Coffee with Mimi: Birthday wishes and misses

Published 9:18 am Friday, January 29, 2021


Community columnist

Since the mid 1700s, the king of England, or queen as it is in the memory of nearly every person currently living on earth, has celebrated two birthdays each year.

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Should the current monarch visit Australia, she could travel around the country and celebrate on any number of days, as her birthday is a national holiday. In order for the celebrations to be as widely observed as possible, the date varies among the states and territories. Those Aussies truly love a reason to party and take full advantage in the spirit of national pride.

Dear Queen Elizabeth II was actually born on April 2, 1926. However, she customarily blows out the ceremonial candles on the second Saturday in June, at least since she acceded to the throne in 1952.

By all accounts it appears that prior to that momentous occasion, she enjoyed relatively normal, and annually singular, birthday observances just like the rest of us. She probably was invited to revel in the double days for her father and grandfather, probably excepting the war years, of course.

Last week I received a birthday card in the mail. I love my birthday. Coincidentally, it is also my wedding anniversary, so double the reason to sing a happy tune with those I love around me.

Even as a teacher, I looked forward to being in school on my birthday. The students would get a kick out of wishing me a Happy Day. There often was even an announcement over the PA system or a staff email card. Birthdays are a big deal for kids, and as it turns out lots of adults, too. I always felt cheated when school was called off for a snow day on my day or the day fell on a weekend. 

Even a queen is never too old to dress up and enjoy a parade, especially if it is in her honor.   As the story goes, the queen gets a second day of birth honor because the country wants to have a party, too.

Weather can be unpredictable in April, or January or November. Other months have their own special occasions, such as December and May, so they don’t need an excuse for the extra pageantry. A good month is one lacking a built-in reason for a party and a chance of decent weather. 

It is awfully inconvenient to postpone all those meticulously planned details should the selected date turn out to be a mess. You can’t be sure, but apparently over the course of time, early June has a track record of promising fairly pleasant conditions: not too hot, not too cold, just right for wool uniformed guards and a monarch, prancing horses and crowds of flag waving citizens and tourists.     

So, the second Saturday in June it is.

I’m not royalty, so I only get one shot at my annual day. The birthday card reminded me of exactly that. Not only do I get just the one day, the message reminded me that my birthday is the first birthday of 2021 in all our large and extended family.

The message from my sibling told me I had better not mess it up for all the rest of the tribe, of which I am the oldest save one.

I’m not quite sure how to take that birthday wish. We have had nearly a year of missed birthdays and holiday gatherings, of brunches, lunches and dinners for any number of celebratory events. I don’t have a crystal ball to predict the next few months or a magic wand to wave it all back to normal. I didn’t plan it this way.

I love a good party as much as the next person. I didn’t cause all this and would surely have planned it otherwise. I’m really good at organizing a party or a celebration for no reason whatsoever. Sometimes I can get carried away with little details which can be annoying to some of the more laid back among the family. I had no idea it was up to me to guarantee a year of fun and frivolity.

We have missed nearly a year of these moments.

And yet, we are among the very lucky ones. Our family has guarded each other and our lives and all are moving forward in health and optimism. So many others have experienced real pain and devastating loss. A missed birthday party in January or a summer cookout in the back yard is trivial and small in comparison.

So, in response to the birthday wish, dare I say challenge, I received last week, all I can offer is a promise.

I am perfectly happy to sit at home with my husband on our anniversary/my birthday totally on our own with no fanfare and no party with the hope that come August or September, I will be marshalling the troops to grill, bake, and play, all happy and healthy. I will give up rambunctious, fun gatherings for as many of the days between now and then as needed. 

That’s the only example I can set with the first birthday of 2021. Hope that is enough.