Home » In Between » MY SPECIAL DAY. . .


Rustic setting with spring flowers and homemade breadCelebrating my birthday has always been a big deal to me, and how I have done that has gone through many incarnations over the course of my long life. When I was a child my birthday took on a particular significance: It was a day of amnesty, a “cease-fire,” a reprieve from being scolded… or worse. It was my special day, and I remember each year feeling giddy with anticipation. I looked forward to it even more than Christmas. I got to choose the dinner menu (fried chicken and mashed potatoes) and the dessert (Betty Crocker’s Chocolate Cake). I felt quite la-di-da. Parties, however, were problematic. You ran the risk that the cease-fire would get called off. Once—when I turned thirteen and had my first boy/girl-afternoon-dance party—it didn’t end well. My father had had one too many libations by 2:00 and ripped the record player out of the wall, sending my friends packing. “No kid of mine is going to listen to Elvis Presley. He’s a goddam pervert. Jesus Christ, someone should cut his hair!” Having a party was always a crap shoot.

When I grew up, I still wanted my birthday to be my “special day.” I couldn’t drop my expectations, and this was a big, fat setup for disappointment—again and again. There were times when I waited… not saying anything, certain that any minute someone would surprise me with a cake, or maybe breakfast in bed, a flower, perhaps a card… and nada. When no one noticed, it broke my heart.

It took years, but then I finally woke up: I took charge of “my day.” No longer did I leave it to chance. Never again would I be vulnerable to disappointment! I planned weeks in advance about how I wanted to spend my day, what I wanted to do and who I wanted to do it with.

And over time… what I discovered was that my “special day” started to become less about me and more about the people I loved; less about what I needed and more about contentment for everything I already had. Instead, I wanted to give presents to others or cook for them on my birthday.

As I age, I feel my edges soften. The clock is ticking. I don’t have time to cling to what no longer has meaning in my life. As someone said, “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no!” Each morning when I wake up and find myself still breathing, I rejoice. I might have another day. I am filled with gratitude for the bounty in my life. I am infused with joy more often than not. Every day is starting to feel like my birthday!

I turned seventy-three on my most recent one. I felt full to spilling over—spending hours on the phone with old friends and family, receiving congratulatory texts, emails, and the usual birthday wishes on Facebook. In the evening I went with my daughter to a performance of the Playback theater in our local community. The topic was Growing food, Eating Food, Sharing Food. I shared my story of coming full circle: from having once been a farmer who grew pumpkins for the kids in the county and nourished my family with the food I grew and the bread I baked—to planting no food for twenty-two years—to now feeding my family once again with the harvest from my huge backyard garden and fresh, homemade bread. When I was done telling my tale, the actors “played it back” to me. It was an enactment of my life before my eyes, a coming home to an essential piece in me that I had put on hold for a long time. The evening culminated with a concert from my granddaughter of her favorite songs from the film Moana. It was a glorious day.



4 thoughts on “MY SPECIAL DAY. . .

  1. Candace – I love your story! I can relate to it in many ways, most not so painful as your early teen years. I was 29 when I decided I wasn’t going to be disappointed any longer and planned to add two rituals to my life: buy my own special birthday gift, so I never held anyone else responsible for making me “happy” on the day — and, the gift of flowers – I stopped wishing my husband would give me bouquets of flowers (he did, sweetly, but rarely) and I decided to buy myself flowers whenever I could afford it, grow it, needed it, or just fell in love with the simply pleasure of bringing home the grocery store variety on payday. I don’t *expect* overjoy when I give gifts or flowers to family or friends – that reaction is at their pleasure. I decorated my cube at work with a glorious bunch of gladiolas – reds and citrus oranges – that reached high over the cubicle glass this Christmas – all around me were the usual decorations and my beautiful glads brought gladness to all who visited them to admire them. OHHHH dear! Fran! You’re getting carried away! Naturally, I loved your culmination of the Playback Theatre experience! How delightful to hear your granddaughter play for you — what a lovely, positive influence you have been on their lives — full circle indeed. Happy birthday, dear lady, and many, many more! Fran

    On Mon, Jan 16, 2017 at 8:24 AM, BIRTH AND DEATH AND IN BETWEEN wrote:

    > candacepalmo posted: “Celebrating my birthday has always been a big deal > to me, and how I have done that has gone through many incarnations over the > course of my long life. When I was a child my birthday took on a particular > significance: It was a day of amnesty, a “cease-fire” >

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