“Traveling outgrows its motives. It soon proves sufficient in itself. You think you are making a trip, but soon it is making you – or unmaking you.” – Nicholas Bouvier, The Way of The World
When it comes to our nomadic movements, my family rarely needs an excuse to travel. From friends’ foreign weddings to newborn babies, we’re constantly wondering when we can book the next flight away. One of the easiest and most convincing reasons is a big birthday; whether it’s Grandma’s 80th or a surprise 30th for your old college roommate, these magical numbers merit a celebration of international proportions.
Sweet 16s, 21sts and that ‘Over The Hill’ mid-life marker: these are prime opportunities to ignore the typical Facebook salutation and send something even better – yourself.
And that’s why three generations of Fitzpatricks – with guests from Australia, The Netherlands and the USA – gathered last weekend, to see my boyfriend’s father on to his 60th year.
“It’s crap,” he joked, when I asked how it felt to turn an age of specialty-themed cards. “Why can’t I just get a normal ‘Happy Birthday’ card? Why do I need one with specific numbers?”
Maybe because we all wanted to remind him of this achievement, and maybe the hard stats (6-0) help us qualify a history well-lived.
So Leah labored over a creative cake with fondant figurines; Hadyn snuck in the gifts; Chris stuffed bags with snacks and wine bottles (because you can eat whatever you want on your birthday); I photographed everything.
In New Zealand, tradition says you must clap once for every year being celebrated – plus an extra for good luck. The cake cutting honor is given to the birthday boy or girl. Rather than wishing on candles, he/she makes a secret, heartfelt request while plunging in the knife. If the blade comes out with clinging crumbs, then the celebrant must declare their secret crush to everyone present.
Did we clap 61 times? Not quite. Who did Brian wish for? I can only guess. Are these gestures that belong better at the parties of children, or were we right to add a little frivolity to this day? After all, there may be a deadline on each 12-month calendar, but no rule that keeps us from shouting ‘Happy Birthday’ or playing with trick candles.
Over the years, I’ve come to believe that birthdays should not lose importance after adolescence; instead, they should grow in dramatics, so that 60 makes 59 look boring. 61 must put 60 to shame. Whether we’re counting up or counting down, these occasions act as a positive reminder of the places we’ve been and the people who have journeyed with us. And we’re never too old to enjoy them!
~ Until the next adventure! ~ Kelli
Photo credit: Hadyn Fitzpatrick