Sunday, February 3, 2013


Birthdays are a way for us to mark time. They can also be a sort of rite of passage, depending on the birthday.

For children, those special birthdays come fast and furious for the first 21 years. With them come parties, balloons, cakes and more. Birthdays have turned into grand affairs, usually with a theme that goes along with the child's interests at the time.

First birthdays mark one year of making it through infanthood. Around the first birthday, babies are learning to walk, sending them crashing into toddlerhood. I've seen some of the most elaborate birthdays celebrated for one-year-olds, who will never even remember it. Special cakes are made especially for the celebrant--put it on the highchair in front of the baby and see what happens! What a waste of good cake...

I guess the next landmark birthday is five. I'm not sure why, because I think it should be six...that means a child is now old enough to go to school for the next twelve years. 

Ten is a significant birthday, because the child is then in the double digits...and three years of pre-teen silliness. But then comes 13. Now the child is a TEENAGER. We don't really do the big Quinceanera for the 15th birthday that many Latin American countries do. It's like a mini wedding, with elaborate dresses. (Translation: Big Bucks.)

The next big birthday is 16. Sweet sixteen. Driver's license. Freedom. Then 18, which means they can vote and they are old enough to go off to college. 

Of course, the big birthday marks the end of childhood altogether. It's 21. Legal to drink. Everyone makes a big deal out of it, but in reality, they are really just the same kid...

No significant birthdays are celebrated when a person is in their 20's. During that time, a transition is made from childhood to adulthood as they find their way out of college and into a career. But then something happens. It sneaks up on you when you least imagine it. 

You turn 30. Or, worse. Your oldest child turns 30. What does that mean?

Nicole, who we let loose on the world early on, is still the same size she was in the ninth grade. She has a forever-young face that makes it hard for us to remember that she's not sixteen any more. When she was 25, her world and ours was turned upside down when she fell off a six story building. We flew her from New York where she had been living back to Jackson in an air ambulance. After months in rehab, we brought her home, to the room where she grew up. 

For a long time I cared for her almost like a newborn. I helped bathe her, feed her and helped her get dressed. I did her makeup an hair. I was with her 24/7. Gradually, she learned to care for herself. She worked hard in therapy to get stronger and to find new ways of doing the things she insisted on doing for herself. 

As Nicole stepped back into her independence more and more each day, I was thrilled, but a little sad, because I enjoyed our time together. I had to let her go all over again, knowing that bad things can happen to good people out in the world. 

Each birthday since her accident has been a celebration of Nicole's life. And that's what birthdays should be for everyone. A special day when a person is celebrated.
Yesterday was Nicole's 30th birthday. She is now transitioning not only into an independent life of her own, but deep into adulthood. When I turned 30, I felt I had gained a little "street cred." I felt legitimate. "I know what I'm talking about because I'm 30." I wonder if Nicole feels the same way.

We weren't with Nic on her momentous birthday. She was in New Orleans, celebrating with her boyfriend. I hope that she had a wonderful evening. And I hope she has a great decade filled with excitement, achievement and happiness. 

Blessings to all who read this!

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful: family, daughter/Nicole, life/lives, story, writing. . . and I love the new banner pic. Rock on!