Today I am officially 50 years old. FIFTY. I keep saying it to myself, hoping that I will eventually believe it.
I know people who celebrate their birthdays in extravagant ways, or celebrate for more than one day. Growing up in a working class family, birthdays were celebrated, but it was a one day thing – family, mom’s homemade cake, ice cream and a smattering of presents.
They were sweet and simple, and I treasure those early memories.
This one, though, the fiftieth one is rather profound for me and my siblings. You see, three out of the four of us have now celebrated more birthdays than our mother did. Mom was 49 years old when she passed away from cancer.
Looking back to the “mile-marker” birthdays, I remember she had a chemotherapy treatment on my 16th birthday. That’s the first birthday I remember not having any type of celebration. She threw me a party for my 17th – I think to make up for not having something the year before.
My 21st birthday, another mile-marker, I was in Arizona with my then boyfriend for his cousin’s wedding. We were all focused on the wedding, and I’ve never been a huge drinker, so it wasn’t as important a birthday to me as it is to others.
For my 25th birthday, I was single, living on my own and working shift work as a paramedic. I have no clue what I did to celebrate a quarter century!
By my 30th birthday, I was married (and not to the Arizona boyfriend). Three weeks prior, we closed on and moved into our “forever” home in a brand new subdivision. My sweet husband planned a surprise party for me, but the logistics were a nightmare. We were the third house to close in the entire subdivision, so there were no neighbors. There weren’t even other houses, just empty lots, some foundations and houses in various stages of construction.
Where was he supposed to put all of the family and friend vehicles so that I wouldn’t notice? Exactly. It wasn’t possible. I give him so much credit for trying, but when we pulled over halfway home from the restaurant so they could blindfold me, I figured out what was going on. The party was fun, even if it wasn’t a big surprise.
When my 40th rolled around, I was a full-time mom of two preschoolers. My focus was on my kids then, and turning 40 really was just another number.
Now, I am 50. I have lived more birthdays than my mom. I qualify for AARP, and I’ve heard that some places give “senior” discounts to people over 50. SWEET!
When I look in the mirror, I wonder who that person is, because I still think of myself as the physically fit, sassy, high-energy, hard-working 25-year-old with the whole world at my fingertips.
Reality says that I’m a chunky, sarcastic, exhausted, over-worked 50-year-old who still doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up.
I am immensely grateful for my life; I have my faith which gives me hope and strength, family to love and be loved by, food on the table, a roof over my head, paid employment and good friends to cherish. My life is not perfect, but it’s about as close as anyone can get.
So today, I will celebrate my 50 years with gratefulness in my heart for all the goodness and blessings God has given me. Although I love flowers and chocolates, this life I have is the greatest gift of them all.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
How do you feel about birthdays? Do you celebrate your birthdays or avoid them?
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