Autumn Is The Season To Remember Birthdays!

From the desk of Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy

            I adore October, everything from the wild and flaming colors of autumn replacing summer’s green.  I enjoy the cool, often frosty mornings and the faint hint of wood smoke in the air.  Although my family’s schedule tends to heat up into a hectic pace each fall, the days and nights seem to move with slow somnolence and I savor every moment.  Some people say I prefer the season because I was born in autumn, in late October.  My birthday falls this week (27th) and I was born in the same moment as a great aunt passed from life, scant days before Halloween, and was given a name one short syllable shy of my paternal grandmother’s lost baby girl.  My mother never knew about the name until I was nine or so and my grandmother went to purchase a headstone for her child, a luxury she couldn’t afford back in 1933 when Shirley Ann Sontheimer was born and died in a single day.  When she did know, my mom found it a little disturbing but I never did.  My grandparents were almost surrogate parents to me and I was very close to them.  Sharing most of a name with my unknown aunt never bothered me in the least.

            Birthdays these days have become big budget events.  The simple birthday parties of the past seem to have fallen out of fashion along with bell bottom jeans and granny glasses.  My kids are invited to parties at laser tag events, at fast food restaurants, at skating rinks and movie theaters.  The arcade at the local mall boasts a party room and apparently most parents think nothing of holding the celebration in the larger town some twenty miles or so away.  Elaborate themed parties are also the style – princess parties for little girl, action figures for boys, and such.  I’ve heard about parties with rented clowns, ponies, and even celebrities.   And I’ve taken my children when they were much younger as guests where the presents were stacked high and seemed to never end.

            My own parties back in the day were nothing as elaborate.  Some people raised a few eyebrows because I sometimes had more than one cake – one bakery decorated, an indulgence my parents were glad to provide, one plain frosted layer cake and sometimes a lovely nut confection my maternal grandmother made.  Adults preferred it but I didn’t until I became older.

            Note the simplicity of the presents wrapped waiting for the little birthday girl.  I’m the little girl in the white blouse and blue jumper.  Half the kids present are some of my cousins, the rest are classmates and kids from the neighborhood.  I look at the photo with a rush of nostalgia and so do other adults anywhere near my age (which, by the way, I’m NOT sharing) but young folks probably would think how boring it must’ve been.  But, it wasn’t.  We had fun with old standards like Pin-The-Tail on the donkey and other party games.  My older cousins created quite a stir with the dry ice the ice cream came packed in courtesy of my Uncle Bill who worked for Just-Rite Dairy.

            This year, as I mark the anniversary of my birth, my daughters will be away at speech and debate squad related events, a local tournament their school hosts each autumn.  My eleven year old son will be around and we’d celebrate Sunday except my daughters are off to Tulsa, Oklahoma to attend the ballet, part of cultural enrichment connected to the Honors Academy at their high school.  But I have several lunch dates with friends and family – and a week out, I’ve already received some birthday wishes so I won’t be pining.  It may be a few days before I can gather the clan together but we’ll party sooner or later!

            And, as far as I’m concerned, being part of the Rebel Ink Press elite for 2013 is a wonderful present in and of itself. 

            Birthdays then and now have changed, however, part of our culture and I have no doubt how, where, and with what we celebrate will change again.

I'm the littlest one in front!


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