“You’re going to be thirty-five?” – Vanir’s wife Sarah, upon hearing the tragic news.
In a couple of days, the Earth will complete thirty-five rotations around the Sun since I was unleashed upon this world. Being born in mid-October, it’s always neat to have all the trees in full color around my birthday. I guess I can either look at it as capping off a great summer, or have it bittersweet as the cold and snow and ice prepares to crap frostily on my head for 5 months. You know what I want for my birthday every year? No #*&$^# WINTER.
When I was little, I’d count down the days until my birthday for a whole month. I was a greedy little fellow, and I wanted PRESENTS. Star Wars toys were usually a central pillar of the bounty both at birthdays and Christmas, and I had a habit of giving my stuff names. I have a Tauntaun named “Bryan” and a Wampa named.. well… “Wampy”. As the years passed, the action figures changed but the goal remained the same, and I accumulated lots of He-Man and Thundercats and Real Ghostbusters and even some totally sweet AD&D figures (which I deeply regret getting rid of now). In 6th grade, my great grandma got me a Nintendo Entertainment System, and my focus pretty much shifted to the acquisition of as many Game Paks as I possibly could.
Around college, a funny thing happened. My birthday would sneak up on me, and I wouldn’t have any idea what I wanted. In retrospect, it’s easy to see why. I started getting disposable income, so I was buying all the stuff I wanted when it came out, instead of locking all my wee capitalistic fury away until OH MY GOD I CAN FINALLY PLAY SUPER MARIO BROS. 2. Well, actually, in college it wasn’t so much “disposable income” as it was “a massive credit card balance I would pay off ten years later”, but it’s the same idea. I already had almost everything I wanted, and the stuff I didn’t have was either too expensive or too complicated to make a good present from non-techie relatives. My birthday just sort of became that time of year to get family together, eat cake, and to open a whole bunch of envelopes with money in them.
At my son’s first birthday party, it occurred to me exactly what I was doing a year ago on that day (namely, watching him come out and not sleeping for 6 months), and suddenly the “birth” part of “birthday” took on a lot more meaning for me. I can only begin to imagine how my parents must have felt, watching their present-crazed little boy running around screaming year after year, a birthday hat clinging to dear life by its uncomfortable rubber chinstrap. At the very least, it has restored a little of the magic for me, albeit in a dramatically different way.
I didn’t feel old at 20. I felt awesome. I didn’t even feel that old at 30. This birthday, it’s starting to hit me, but more because I’m noticing how old other people are relative to me. I have a brother and friends who are over 40. I have friends who are in their mid twenties that weren’t alive when I was in 5th grade. I’m used to seeing my dad and my teachers and other, well, adults as being in their 40s. What the hell, time? Who authorized this crap?
It’s especially bad when I see, for instance, some teenager walking around ironically wearing a Centipede t-shirt. Listen, you little punk. In my day, we were making corridors of mushrooms to guide the centipedes driven mad by the scorpion’s poisoned mushroom straight into my oncoming line of laser death, maximizing my score by hitting only 100 point heads so go buy a Justin Bieber shirt or something. Oh great, I just told some kid to get off my digital lawn.
It’s not so bad, though. I have to admit, I still don’t feel old. Sure, my body doesn’t quite work the same (and I’m told it just goes downhill from here), but I haven’t let life beat all the kid out of me just yet. I’m looking forward to my son getting old enough to play some more complex stuff with me. I want to keep imagining and creating and getting weird looks from coworkers. I want to be running a daily D&D game when I’m in a nursing home. Give me another 35 years, and we’ll see how that turns out.