“Rules for a Happy Birthday,” column for Feb. 23, 2016

Who gets to make the rules for birthdays? And why has no one ever told me what they are?

Birthdays are like the people who have them: No two are the same. Each of us ought to get to make our own rules for how to celebrate another year of life.

That’s what I told my mother and my grandmother the day I turned 7, and came home from school to announce I’d invited my whole class to a party. They squinched up their eyes as if I’d said Jesus was coming back to take me to heaven and leaving both of them behind.

“The whole class?” said my grandmother.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said. “And my teacher and the janitor and….”

“When?” said my mother.

“Today,” I said, “4 o’clock.”

Never have two women moved so fast. By 4, the house was clean, a cake was baked and I was waiting on the steps, face clean, hair combed, eyes wide.

Only two people showed up: A boy, who gave me a candy bar. And a girl, who ate it.

With that, I decided birthday parties were unnecessary.

Unfortunately, in years to come, my children did not share that opinion. Especially, my daughter, who by the age of 3, planned every detail of her parties, including who’d sleep where at sleep-overs where no one ever slept, least of all, me.

The only birthday tradition I try to keep is to wish someone a happy birthday and add these words: “So glad you were born.”

Everyone should hear that once in a while. And when better to hear it than on your birthday? I said it to my kids so often when they were growing up they now say it to me. It’s the only gift I ever want or need.

OK, maybe some cake. And ice cream. Store bought is fine.

Years ago, a reader from West Virginia, sent me an honest-to-goodness birthday cake. It sat at the post office for two weeks while I was out of town. The next year she sent me a do-it-yourself birthday cake kit.

This year (my birthday was last week, it’s OK if you forgot) that same kind woman sent me a West Virginia Mountaineers coonskin cap. She said to give it to my brother, Joe, to replace the Clemson hat he sleeps in. I’m keeping it. Women my age often feel invisible. But you’d be surprised at how people will sit up and take notice when you’re wearing a coonskin cap.

That cap was only one of the things that made this birthday my best ever _ so far. I had cards and calls from family and friends, and videos of my grandkids doing things to make me laugh.

Randy, who is 5, and Wiley, 3, sang duets of their favorite Beatles tunes.

Eleanor, who is 1, said “nana” for the first time and did a happy little belly-laugh dance.

And 4-year-old Henry, all lathered up and diving with a rubber shark, wished me happy birthday from the bathtub.

I wish you could’ve seen them.

My kids all said they were glad I was born. My husband said it, too, and took me out to dinner.

And early in the day, I mailed off contracts to newspapers that had agreed, God bless them, to continue carrying my column.

Talk about a celebration. I hope for your birthday you get to make your own rules. But feel free to use some of mine:

1 _ If you have a party, only invite guests who’ll show up.

2 _ No surprises. The honoree will feel more honored if given a chance to put in her teeth.

3 _ No gifts, unless someone really wants to give one. Same for cards and phone calls.

4 _ Do not spend your birthday alone. I tried it once and it was no party. More like a wake.

5 _ For a truly “happy” day, make someone smile. It always seems to work for me.

Finally, no matter how you celebrate your “special day,” always end it (or begin it, or both) like this: Count your blessings. Feel your heart swell with gratitude. Then look into a mirror and say, “I am so glad you were born.”

May this be your best year and best birthday ever _ so far.


  1. Peggy Nodine says

    Sweet Sharon. Belated Happy Birthday. I thought about you on the 17th. I even mentioned it to Truman Bostic when I saw him that day. I did not take time to sit down and email you but I am now. Lost contact for awhile but Happy Birthday. Glad you were born. Love you. Peggy

    • Sharon Randall says

      Hey,sweet Peggy, I love you! Hope to see you and hug your neck the next time I am home. Take care, dear one!
      As ever,

  2. Shelley Kellerman says

    Hi Sharon,

    Happy Belated Birthday and I am so glad you were born! I still hope you end up back in our local paper, but I am happy to be able to read you on line.

    I hope you had a wonderful birthday and we all love you.

  3. Mariruth Coffin says

    How wonderful to be reading your musings again! I read your interview with the Monterey Weekly, and Sue Clayton put me on your distribution list to receive your column. What fun to see your grand children’s names! Just to catch you up, I have 9 grand kids and am about to be a great gram for the first time the end of this month! God is good! So glad to reconnect with you. I look forward to more of your gems. By the way, a belated greeting for your birthday.

  4. Barbara C says

    Your always make me smile and laugh and cry and even think (see #5)! That’s a lot to pack into such a small space. I am very glad you were born! Happy belated birthday! Congratulations on the contracts!

  5. Sheila Torres says

    Happy belated birthday wishes. Sounds like you received everything that was important! To add to the list, I’m very glad you were born. Not to have had the joy of experiencing your column and your words, would have been a true loss. I wish you many more years to spread the joy and warmth to us all that you do. God bless ❤️

  6. Sydney Love says

    Happy Belated Birthday, Sharon! I am so glad that you were born! I read that in your column years ago and I have used it ever since. I love what it says. Thank you for sharing that phrase and thank you for sharing your life with us. I look forward to every one of your columns. I feel blessed to read your writings. You are one amazing woman that knows how to get right to the heart of the matter. Don’t ever stop writing. I would be lost and so would a lot of other people.
    God Bless you in the coming year.

  7. Happy belated Birthday, Sharon.
    So glad you were born.

  8. Jan Sturm says

    Hi Sharon – Happy Birthday late! As others have said, I’m so glad you were born! Your columns are a blessing, and I truly appreciate them. May God give you your best year ever!

  9. You should have reminded us! Happy birthday a few days late! And I’m contacting The Republic to make sure they sent you a contract!

  10. How about celebrating with parents as I have my mom and papa . I am so blessed to have them and I am excited to see them on my birthday this year. We are so glad that you were born and your sweet family followed your rules to wish you and all the rules are amazing to keep in mind specially rule of wearing a cap . God bless your husband who took you out for dinner. wish you happy birthday! sorry I did not know exact date . God bless you good health and long life ! wish your husband healthy and long life as well . God bless your family same and hugs to all grand kids .

  11. Jeannette Buck says

    Yes! So glad you were born! And I can’t say it often enough! So GLAD you are back!

  12. Kate Sciacca says

    Well now, I am SURE GLAD you were born!!!! The better half and I will celebrate my 60 years this Saturday with the 8 kids, 4 in-laws, 10 grandkids and a few very close friends… Treating them all to a nice dinner at Cattleman’s…. AND I am picking out my own bday cake ?
    I am certain, like yours, it will be the best birthday ever ?

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