How well do you remember your first birthday?

So last February I read about a couple in Florida throwing their son a first birthday party. The mother said, “These are the memories I want him to have. I want him to know how important and special I think he is.” Then she invited 60 guests to join the boy, his father and herself at the local country club for a big affair  catered by a professional party planner and featuring pony rides, a magician, and a pinata. 

Birthdays weren’t a big deal in my family as I was growing up; just another day. Somebody might or might not casually mention that this was so and so’s birthday, but I can’t remember special meals except for twice, milestones you might say, when I was six, and again when I was seventeen. That last one was probably because I cried and pouted when No. 16 went by un-heeded or heralded. My teary episode must have gotten to Mama, because the following year she surprised me by inviting several friends from the Church youth group to come for cake and ice cream on my 17th birthday.

The only big birthday bashes were for the oldsters. I suppose it was because if somebody was that old, you never knew how much longer they had. Might as well see them once a year anyway. Great-grandma Pearce was feated year after year with a big family reunion/birthday celebration from around the time she was 80 until she died at 92. Distant relatives scattered all over Florida came with loads of food prepared at home and loaded into boxes that somehow survived the bumpy dirt roads that brought them all back to the “homeplace.”

Grandpa and other men in the family put up wooden sawhorses with plywood tops covered with quilts and tabletops. The women unloaded all the potluck boxes and spread everything out on the tables, while someone else took pictures of Great-Grandma with various family members. Big time partying where gallons of iced tea were consumed all afternoon until everyone departed bone tired and in time to make it to evening services at church. That’s about as big a birthday celebration as I ever saw growing up.

When I started my own family, we made it a point to make each birthday a special day. The birthday person was allowed to choose the menu and I learned to decorate cakes so that each birthday featured a cake tailored to the particular interests of the feated person. Hubby in turn began making cakes for me each year, and decorating them as well. They were so special it more than made up for any I had missed in childhood.

Things today seem to have changed quite a bit if the Florida couple is indicative of the norm. I don’t mean to sound like a sour puss, but I just can’t help wondering how long their one-year-old will even remember it, or even if he understood what the fuss was all about. They may not realise yet what a hard precedent they’ve set up so early that may prove impossible to follow in years to come. When he’s sixteen or seventeen, or about to attend his first prom . . . well I just don’t know if an ordinary limousine is going to do it. And unless he follows in the footsteps of Michael Jackson, I doubt that pony rides and magicians will work either.  

12 thoughts on “How well do you remember your first birthday?

  1. How bizarre! Well, I don’t remember my first birthday and my son doesn’t remember anything previous to four years of age. My boyfriend claims to remember things from when he was two, but I’m never really sure if that’s “remembering” or “remembering stories told to me so often that I remember”, to be honest.

    My first memory of my birthday is being 7 and walking home from school. I had a key, my parents didn’t get home until later. I walked home very very slowly and then made lots of noise opening the door and then hollered “Er, I’m here” as I walked in. Of course, there was no one there. I don’t know who put the idea of a surprise party in my head but I sure was surprised when I didn’t get one!

  2. That poor kid won’t remember that at all. Reading some of the bios of Hollywood star kids from the 30’s and 50’s, they too had that sort of party. More for the adults than the kids.

    I remember a couple of “Lunches,” out, that dissagreed with me too. Always I got ill. I remember two cakes at home. So for years I celebrated until 9/11. Now days I just try to ignore the day.

  3. Well, that’s really not all that standard. On my children’s 1st birthdays (last year and 4 byears ago, so currently) we had our friends and family over, with their children, and had a cake and grilled burgers and hotdogs. It was really for us to have a get together, although on my younger’s birthday, my older got to play with all the older children of our froend. And it’s an excuse for their cousins (m siblings) to visit and see us.

    ButI don’t expect that we will spend 30,000 on their batmitzvahs, either. There’s a type of person that believes in ostentatious consumption. To be as generous as on can, perhaps they feel it’s necessary in their life to keep up with the Jones’ who invite them to the Jones’ parties.

  4. Oh, I see you have me in Gen X;-). Actually, I’m at the tail end of the Baby Boom- we got all the dregs and spit back of the Boomer Generation…

  5. Thanks for all your comments. I like reading the followup comments more than the post, quite honestly.

    G, I agree that example is not standard, thank heavens! As for putting you in GenX which I fixed ages 25 to 45/50, then “elder” anyone above 50. I needed to separate my blogrolls into more manageable sizes, and decided this way might work best. Makes it easier for me to remember where I left off when I have a catch up blog reading day or two. I’m not at all sure, to be honest, where the Boomers fit in. I always thought they were born after WWII ended, somewhere around 1943/44. As such, you could say I was born on the cusp.

  6. OOhhh.. i love those ‘where does gen-x’ start conversations. The boomers, mom, as it turns out, go pretty far younger than you; you and dad, actually aren’t really boomers by the technical sociologists definition. And your son-in-law is on the tail-end of the boomer-dom generation, while he, sadly, married into definitively gen-x.

    i just wanted to note that we’re going to rent a convention center when your granddaughter has her next birthday. Maybe fly in some super famous people. I feel inspired.

  7. I am also technically Generation X, though some people have disputed the inclusion of my birthyear and suggested that people born in the 70s are part of the “Mtv Generation.”

    I don’t remember my 1st birthday, or even my second birthday, despite the fact that Monisha wrote a sophisticated song commemorating the latter (with the enigmatic title and lyrics, “Vimala’s Two!” I do remember the song, but not because of the actual day she first sang it. I think it was just repeated every year after that, as in “remember that song? How did it go? Oh yes, ‘Vimala’s Two! Vimala’s Two!'”

    But if I had gotten a pony or a kitten, perhaps I would remember it. Or a famous person at a convention center. (Who is famous to a three year old? Maybe one of the Wiggles? Or a Teletubby?)

  8. First birthday? Hell, I can’t even remember my LAST birthday and that was only six months ago.
    It’s funny though, when you’re young, birthdays are important to you. “I’m five and three quarters and my birthday is coming up soon!” Then as you get older, the birthdays come and go and they don’t seem that memorable unless they coincide with some major event in your life. But later in life the birthdays seem to get more and more important again:”Well, I made it to another one. Wonder if I’ll be around for the next one, please God”. I haven’t gotten to that point yet.

  9. Monisha, may I suggest Brad Pitt and/or George Cloony? Or Xavier Badem perhaps?

    Geezer, you’re right about birthdays being important when you’re young. I try not to think about them now, and always have to remind myself on the day itself “you’re only one year older than you were yesterday,” say it again “you’re only one day …”

  10. I might have had two birthday parties in my youth. One when I was 8 and one when I was a teenager. Our family had birthday cake for every birthday and traded small gifts and that was exciting. I distinctly remember one birthday I got a box of 48 crayons and 2 coloring books and was thrilled. Now days kids get more for birthdays than we ever dreamed of getting for Christmas … and these are the average kids, not the wealthy. My children’s birthdays were celebrated in the same way as when I was a child. Back then I don’t know of anyone who had a birthday party every year.

  11. I don’t think birthday parties were all that popular during our growing up years. I had one at 9 yr. old, where I invited a few friends to the house for cake, ice-cream, party hats and games. That’s the only one I really ever had.
    I did have a cake and ice-cream, but it was only shared with my parents. And I’m an only child, so there weren’t even any siblings there.
    I think it’s gotten insane what the parents are doing…..supposedly, for the kids….bull! It’s for THEM!

  12. I remember my first birthday and I swear I do. I remember details from it that completely shock my mom and she has had to think about it very hard and she’s like, how did you know that?? Nobody was around! My first birthday I was at my grandparents house.. I only remember thought going through my head and flashes.. kind of like pictures. I remember sitting on the bathroom counter and mom was trying to put a bow in my hair and i was screaming, and there was white, plastic dixie cups on the counter and i was playing with one of them. And then later I remember sitting in the grass in the front yard and my uncles were throwing the football in the street and my cousin kendra who is 4 years older than me was running around me.. and then other than that I can remember sitting at the table in my highchair and it was time to sing “happy birthday” and i remember thinking.. “i just wanna cry for no reason” and i started crying just out of no where lol. I know that memory is a little weird.. even if i remember that or am just thinkin I remember that.. the only video we have of my first birthday is just the singing in the highchair part. so where those other memories came from is beyond me. but i’ve remembered them my whole life. I also remember what the wallpaper in my bathroom looked like at the house we lived in from 0-1. There are no existing pictures of this and mom has never told me.. We’ve been studying earlyl childhood memory in psychology so the other day I asked her if it had looked like I remembered it.. and she just stared at me and was like “yes.. are you kidding me how do you know that?” So be it memories or not.. it’s still pretty weird!

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