Birthday Reflections at 43

October 5th, 2012: My 43rd birthday.

Don’t you wish birthdays as an adult were the same as when you were a child? I have to admit there are times when I really do miss those innocent days of childhood and the buildup and unexpected joy I had as October 5th slowly arrived every year.

We all have events in our lives that are worthy of celebration. The day you graduate high school for example, or the day you get married. Perhaps it’s the day you get a big job promotion or the day you finally pay off the mortgage. But birthdays themselves are way better.

Consider this:

Birthdays are the one day each year where we as a society celebrate the individual. And we don’t inundate social networking websites with salutations, pay for lunches or give a number of spankings equivalent to your age (plus one to grow on) for some milestone achievement that you’ve made.

No, the real reason people blow out candles, consume large quantities of cake, give greeting cards (hopefully with a few greenbacks in them) and freely give presents is just to commemorate the day you arrived on Earth. You’re alive, and that’s reason enough to celebrate.

As a child, I suppose nothing could quite compare to the day you receive the absolute best birthday present. I can still remember mine.

Bear with me now as to the details; it’s been almost thirty years and my memory may not be as sharp as it used to be. I do know that it was October 5th, 1983, and I had just gotten off of the school bus and started my  monumental two-block walk home from school. I’m sure there must have been a bit of a chill in the air and the leaves were no doubt falling from the trees in the early October afternoon; but I wouldn’t have noticed. About the only thing I recall from that walk home was the sense of anticipation that was running through my soul.

I walked into the house and quickly spotted my Mom and Grandmother sitting at the kitchen table with the largest wrapped present I had ever seen. The smile on their faces as I walked through the door was infectious. It was almost as if they had been anticipating this moment all day long. I’m sure they had.

As a child, I can not remember a single time that I was more excited. What could possibly be wrapped inside?

“Happy Birthday!!” they both yelled.

When you’re young, the feeling you get after receiving a gift along with a  ‘Happy Birthday’ salutation is equivalent to your first kiss. Your heart flutters and for a second, you can’t even breathe due to all the excitement.

I tore open the paper wrapping in earnest, all the while still wondering what could possibly lie beneath. As the last piece of wrapping paper fell to the floor, I recall just standing in awe as the contents were finally revealed. Amidst the torn paper, my family’s glee and my own surprise was the mother load of all presents:

The Atari 2600. Something that at best might be gifted as a Christmas present for the entire family. But, for ME? On my birthday?

Unbelievable.

I know what you’re thinking. Compared to the state of the art, high-tech devices we have today I’d be laughed to scorn by even the youngest of children. But I’ll never forget that day, or the hundreds of others that followed playing games like Haunted House, Combat and Pitfall.

When you’re through laughing please continue reading….

Today, I am celebrating my forty third year of existence on this planet. Although still a child at heart, my role has changed significantly. I wasn’t walking home from school, but was actually coming downstairs to get ready for work. I was immediately greeted by my eleven-year old daughter, who had gotten up extra early and was quick to be the first to yell:

“Happy Birthday Dad!”

What I saw on the counter wasn’t anything equivalent to an Atari 2600 but something that was just as special and once again gave me that same fluttered heart feeling. It was a huge colorful card that she had made herself which, when opened revealed a beautiful butterfly drawing. As I hugged her, the good times I had growing up all came back. I thought about Mom, my Grandmother and the wide-eyed boy who walked into the kitchen thirty years ago.

So tonight, when all 44 candles are lit on my cake (43, plus one to grow on) someone will inevitably ask me to make a wish. At that moment, I’ll remember all of those birthdays that have come and gone and all of the well wishes I’ll have received from friends and family on Facebook. But I don’t think I’ll have a need to wish for an X-Box, a car or even a million dollars.

My wish already came true.

Because just for a moment, I got all of those care free days of youth back. And I’m grateful to be alive for another October 5th.

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About James Wood

Influenced by life, love and the pursuit of the perfect song is what best describes my passion. I’m a closeted classic rock/metal-head from the 80′s who loves to write.

Posted on October 5, 2012, in Childhood Memories, Life and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I was so hoping Gillian had made you a card. I always made a sign for my dad, even this year. It always said the same thing, a running joke in the family…a memory to hold onto.

    Keep the fire extinguisher close at hand. You’ve already read my birthday card…and you are getting a few birthday wishes there too.

    http://katstheoryofmusic.blogspot.com/2012/10/well-i-could-have-just-said-happy.html

    “I just want to celebrate another day of living, I just want to celebrate another day of life”

    Have a great one,

    kath

    • Home made gifts are always the best (unless of course it’s an Atari 2600) …Thanks again for the blog and the well wishes! 🙂

  2. Happy Birthday, Jim!!! My birthday is also special to me; just ask my kids and wife. Is it selfish of me? Is it greed? Am I self-absorbed by the attention? YES, YES and YES!! It’s my birthday; why not? And, the Atari 2600 is the best video game ever! Of course, I am a traditionalist, and I hang on tight to my memories.

    Have a great day, Jim! Again, Happy Birthday!

    • If it’s your birthday, why not be the center of attention? I mean, ok i really owe the day to my mom and dad but still – it’s MINE.

  3. So – – where’d you get the caaaaake? lol. I am hungry. LOL… But I am also very glad you still get giddy over birthdays. I am less so that way. But HAPPY BIRTHDAY JAMES!!! I hope it’s especially fantastic for you this year! YAY!

    • You ROCK Lisa. It was definitely a good one for me! Had a food coma at dinner so cake will have to wait until tomorrow… right now, I can’t move… LOL

  4. Well, 99.7% of the world. The Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t get in on the fun.

  5. There’s nothing like those homemade cards from your little one! I have the ones Chelsea made for me in a box of keepsakes. So precious! Glad to hear you had a great b-day! Thanks for once again sharing your memories with us! 🙂

  6. I’m hitting 40 in February next year, and am starting to reflect the same way on birthdays and Christmases from my childhood. Liked your reference to the Atari 2600. For me it was the Sega SC-3000. It’s funny how those computers and games systems from the early 80s retain their charm and character after all these years. I wonder if the kids of today will feel the same way about their PS3s and X-Boxes when they reach our age.

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