Birthdays, for me, are notable for nothing so much as a reminder of how quickly time passes. And when I start thinking about that, I start thinking the Why are we here? What’s the meaning of life? kind of questions that have no definitive answers, and then my head starts to hurt. I’ve felt this way since I was a kid. At least there were gifts, then, and a cake to distract me.
I’m not that crazy about cake anymore, and there is nothing I really need, so on my birthday in those first few moments of waking, I generally feel a pang, a longing for something I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps if I had not been born in the dead of winter? Maybe the longing is simply for sun.
Sunday, the 25th, was my birthday. This year there happened to be sun. As well as son of the other kind, and a plan.
And there were Facebook friends to keep me buoyed.
The first Happy Birthday popped up the evening before. I was surprised. When I checked, it was a Facebook friend from Athens, Greece. It made me smile and think about this woman who lived so far away, and where, for her, it was officially my birthday. A few more birthday greetings followed shortly after that. One was from a woman I adore, who is usually up rather late at night, and who was glad not to miss leaving her good wishes. I went to bed thinking about that woman — a dear friend of my husband’s late grandmother (another woman I adored). She’s also known me since I was a little girl. She gets special props for that.
In the morning over coffee, I checked Facebook again. There were more birthday wishes. More of me thinking fondly on each person who posted. More smiling going on, inside and out.
The plan for the day was a trip to Boston. Drive up, pick up the Boy, and drive to the Museum of Science to spend the afternoon. On the way, I kept checking to see how many more people had wished me a happy birthday. The number kept growing. I kept announcing the number to my husband as he drove.
We whiled away a lovely afternoon at the museum. Later in the day, as I stood scanning the central room in search of Husband and Boy, I thought about all the people there — young and old, grandparents, parents, children, all of them exploring, touching, laughing. So alive. As opposed to the army of scientists and mathematicians whose ideas informed the basics of so many of the exhibits.
There is nothing like wandering around a museum to bring home the point of time passing by.
Still, throughout the day–a peek here, a glance there–at the increasing number of people who took a second to say Hey you, Happy Birthday kept me from wading too deeply into the murky musings of mortality. People were waving and smiling at me from all over the world.
What a strange and wondrous world we live in.
There’s a lot to be said about the pros and cons of social media. It’s the scourge of our society, a time suck, a spy. It’s blessing, it’s a curse.
What I will say is this. I read every single birthday greeting I received. Time (the greedy bugger) did not allow for me to reply to every one, or even very many, but I liked each one which, for me, at least, serves the purpose of acknowledgment.
I can tell you that with every smile and wave you sent, I pictured each and every one of you. How I know you, or how long. Some of you I grew up with, went to school with, worked with, acted with, wrote with, played games with. Some of you I’ve never met face-to-face. All of you have made me laugh.
I thought about where you are, or what you like, what music you listen to, or what you like to eat. The words you hate, the games you enjoy. Some little shiny thing about you that I can hold to the light, that makes you, you, makes you memorable to me so that when you wish me well, I know exactly who to picture.
I know exactly who to thank.