A sweet friend turned 65 a few months ago and celebrated by traveling to Russia with her husband, a dream trip she was able to take in spite of some health ups and downs and a few life transitions. You don’t get to 65 without a few. Another good friend treated herself to a meditation retreat in Maui for her 70th birthday. Certain birthdays in our culture are viewed as marking points, birthdays we feel we should distinguish from other birthdays. There are the early ones – 16, 18, and 21. After that it is the decade markers. In our family ‘special’ birthday celebrations were often no more than a dinner party with mom, which made it special because it meant a lot to her. And wasn’t she the one who put the birth in ‘birthday’, and did all the work?
My last big birthday party celebration was at 50. At 60 we took a weekend trip to the San Juan Islands, canceling plans for a trip to California when I realized the body was not able to make such a trip. Thanks to the random age chosen by the government to allow people to draw Social Security, we’ve made 65, the half way point between 60 and 70, a birthday to take note of. Though employers can no longer require people to retire at 65, and most people do not, instead retiring earlier due to health or job changes, or later due to financial needs and/or love of their work and finding fulfillment in continuing to be productive. But 65 remains a unique mid-decade noteworthy birthday.
Given that cultural influence, and the fact that for several years my birthday was trumped by either my own health ‘crisis’, or Mike’s, or the needs of my Mom, I thought 65 should indeed be noteworthy. First….I made it. That’s worth celebrating! Second, who knows how many more birthdays I’ll have (people over 60 are more likely to ponder this, especially those with a cancer history, or those with a progressive health condition.)
As it turned out, plans to go away, or do something different, more celebratory, were thwarted once again by health challenges…a stubborn respiratory ‘bug’, and a postponed breast MRI and surgeon follow-up. As ‘the date’ drew closer I gave up the idea of any celebration at all.
Mike loves movies, so I thought maybe we could at least find one to go to. Nothing appealed to me or was remotely upbeat…except The Peanuts Movie, in 3D. When I learned the movie was opening my birthday weekend in celebration of the comic strip turning 65, I thought, how serendipitous. The original two characters, Charlie Brown and Snoopy, and I, are the same age!
So we went. How ironic, the theme of my mid-decade birthday was now a comic strip. But not just any comic strip. One whose creator, Charles Schulz, said he did his comic strip for adults, (due to animated television specials, the characters eventually appealed to young children also.) A comic strip that uses sarcasm and wit to show the moody sides of people, the complexities of relationships, the ups and downs of life’s disappointments, as well as the occasional triumphs. I’m not going to say Peanuts reflects all of life, or I had an ‘ah ha’ moment and realized how my life reflected Charlie Brown’s, (like most of us, I have a bit of several characters in my own make up. A good comic strip makes its appeal by how much it reflects the human experience.) but after doing a little research, watching a few TV specials the night before on a DVD from the library, I did gain a new appreciation for a favorite comic strip of my younger years.
The day was a delight. No fanfare, nothing extraordinary, no trips, just a fun movie, well done in a new technology, a walk on the bluff at Dungeness Recreation Area (a favorite place), dinner at a small, friendly restaurant in Sequim with excellent food, (though the waitress did not know what we meant when we said we saw The Peanuts Movie, sigh.) My gift? A reflection on how doing what is ordinary, especially when life has been anything but ordinary for too long, can be profound, can in fact be extraordinary, and can mark a special time in life. Life’s simple pleasures can be the best celebrations.