#14 A good turnout on your birthday

Everybody gets born.

One day you popped into the world a tiny ball of crying wet nakedness and every year since then we’ve all stopped to celebrate your big day. Birthdays freeze time as you stare back at last year and get ready to celebrate what’s coming around the bend…

When you’re little…

There’s a buzz in your bones as your entire class revs up for the Saturday afternoon screamfest at your place. Flashy invites are handed out, RSVPs are phoned mom to mom, and loot bags are filled with plastic jewelry as the day approaches.

Soon doorbells bing bong and your basement becomes a rowdy room of snot nosed three footers playing duck-duck-goose, usually with a little girl in baggy thick white stockings and a boy with a huge root beer stain on his crotch.

Next it’s time to unwrap presents and everyone stares with wide eyes as you shred wrapping paper to unveil a new red truck, some video games, and authentically pooping dolls. Mom swings around the corner with a glowing neon green cake and everyone screams Happy Birthday under paper party hats and dim lights…

When you’re growing…

Online invites fly around to help plan a big night with your friends. Flashy outfits are yanked from the closet, loud music starts banging, and drinks are poured at the bar…

Suddenly you’re a rock star flashing smiles, kissing cheeks, posing for blurry photos with toothy grins and icy model stares. Tiaras are placed on your head, shots are stuffed in your hands, and your ass gets slapped by old friends and new as all your circles mix together in a boozy dish …

When you’re older…

Dressed up and surrounded by family you  smile and blow out a cake full of candles before staring up at a banquet hall full of everyone you know clapping and singing before your sharply dressed son gives a passionate toast to your life…

When you’re going…

Staring at a flickering candle in the center of a cupcake your brain washes past grainy images of six-year-olds at bowling alleys, smashing pinatas in parks, and dancing till the lights come up at the bar. You remember unwrapping a new bike, swapping secrets at sleepovers, and stealing kisses with new flames. You remember breakfasts in bed, your first birthday as a family, and getting socks from the kids every year for a decade…

Then you weakly blow out the candle before lying back in your flimsy nightgown in the white hospital bed. You stare up at your wife who has tears in her eyes and she smiles as you rest one of your fragile hands in hers … and the other in your grandson’s, who stares up at you with wide eyes and a brand new red truck in his hand.


Photos from: here, here, here, and here


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54 responses to “#14 A good turnout on your birthday

  1. AP

    This post was Awesome!
    I look forward to the next 2 weeks, over the past 3 years it’s just been getting better. I hope you continue this site in one way or another Neil, it’s been fun.

  2. As always, the imagery in your writing is on point and so vivid! Birthdays have always been something to celebrate for me, and I wish more people would be enthusiastic about them even in their midlives!

    My last birthday was a reminder that there are tons of people out there who are willing to drop their busy lives just to celebrate my existence, even if I’m older and responsible and busy and don’t really like cake anymore!

    I can’t believe the countdown is almost up, and as the last commenter said, I hope there’s more to come. I’ve been reading since you’ve started and I’m excited to see that it has just gotten better and better.


  3. It’s amazing how much a “good” birthday changes as we get older. But some things stay the same, like celebrating that one special day when everything is about YOU, surrounded by friends and family.

    And ice-cream cake. I don’t care how old you are, ice-cream is delicious.

  4. simone

    that was truly beautiful neil,
    you’re just getting better and better :)

  5. Kylie

    I’m hoping for senility in later years so I don’t have to relive the crappy birthdays of my youth/20’s. I only wish that your words desribed experiences that were mine.
    I have come the realise that the only way to get the birthday I want is to plan/throw it for myself – bring on the big four-zero this year!!!

    • Kathy

      You definitely should throw your own 4-0 birthweek celebration! Let me tell ya, the 40’s are splendid, no matter if the 20s and 30s weren’t so great. So, usher in those 40s with the birthday you want…you deserve it!

      • I agree with Kathy! Throw yourself a big fun party and kick off the new decade of your life in exactly the way you want!

        And don’t forget the yummy cake/dessert.. those are essential for good birhtdays! :)

        (may I suggest Nutella?)

  6. Ni Nguyen

    Today is 21st birthday and I must say I really needed this. Nothing too big happened today, but my friend invited a couple of people for dinner to celebrate. I’ve been feeling like absolute crap lately (more than I have ever felt in a long time) and it’s nice to know on this particular day that someone cares about you. I hope I can grow older, enjoy my life, and reflect back on my milestones I’ve gone through in life with pride, joy, and contentment.

    Might I add, your posts have been amazing and thank you for brightening my day. Carry on!

  7. Birthdays. Oh, birthdays. I’ve mentioned a few times on here that nothing special really ever happens on my birthday, never has….but I go all out for everyone else’s birthdays.
    Unfortunately, there wasn’t a good turn out for my daughters birthday. Yeah, most family was there and a few family friends, but none of her little friends from school showed up. I had it at a sort of country club so I was wondering if people thought they had to pay to get in or be members or something and that’s why they didn’t show up. There was plenty of kids there though and she really didn’t seem to mind much that no one from school came.

    • Kathy

      June 13, chocolate layer cake with chocolate frosting, I haven’t forgotten. :)

      • lol, I’m looking forward to it too!

        • Laura

          Potential plan for filling the void during life after 1000 Awesome Things: we list all our birthdays someplace with our addresses (ok maybe someplace secure, so as to ward off stalkers — you know our awesomeness would attract some) and then mail birthday cards to one another on birthdays.

          • jdurley

            Be careful about giving Laura your contact information – she has been known to rickroll unsuspecting victims! LOL.

            • Emmy

              :o Youve made me very cautious now…. Can we really trust Laura not to rick-roll us???

              • Wendy

                Ya…remember Laura had a “friend” who had something stinky rolling around the trunk…”forever”…”her friend” needed to get rid of……

  8. Stuti

    The one about the old people celebrating their birthdays…… AWESOME!

  9. Yes, everyone needs to feel loved on their birthday, don’t they?

  10. Shari

    Stop making me cry!!! Wonderful post :)

  11. Kathy

    Yeah, this one is a tearjerker ’cause “When you’re going…” reminded me of my dad’s final birthday, with grandchildren and even great grandchildren there. Thanks for such a beautiful post.

  12. Andrew

    CRYING. Crying.

  13. E

    Neil; all your new posts are making me cry! In a good way. This was gorgeous.

  14. Mike

    I enjoy reading your blog and have never really felt like posting. Today’s post was so well written, I honestly felt something inside me remember the times as a kid and felt a little like crying (just a little). Can’t believe your almost done your 1000 things, I’ll be following especially close this next 2 weeks.

  15. Kat

    It’s my birthday today, too! Thanks for such a well-timed post, Neil!

  16. Semini

    I absolutely love how this post was not only limited to the first few years or the overly energized youthful years.
    It goes from the very beginning to the end.

    Neil, you make life seem awesome!

  17. lbroo

    I thought I would check out 1000 Awesome Things today, because it’s my birthday and I was interested to see if there was a new Awesome Thing up. And what do you know? :) Thank you for this :) Awesome!

  18. Becca

    The one part almost made me cry! I loved this post and it makes me excited for my friends, my families, and my up-coming birthdays!

  19. It was my birthday on March 23rd! Good times. :D

  20. That “when you’re going” part really tugs at your heartstrings.
    I don’t want to get old.

  21. Patricia

    A good friend of mine turned 18 today– our entire choir class sang to him (seriously, there is nothing better than a choir singing you happy birthday). Beautiful, beautiful post, Neil.

    • jdurley

      Wow, a choir singing Happy Birthday would be pretty great! I imagine there would be some harmonizing going on??

      This past birthday, my niece wrote and performed a song for me in which she accused me of lying about my age. It was so sweet and hilarious! The best birthday present ever, really.

      • Emmy

        Haha, I didn’t think about that! Every birthday in our choir, the choir director plays the chord and we know to come in- most of us just sing it straight, but there is always the show-off soprano that likes to put harmonies in at the end :P
        This post was beautiful- somewhat painful images with the screaming snot-nosed kids, but really special in the when youre older and when youre going parts… I went to a friend’s 18th birthday party a few weeks ago, my first 18th party, but it was really sad because half the people invited cancelled at the last minute :(

  22. Christine

    It’s so good to get this newsletter, even it makes me cry like today. And Gloria, believe me: you do want to get old. Consider the alternative.

  23. Gonzo

    I suddenly have that Five For Fighting song in my head…

  24. Mandy

    This weekend, my family gathered in Chicago for my grandpa’s 90th birthday party. His seven children were there with their spouses and children, and their children’s children. Four generations of family convened in one room to celebrate the life that brought us all into the world.

    …and on the day of his 90th birthday, one of his grandchildren went into the hospital and gave birth to a new little April Fool. What a great way to celebrate a man’s family – bringing a new one into the clan.

  25. MysteriousAwesome

    Love it!!!!!!!!!! This is one of those posts that makes me so sad that this blog is ending. :'( :'( :'( :'(

  26. Nicholas

    Haha, funny timing, one of my friends had a baby yesterday, and another had one today!

  27. Laura

    Absolutely perfect description of the birthday parties. Perfect.

  28. Catherine

    Made my throat catch. Absolutely beautifully-written, resonant truths.

  29. Kas

    My 45th birthday – someone baked me a cake… that someone has become my best friend and now, hopefully, someone with whom I will share many more birthdays. :)

  30. Dynaguy

    This post reminded me of 2 birthdays from last year, which was a a difficult one for my wife. Her mother celebrated her last birthday with us from a nursing home, just a month or two before she died. On top of that my wife turned 40 (before me, I’d like to add). Her mom had talked to me a couple of years earlier about planning a surprise party, but she got sick and nothing came of it. I decided to honor them both, and managed to surprise my wife with a party with a HUGE turnout. Childhood friends from out of town, new friends from in town, and family! This post hit both birthdays right on the head.

  31. Wendy

    What’s with ending it like that??? I think it should end like this:
    dancing in, breaking down, knocked down…to get up again and again with awesome friends…intergenerational dancing…till the end and beyond…forever, eternally…Rock a bye! Amen:)

  32. Aleen Phelps

    Its feels soo good to hear that!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

  33. Alana

    I first read this post on April 2 as I lay in my hospital bed, in labor with my son Ethan. I was so excited that the post was about birthdays that day, because it seemed so apt- and, of course, the insane hormones coursing through my body that day did absolutely nothing to help the stream of tears pouring from my eyes as I read this beautiful post. It was like a special birthday gift for my son, from the author of one of my very favorite blogs ever. Thanks, Neil, for 4 years of Awesome Things.

  34. Pingback: #957 Waking up to Happy Birthday texts | 1000 Awesome Friends

  35. Absolutely perfect description of the birthday parties. Perfect.

  36. ohs

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