Books Magazine

Birthdays — October Memoir Challenge

By Joyweesemoll @joyweesemoll

When my sister-in-law and I were planning the 18th birthday party for a nephew today, we decided he probably would still want a birthday cake. In fact, we remembered birthday cakes still feeling special well into our twenties, when we could get them.

girl and boy opening birthday boxes

The expression on my face was “Why is he getting a present when it’s my birthday?” Now, I know it’s because Grandma couldn’t turn down a good deal when she saw one — in this case on children’s wallets.

I’m not sure why birthday cakes feel special to me so much, looking through family photos. Birthday cakes in our house were very rare. I imagine that my mother didn’t want them in the house for the same reason that I don’t want them in my house — a small piece to celebrate a special occasion is fine, but what the heck do you do with the leftovers? Maybe I appreciated birthday cakes in my twenties because I didn’t get as many as I might have wanted when I was living at home.

Two girls and birthday cake

From the photo evidence, I’m guessing this was the last fancy cake I got as a child — age 7. My mother was in the hospital at that time. Our neighbor, Mrs. Benson, threw a party for me after dance class complete with a cake that had a ceramic ballerina on it.

Since my birthday is in May and my brother’s is in August, for many years, our birthday celebrations happened at Busch Stadium. The birthday boy or girl got to bring a friend. We had many great experiences and, even now, that feels like something that defined our family in a way that birthday cakes never could.

Red and white certificate of birthday greetings from the St. Louis Cardinals

My mother set things up so that we got a special certificate and our name in lights on the scoreboard.

These days, birthdays get a small amount of attention. For a few years after Mother died, my birthday made me sad. No one alive was present at my birth. Plus, my May 12 birthday always fell near (occasionally on) Mother’s Day so we often had a dual family celebration. I’m very happy that for her last Mother’s Day, we took Mother to a baseball game during the last season at old Busch Stadium.

Now, most years, my brother, Dale, takes us out on my birthday and we take him and his crew out for his birthday. Sometimes, we’ll also manage some low key event like a day at the Missouri Botanical Garden or a trip to the St. Louis Art Museum.

Check out more October Memoir posts at Jane Ann McLachlan’s blog: October Memoir Challenge.

What do you do to celebrate birthdays? Are they less of a big deal now than they were when you were younger, or more?

Signature of Joy Weese Moll

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog