Once upon a time there were six sisters and their names were Dreamy, Sweety, Sassy, Brainy, Beauty and Baby. (Any resemblance that these fictional characters may have to my own dear sistahs is purely coincidental, I’m just saying.)
Dreamy had a talent for doing what she was told and Sweety was very helpful all the time. Sassy was born wailing and grew up to speak her mind and Brainy was so smart that she just knew to keep quiet. Beauty was calm and easy going and Baby was just that, the baby.
All of the sisters were all born one right after another, bing, bing, bing, at a time when people were pretty hopeful and happy and having many babies was considered the right thing to do. They lived in a small but sturdy house with just one bathroom, one telephone and one car to share, if you can imagine that.
Houses on every block were filled with tuna noodle casseroles and dirty laundry and crying and laughter and many, many birthday parties.
Birthdays Are Not Business As Usual
In this particular family, the birthdays were mostly celebrated at a family supper, for which Daddy was usually late. The birthday girl got to choose a special meal and a flavor for her birthday cake.
Dreamy, Sweety, Sassy, Brainy, Beauty and Baby took turns one by one turning five and going off to school; then turning ten, which seemed a pretty big deal to be in double digits; then fifteen, when they all thought they knew lots about everything.
And before you could say “make a wish,” they were all turning twenty years old and they left the small but sturdy house to make their way in the world.
Dreamy lead the way, since she was the oldest sister and that’s what they’re supposed to do. It was scary stepping out into the world of bosses and sleepover boyfriends and living in a chilly apartment furnished with castoff furniture and half dead houseplants. Dreamy sometimes wished that she could return to the small but sturdy house and snuggle in among her sisters where it was safe and supper was the same as she always remembered.
But in this family that wasn’t the way things were done and Dreamy kept on struggling through one birthday to the next trying to be happy, healthy and as professional as possible.
Time Flies When You’re Making a Life
Dreamy sort of lost track of her sisters during those years since they were all out there doing mostly the same things and making the same sort of mistakes. They were all very, very busy. They were way too busy for birthdays together anymore. They felt bad about this and sent each other birthday cards, if they thought about it, but they were a bit sad about it just the same.
One day it was time for Dreamy to turn thirty years old and she realized maybe it was time to settle down a bit. Thirty seemed awfully grown up all of a sudden and she felt it was about time to be married and make her own family. That took a lot more time and effort than she expected and before she knew it, another ten years just flew by.
The sisters all lived far away from each other by now and they had very few chances to really talk and share what they had learned, much less eat birthday cake together.
Straight on through their fortieth birthdays, Dreamy, Sweety, Sassy, Brainy, Beauty and Baby were all so busy. It was all that they could do to go to work, smile at their husbands, raise their children and keep their houses at least a little bit clean and tidy, that there was just plain no time to consider the birthdays problem at all.
Then before you could say “Chateau Neuf de Pape”, Dreamy was looking her fiftieth birthday right in the eye. She remembered fondly how much fun it had been when she turned ten years old with grandparents, aunt and uncles, sisters and cousins gathered around and thought maybe it was time to do that again. She wanted to turn back the clock and celebrate this special birthday with the relatives that were part of her whole life.
Of course, now there were also husbands and ex-husbands and teenaged children and so on, but she thought she could manage to gather them up into one big happy family for her fiftieth.
Mistake! Big, big mistake!
Dreamy had been hearing a little too much Sister Sledge singing “We Are Fam-i-ly” in the back of her mind. She had been remembering only the good things about her big family and had forgotten how crowded, noisy and confusing it could be to share a special occasion with so many strong and independent people. What a dreamer!
She tried to make everybody happy but forgot to make herself happy. And she felt lost and very, very old on her half-century birthday.
Mistakes Happen for a Reason
Dreamy survived and put it this mistake behind her with all of the others. She still believed that it was important to make time to celebrate birthdays and she promised herself to do this with each sister, one by one, as they each turned fifty.
First, it was Sweety’s turn and she chose a spa weekend with lavender scented massages and lots of wine in her glass.
Next came Sassy’s 50th and she chose a sailing adventure with a whiff of danger that almost ended in a shipwreck.
Brainy heard about that one and chose wisely to mark her birthday in quieter style and no one blamed her for it.
Beauty was all about the beach. She wanted to sip frothy tropical cocktails and search for Mr. Right on a sandy shore.
Now it’s Baby’s turn. She had always been the funny one, joking and laughing while the others were facing the music. But she’s not laughing now since she’s making it to the milestone like all the rest and being the baby just isn’t what it used to be.
Maybe she will chose a trip to an exotic land or a peaceful retreat on a mountain top. It’s up to Baby and all of her sisters wish her well. It’s too important to miss.
The Moral of the Story Is…
Even if you don’t have an older sister to nag you, it’s up to you to make your plan for your next round birthday. You know, one with a zero in it.
Don’t leave it to chance hoping that either: a) no one will notice or b) unmarked, it will just go away.
It really is all about you, in a good way. No one else can say for certain how you would like to celebrate your time on this planet.
Make Midlife Milestones Magical
Take it as carte blanche to celebrate for a whole year. Don’t wait for a humiliating surprise party with too many balloons, too many candles and snide slogans like “Fifty is Nifty” or “Sixty is Sexy.” Make your own statement for the decade; no sliding into a sinkhole of mass produced Hallmark sentiment.
- Focus on what would really make you, and no one else, happy. Whether it is a grand tour or a weekend away, a lavish party or an intimate meal at home, make sure that it satisfies your own special taste for a great time.
- Guard the guest list – Avoid the word should in connection with any proposed invitee. Life is too short to risk spoiling your celebration with people who may cast shadows on your special day.
- Start planning early – Save the Date cards are not the exclusive right of brides and grooms. Let your friends and family have plenty of advance notice about when you plan to take center stage.
- Make it memorable – A theme distracts a little from the number of years and chances are that we’ll all have a few more of these milestone birthdays ahead of us, so mark the occasion with your own unique interests. Whether it’s flamenco dancing to dueling guitars or dressing in plaid for a Highland Fling, do it up your way.
- Establish a budget – Keep it real fiscal-wise. It’s no good pulling out all the stops if there will be hell to pay later. A luscious slice of homemade chocolate cake and a glass of Budget Bubbly will fill the bill as well as a two hundred dollar meal.
- Ask for help – There really are no medals given for doing it all yourself and growling at everyone. Make arrangements to have support so that you are free to bless every guest with your most dazzling conversation and smile.
Life is made up of moments that pass as quickly as a sunset at the equator. And none of us is guaranteed the hundred happy birthdays we envisioned as kids on a playground. So, as you face up to your next round birthday, rise to the occasion, put on your dancin’ shoes and don’t miss a thing.