On Turning 58

Tomorrow is my birthday. I have ambivalent feelings about birthdays. A legacy of my Nana and Zada is my belief that one should celebrate whenever possible, since there is plenty of heartache in this world. I also believe that even though showing appreciation for the people you love should be a regular thing, and not dictated by the calendar, birthdays, holidays and Mother’s Day, etc., are good reminders. I don’t think there are that many of us walking around feeling over-appreciated.

On the other hand, in my family we didn’t make a big deal out of birthdays – only milestones, like 13 for my brothers and 16 for me. There is an amusing anecdote about my brother Mark’s 11th birthday. As noted in previous posts, my grandfather was a baker and he would bring home surplus goods from the commercial bakery where he worked. One year there was a birthday cake that hadn’t been picked up and it was fortuitous because it was also Mark’s birthday.  Zada brought home the large, day old cake with white icing. So what if it said, in pastel blue letters, ‘Happy Birthday Manny’ on it?  And, so what if it was a little stale?  It would have been a shame to let the cake go to waste. We lit the candles and sung a very off key version of the birthday song and had a good laugh about it.

There was a small part of me that wished we observed birthdays like other kids’ families. Some even stayed home from school for the day! That was out of the question in our family.

My birthday often falls on or near the Jewish high holy days. The story I heard was that my mother thought she was having indigestion from Rosh Hoshana dinner, when in fact, she was in labor. Apparently, her labor with me was fast and furious and I arrived before they had a chance to administer the anesthesia. In those days, they knocked women out when delivering babies. I emerged, all 9 pounds 15 ounces of me (!), without the benefit of her being unconscious. Poor Mom!

For the most part, I like the fact that my birthday falls during the Jewish New Year celebration – as long as it doesn’t fall on the actual day of Yom Kippur (our day of fasting). The high holy days ask us to reflect on the year we finished, make amends for our sins and consider how we will do better in the year to come.  As someone who is introspective to begin with, it is a good fit with my birthday.

The problem, though, with birthdays and the high holy days, is the other reminder they provide: time marches on and, as we get older, it seems to march faster and faster. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by our total inability to control it. The number 58 doesn’t mean anything really, I am the same person. On the other hand, I’m freakin’ old!

I look at my mom, who is still young at heart. There are real issues, limitations, imposed by aging, but if we are lucky enough to have a sound mind (or relatively sound :)), there is no reason we can’t be engaged and interested in the world. There is always more to learn. My parents were/are great role models in their continuous quest for knowledge and insight.

Having observed Yom Kippur this past weekend, I approach my birthday with gratitude. We were fortunate to have Leah, Daniel and Beth with us for the holiday – the first time in many years that we have been able to be together. Unfortunately, I also had an ear and sinus infection, but I reveled in our time together. As residue of the holiday, tomorrow I will still be thinking about how I can make myself a better person, a better family member, friend and citizen of this troubled world. And hopefully take a moment to celebrate, too.


Shana tova.

7 thoughts on “On Turning 58

  1. Loved reading your blog, as always. Yes I had one hour of labor and out you popped. I remember telling the doctor that he was wrong, that I had a boy. He actually turned white, ran out of the room and came back immediately, scolded me and said, Look, a beautiful baby girl. My defense is that I was administered ether right after you were born, when it was totally unnecessary. What a joy to have you, who has been my love and joy all these years. Happy Birthday in advance


  2. At this stage of our lives, birthdays should be cherished. We grow to appreciate still being here to celebrate another year. You are blessed to spend time with your entire family. I think we have learned to enjoy every day, even our birthdays.
    Uncle Terry


  3. Yes, I do remember celebrating “Manny’s” birthday even though we didn’t know the guy. It’s part of our family lore. Remember the spiced muffins? They were pretty good when Zada was able to bring them home.

    Plenty of heart ache in the world…..In view of last nights events, please do celebrate your birthday and whatever other days on the calendar that are important milestones for you. One never knows when it can be all taken away…..

    Have a happy birthday and enjoy it.


  4. Oh those spice cakes! Even better than my Manny birthday cake. Great memories and I agree with Steve and Terry- seize the day- celebrate.
    And since you are wondering how- come on over to my house- I will make you a special birthday brunch!!
    Love Manny


  5. Clearly everybody else who responded is obsessed with parties. Personally I don’t understand it. Except for your birthday. That deserves recognition and celebration.
    Thank you for the thoughtful blog post and welcome to the 58’s.


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