Getting older not too bad if you do birthdays right

I celebrated my 55th birthday on Monday.

I remember distinctly when my mom turned 55. At that time, drivers were not allowed to travel 65 mph on the highway, and we joked how she was turning the speed limit.

That year — 1996 — I was a college graduate who had been working for eight years and married for three. This year, my daughter is in seventh grade and won’t graduate from college for another nine years. In some ways, having a kid late in life allows you to remain in denial about your age. You forget you’re old enough to be a grandparent — even though some of your college classmates are — when your kid is still in middle school.

I really have never minded birthdays, though — even once I started to get older — because I love to celebrate. And I’ve had some great celebrations.

I turned 18 at midnight at a Sigma Kappa/Sigma Pi “exchange” (read party) as a freshman at Illinois Wesleyan University. That many people hadn’t sang “Happy Birthday” to me since I was in kindergarten.

The year I turned 30, Jim Slonoff turned 40 and another one of our co-workers, Beth Richards, turned 50. That summer we held the 30-40-50 party in Jim’s backyard, complete with a tent and a DJ and a bartender mixing up margaritas. One of the graphic designers we worked with designed hilarious invitations for us. We had a lot of fun, and a photo of the three of us in our matching T-shirts still sits in the conference room here at The Hinsdalean.

I woke up on my 35th birthday in a lovely B&B in Kilkenny, Ireland. We enjoyed a delicious Irish breakfast before heading to the Kilkenny Design Centre where I picked out an authentic fishermen’s knit sweater for my birthday — and ones for several other family members for Christmas. The day included stops at Cashel, Cahir Castle and Killarney and ended with a birthday dinner at the Parknasilla Hotel on the Ring of Kerry.

“I wish I could celebrate every birthday like this!” I wrote in my journal.

Dan surprised me when I turned 40 by with a “special” birthday post on Facebook featuring photos of my earlier years, including a shot of me as a baby and one of me in my pompon uniform in high school. The most notable was one of me as a Girl Scout in fourth grade, with my green beret highlighting my oversized forehead and my big smile calling attention my oversized front teeth.

I’ve been lucky to celebrate a handful of birthdays during performances of The Community Revue, where I’ve heard the most beautiful renditions of “Happy Birthday” ever, courtesy of my talented castmates.

Last year, I had a second celebration the day after my birthday when I met my birth father for the first time in Florida. I have lovely photos of me with my birthday cake, looking just like a deer in headlights. Once I settled down, it was a great week. And I received really special gifts from Chris and my birth mom, Pat.

Some people are embarrassed to say how old they are. I am not. I have no control over how old I am — and very little control over how old I look, unless I add a Botox/Restylane/Dysport appointment when I get my hair colored.

And if I start regretting how old I am, I can always reflect on the alternative.

— Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean. Readers can email her at [email protected].

Author Bio

Author photo

Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean