Today is my birthday and I’m only feeling semi-happy.
Despite more than a few cards, and cakes of various sizes and flavors from family, friends and well-wishers, I’m just not that connected to the event of my birth from more than half a century ago.
I was born in a year when the rotary phone was considered “modern technology,” Dwight D. Eisenhower was President, gas cost approximately 25 cents a gallon, Alaska and Hawaii became our 49th and 50th states, and the music died with Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper.
To be honest, I’ve never really appreciated cake-and-candle sing-a-longs and being the recipient of a pageantry of presents during forced congregations born from tradition. While I’m certainly grateful for the thoughtfulness of others, it’s only the thoughtfulness itself that resonates with me, and not the other Hallmarks of the occasion.
The whole birthday thing just feels a bit contrived to me these days. Much like most other special occasions and holidays where buying stuff (cards, cakes, gifts, etc.) has become the primary mechanism for us to demonstrate emotive consideration.
How long before entire birthday experiences take place by iPhone (transfer of cash/gifts, birthday music by iTunes, group FaceTime singing, thank-you notes via text, etc.) as we continue the long, cold march further away from human interactions towards 100 percent digital “connections”?
Conversely, kid birthday celebrations are perfectly fine, along with any other event (Christmas, Hanukkah, Tooth Fairy cash, Easter Bunny chocolate, etc.) that prolongs and perpetuates childhood innocence before the inevitable tsunami of cynicism (and reality) rolls in.
But after your first credit card bill arrives, and you file your first tax forms, it’s time to deflate the bubble (not completely, just Tom Brady level) of naivete and the balloons of illusion, and settle in for the long haul of adulthood: career challenges, financial pressures, heath issues, parenthood, retirement fears, etc.
So on this special day commemorating my birth, I’m asking my friends, family, business colleagues, and you, faithful reader, to resist the natural urge to send along expensive gifts, but to instead select just one item from my “Stevoe 2015 Birthday Gift Registry”:
• Item No. 1: Please join me in your pledge to not mention the name Donald J. Trump (a.k.a. “The Donald”) for at least the next week. I know that this is a lot to ask, but please remember that it’s one of my birthday wishes. Trump is like a crazed Gremlin, and instead of water being the trigger for his craziness, it’s our attention that he craves – so we must stop. I know that talking about The Donald has turned into a recreational activity at this point, but like playing lawn darts in the 1980s before they were made illegal, playing with The Donald can only cause pain, suffering and serious head injury.
• Item No. 2: Please join me in your pledge to mention Gov. Paul R. LePage (a.k.a. Gov. “I Just Don’t Care How Badly I Harm Maine”) whenever possible in the next week in the context of a) possible impeachment, b) an inevitable state supreme court ruling against his non-veto clownish mistake, c) his interference with Speaker of the House Mark Eves’ job at Good Will-Hinckley. Let’s collectively fast-forward to a point in the future (10 years from now?) when Maine students will learn in civics courses that the “LePage years” were a dark and destructive period of our state history and should be considered a cautionary tale (again, think political “lawn darts”) going forward.
• Item No. 3: To those readers who enjoy morphing into a writer whenever a righteous and indignant letter-writing opportunity presents itself, please do me this favor and pump your literary brakes on this day and spare me your response to this column. Yes, I’m sure that your love of The Donald and the “I Don’t Care How Badly I Harm Maine” governor are all very important issues to you, but it’s my birthday, so let’s take a break on the retorts.
• Item No. 4: Finally, the greatest gift I can ask from you or myself is to try to do something selfless for someone who needs some help this week. Regardless of age, gender, geography or politics, we all face challenges and hurdles along the way. Over the last 20,454 days, I have been blessed with good health, a wonderful family, great friends and colleagues for whom I’m forever grateful. But, I’ve also been unemployed, broke, without a place to sleep, without health insurance for an extended period, and I’ve lived under the dark cloud of fear about how to get from one day to the next. But, with the help of others, I did it. Please be one of those “others” for someone who might really need the help. They’re all around you if you look.