This week I celebrated a birthday somewhere in my 30s. I have never been a fan of my birthday. I don't know if it is the extra attention directed at myself when I would much rather be directing it toward others. I don't think it is the impending doom of old age as I distinctly recall not enjoying my birthday as young as six. There is even photo evidence of myself crying at multiple venues over the years. Tears at McDonald's. Tears at Chuck E. Cheese. Tears at the Edgewater West Hotel pool party (and I even had my name on the marquee!).
For years I kept a paper calendar full of birthdays of everyone I knew. That has long been traded in for Facebook. I get daily reminders of who was born when. There is a series of "HBD" and posted quips. And usually the gentle reminder of how that person came to be a "friend". It's funny to think that for one second you cross the mind of all those people you're friends with. Perhaps even someone you've only met once.
This year there were no tears. Perhaps I am a little more dead inside. Perhaps I have grown wiser. Perhaps there was not enough wine or orange soda.
There was however an outpouring of kindness. And I think for the first time in a long time I was able to appreciate the sentiment behind the phrase "happy birthday". This birthday was unique in that I am a year into my new home in The South. I have made a new division of friends. And my expectations of the day were altered due to other unexpected forces. It was going to be just another Thursday. Yet surprises were made. Salutations in abundance. And the sentiment was well received, if not well needed.
When I arrived home that evening I was in one of those Oprah gratitude moments. Allowing myself to be grateful for the friends I have. And hopeful for any new friends to come. Also at this time I opened a gift from two friends back in Minnesota. A coffee mug with a quote from the classic television show The Golden Girls. Undoubtedly one of the greatest shows about friendship that has ever graced American television. I laughed until I almost cried.
So perhaps all those years ago the tears at McDonald's or Chuck E.Cheese were overwhelming tears of appreciation. Maybe my 6 year old self wasn't emotionally intelligent enough to process the whole situation. Or maybe someone just stole my damn chicken McNuggets.
Thank you to all who wished me well, blessed me with gifts, and reminded me why we take that chance and talk to new people.