I grew up with a birthday pretty close to my brother’s. He is three years younger than me, and we have birthdays within the same week.
My family handled it pretty well, I think. My parents established a system when we were young of making odd numbered years “party years” and even numbered years “family” years. This prevented the financial strain of having to throw birthday parties every single year, and it gave me some really nice birthday memories with my family.
Specifically, I remember throwing a pool party when I turned 11 in 2001. We were living in an apartment complex and it felt like the pinnacle of my childhood, well before the anxieties of being an unpopular teen set in, and right when technology was taking a turn from the analog products of the 90s to the digital products of the 21st century. I remember that we had waterproof disposable cameras, peak late 90s preteen fashion, and a CD player for music.
I mean, I made a whole page for it in my shiny purple scrapbook with the photos we developed from those disposable cameras! If I had it with me, I happily would show it to you, but you're going to have to take my word for it.
I also distinctly remember a year (I think it was 2004) when a friend of the family offered to take us out for a day of sailing for our birthdays. We spent a bright and beautiful Saturday sailing up and down the east coast of Florida and had a big dinner at a coastal restaurant. For a teenager who was really into Pirates of the Caribbean at the time, that was a wonderful and memorable adventure.
Over time, the family years and party years merged together into my preferred birthday celebration: a low-key activity with friends and family.
My extended family in the panhandle has happily settled into a routine of going out to someone's chosen restaurant whenever a birthday comes around. The last few years and because our birthdays are so close together, my brother and I have amicably switched off on who gets to pick the restaurant for our joint celebration.
But funnily enough, there is now a new challenger to our shared birthday week. Beyond all odds, my boyfriend’s birthday is the day before mine.
This is a blessing for someone like me, who struggles to remember anyone’s birthday; for my family, who will eventually be able to celebrate three birthdays with one dinner; and for our friends, who can easily wish us both a happy birthday in one fell swoop. Not surprisingly, we both got many lovely birthday messages and a some care packages from our families, friends, and online community.
Social distancing means a big gathering was pretty much a no-go. Jerry is still at-risk, and some communities in England are experiencing a new resurgence of the virus. We agreed on a couple of safer activities spread out over the two days instead.
In addition to our birthday plans, Jerry and I also did a gift exchange between the two of us. He got me something useful and practical that he knew I wanted, and I ordered him a very cute Shiba Inu plush that he fell in love with online. Believe it or not, both of us were very happy with our gifts.
On Jerry’s birthday, we did yoga together for the first time and then baked a cake. We decided on a flavor (red velvet) and bought a Betty Crocker box mix and a tub of cream cheese icing. It was a lot of fun and good practice for our communication skills—although next time, I think I’d rather make the icing myself, as I personally found the pre-made icing too sweet.
Jerry individually and carefully placed every chocolate chip… with a few randomly squished in between the lines, because my boyfriend is a being of chaos.
As the clock ticked over from his birthday to mine, we got some friends on call and played a goofy video game called Orion: Prelude, in which you work as a team to protect your base from swarms of dinosaurs using guns, tanks, and jet packs.
The next evening, we put on our masks and got a lift to a local Japanese restaurant called Wagamama. It was open on a “first come, first serve” basis, meaning we had to wait a while to get in. It was breezy and comfortable outside, and we ate our dinner surrounded by big glass windows as the sun set.
Wagamama is a Japanese restaurant located on the water of Brayford Wharf in my partner’s home town in Lincolnshire, England. Unfortunately they were out of Jerry's favorite matcha cheesecake, but we were still able to order some delicious drinks, Yaki Soba, and tuna steak.
More than the food, we savored the time spent together outside the house. It was a lovely break from interruptions and dirty dishes, letting us focus entirely on each other… and the birthday traditions we’re excited to carry into the future.