“A Reason to Celebrate,” Aug. 11, 2020

Birthdays mark the passage of another year of learning, growing, laughing, loving, and best of all, being alive. They should always be celebrated—especially in a pandemic.

I grew up in a family that observed birthdays with only a cake. No cards. No presents. No parties. Just “Happy birthday, pass me a hunk of that cake.”

It was a good cake. My mother made it. Sometimes we cranked it up a notch with a churn of ice cream. No matter how other kids celebrated their birthdays, to me, a cake was enough.

Imagine my surprise years later to find my own children expected a bit more than a cake. After some discussion, we reached a compromise. They could invite only as many friends as would fit in our VW van. I’d take them swimming at an indoor pool that charged fifty cents per kid and had lifeguards to keep them from drowning. When they were exhausted from swimming, I’d take them to our house to eat pizza and cake (storebought, not homemade) and let the birthday person open gifts. Finally, they’d all pass out on the family room floor.

The next day, I’d feed them pancakes and send them home. Except my three, who stayed to fight over the gifts. We did that until the kids were teenagers, and preferred parties without my help or my presence.

After they grew up and had children of their own, the parties became real wing-dings. I’ll never forget my first grandchild’s first birthday. Randy stood surrounded by dozens of family and friends, and ate his first-ever cupcake.

I wish you could’ve seen him.

Red curls glittering like a halo in the sun. Hazel eyes wide with wonder. And a look on his frosting-smeared face that seemed to say, “What is this and where has it been all my life?”

In years to come, his parties would fill a city park with a bounce house, a face painter, a taco truck and a guest list that included all his classmates with their siblings and parents.

This week, Randy is turning 10. Ten is a pretty big deal. But his birthday—like so many other things that have changed in the months since the pandemic began—will be a bit different.

He’s not expecting a party, just a small celebration with family. When I asked what he wanted for a gift, he said, “I want to spend the night with you and Papa Mark, like we used to do.”

The last time he slept at our house was months ago, before we began “sheltering in place.” He has missed it. So have we.

“I’ll talk to your mom,” I said through a mask, and he grinned.

So I talked to his mom and here’s the plan. It’s a surprise, so don’t tell Randy. He’s having a “drive-by” surprise party. Carloads of family and friends will drive by his house honking and shouting, “Happy birthday!”

Papa Mark and I will be in the last car. Then we’ll take him to our house to spend the night. He’ll play checkers with me, and make music with Papa Mark. I’ll bake a cake. Or buy one. And I will whisper in his ear my favorite birthday wish: “I am so glad you were born.”

The next day, on his real birthday, he’ll celebrate with his mom and dad and brother and sister. It will be different from his other birthdays. But it will surely be a celebration.

A birthday is a gift, not just for those who turn a year older, but for those who love them. It should always be celebrated, especially in uncertain times such as these, when we need to remember what matters most.

But a true celebration doesn’t need a party or even a cake. It takes place on its own, with a prayer of thanks and a burst of joy, somewhere in the heart.

Happy birthday, Randy. I am so glad you were born.


  1. Kathy Armstrong says

    Such a sweet sweet story!! Happy Birthday Randy! So happy for ALL of you to spend this special , much needed time together. ENJOY❤️❤️❤️

  2. Janet Mann says

    Good read! My family all congregated in our small town and had a drive-by-card shower for me. And we had a steak supper with my daughter-in-loves providing all the side dishes and desserts and one son cooked the steaks and we all ate until we could hold no more! A weekend I will never forget as I turned 8O! I love your posts Sharon. Keep it up. You express what so many of us feel, but don’t have your gift of putting it in writing. GOD BLESS YOU AND YOURS during these trying times and thereafter.

  3. Jill Leach says

    Beautiful reminder that the BEST times are SIMPLE and just being TOGETHER!
    Thanks for always sharing your life stories!

  4. Kate Sciacca says

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY RANDY!!!!! TEN is a very big deal…. hope it’s a great one 😀

  5. Sheila Thompson says

    Happy birthday to Randy! It sounds like a perfect way to celebrate to me! And yes, 10 is a big deal! Have fun with the birthday boy! 🎈🎈🎈

  6. Love this. We’re all going through this and making the very best we can if it. Happy Birthday to your Randy.

  7. Pat Marshall says

    My dad’s birthday is August 12th. He was born in 1916. He passed 20 years ago. My oldest grandson will be 23 on the 17th . I’m glad they were born. Happy birthday to Randy. I wish him the best year ever!

  8. Happy birthday, Randy! Yes, our family birthdays this year are smaller, but family oriented. Love and celebrate each family member…young or old. Cherished by God and family! P.S.: Today, Aug. 10 is my daughter ‘s bday. We celebrate her today and beyond.

  9. Shirley Thacker says

    I love having birthday parties for family even when they don’t want to celebrate. I do! Another year, another gift from God. Life! The most amazing gift ever!! Growing up, we could plan the birthday meal. Whatever we wanted! Even if it didn’t go together!! I remember asking for cream pie instead of cake!! Good memories!

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