816 North

Susan Vollenweider - A self-indulgent birthday column

There are two kinds of people in this world: Birthday Celebrators and Birthday Meh’ers.

The former feel that showing gratitude for another year passed — for all the knowledge, experiences and lessons learned therein — is a fine reason to celebrate. They get excited about their own birthdays but they may also make a big deal out of other people’s, too.

Birthday Meh’ers may give a nod to a passing year, but that’s about it. Birthday? Meh. If no one acknowledged the anniversary of their birth they would be perfectly content — the less fuss the better.

If you wonder where you fall, ask yourself which of these statements rings true?

• Everyone has a birthday, celebrate!

• Everyone has a birthday, why celebrate?

I am a Birthday Celebrator and make no apologies about it. However, for several years my own birth date seemed to have a curse attached to it. One year our city was paralyzed with an ice storm. Another, our newborn son was in NICU on a ventilator. Yet another, my family was traumatized due to an attempted home invasion of someone we love. When I turned 40? A space shuttle exploded.

All of these events almost turned me into a Meh’er. I was becoming afraid of what would happen next so I let my birthday quietly slide past.

Until it made me sad. Meh’ing wasn’t my default setting; I was programmed to celebrate! The next year some friends and I began gathering at a local restaurant to celebrate all of our birthdays.

But after a couple of years, it became difficult to coordinate schedules and the location wasn’t universally convenient. JoCos don’t necessarily like to drive north of the river; Northies aren’t always keen about going south. This celebration method began to feel cursed, too, so we stopped.

Then came a milestone year for me: this year. This is the year I accept and embrace my middle age. The year I get a card that will give me not only a free donut with a cup of coffee but a yearly magazine subscription. I was excited about turning this particular age and wanted to celebrate all that I have been through to get here with anyone who could join me.

So I made a plan.

Then I made sure that my friends in Kansas City knew about the plan. They didn’t have to come to me or to some restaurant near where I lived. I would come to them.

On the last day of a decade — to symbolize a stage dive into the next — I made a rock star tour. (Well as much as a mama in a minivan can feel like a rock star.)

First I went to a coffee shop in Waldo.

A couple of hours later, I went to a deli in Olathe.

I had every intention of going to a trampoline park and literally jumping for joy, but I had a sinus headache that day and figured the activity would cause more harm than good. Instead, some of us went for more coffee.

Then it was cocktails in Midtown and, finally, dinner in Liberty.

I had fears before setting out that day: Would people show up? Would I do something embarrassing? Would it be all that I expected?



Yes and more.

Everyone should celebrate their birthday — or not — in their own way. That day was mine. With people I care about I went to places and tried things new to me. At the end of the day I climbed into bed ready to wake up a year older the next morning.

And I did.

No apologies, only gratitude.