my birthday. I consider it my own personal national holiday.
I get so excited about my upcoming birthday that friends and family cannot claim they do not know when it is because I start telling them months in advance. My mother used to be very patient with me as a child. I would ask every day if it was my birthday.
When I finally got the hang of the calendar, I would check the days off. I would inform the family every morning how many days until my birthday. My mother would always say, ''It will be a wonderful day, I am sure.''
Actually, growing up, it rained on my birthday for 12 years straight.
In talking with almost everyone I have met recently, read: cashiers in grocery stores, postal clerks, neighbors and friends, I have been surprised to find that many say that their birthday is no big deal. I would take real issue with that. Your birthday is the day you arrived, which should be enough for celebration. However, it is also your New Year - - so make some resolutions. I tell everyone I meet that it is my birthday and I am always amazed at the truly sincere greetings I receive in return. I am so happy about it that I guess it is infectious. You should try it.
The Dali Lama advised that one should do something one has never done before or go somewhere one has never been. It works for me. I've sailed on Oliver Hazard Perry's flagship out of Erie, Pa., on my birthday (I was the only one who got seasick, in my hat), I've sat in an artesian well in a mountain stream in Idaho warm while the water all around me was freezing. Think of the things waiting out there to be explored.
Some people I talked with about birthdays made a wry remark like, it is better to have them than not. Others said they just celebrated quietly with their immediate families.
I thought I would look into how my ethnic forbears would have celebrated my birthday. My father was of Hungarian descent. When I looked up their traditions, I found that the birthday girl (that would be me) would sit in front of her cake and the family would pull on her ear lobes reciting a rhyme that wished me a long life, so long that my earlobes reach the floor. Well, so much for that tradition.
My mother was of English descent. Surely they would have a less painful birthday tradition. Well, it seems the English bake trinkets in your cake. If you get a coin in your piece of cake, they believe you will be rich. I believe you will need to see a dentist.
Also, they grab you by your arms and legs and bump you up and down on the floor chanting something like one for luck, two for luck and three for the old man's coconut. Whatever.
Sounds like I better stick with American traditions. Give me a birthday cake, candles to blow out, a rousing round of Happy Birthday. To blow out all the candles ensures good luck for the coming year. The only problem is, my cake this year will likely resemble an out-of-control forest fire.
Happily, my birthday goes on for about a month after the actual day. I am blessed with many good friends who live out-of-town and by the time we catch up with each other, it is usually weeks after my birthday. No matter, more cake, more singing and more birthday for me.
So if you have read this column this far, go for it. On your next birthday seize the day and celebrate. Don't go to work that day. Instead, go somewhere very special, do something really unusual. Have a cake (not baked by you), have some ice cream (in moderation) and sing your lungs out, if only to yourself. I promise you it will lift your spirits. Share it with your loved ones and friends. Better still; share your birthday with complete strangers. Watch them light up.
And, since I will not see you, Happy Birthday.
O'Connor is a Brookfield resident.