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Sarah’s Simple Pleasures: Birthdays

It goes without saying that the time between my last post and now has been rollercoastic. That’s not a word. I made it up. But making things up feels appropriate given the global coronavirus shutdown. We are living a reality that seemed only to exist in science fiction. Stranger still was celebrating two milestone birthdays during this apocalyptic time.

Doc B and I were born exactly four weeks apart. I’m the perpetually younger. His birthday is in March and mine is in April.

With civilization under isolation sanctions, grocery stores shelves empty, gatherings prohibited, and blowing out candles over a cake a morbid risk, the simple pleasures suddenly seemed the greatest gifts. In hindsight, we realize that the things we once thought common, even pedestrian, are the richest parts of our collective humanity. Birthdays connect us to the natural world, those who are living, those who once lived, and those who will live one day.

A friend of mine gave birth in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic peak in New York City. I can’t imagine what that must’ve been like for her, her husband, her family, never mind the baby—a healthy boy! But what I do know is that across the miles and social media platforms, we all cheered, cried, raised hands to the heavens in celebration for this new addition to an altogether unpredictable planet. Sure, we celebrate all births, but this one felt special, and I believe it was because it reminded us that life will win. Even when a pandemic threatens the opposite, this one new soul in a new body in an old place reaffirms that despite all evidence to the contrary, life is happening and will continue to happen. It gave me a new resolve to treat each birthday (mine and others) with more honor than I have in the past.

When we think of childhood birthdays, they’re typically centered around frosted cakes, balloons, presents, and parties. Light and fun-filled, we only remember a handful from those early years, right? When we grow older, the socially expected response is to ho-hum and lament “another year, another wrinkle.”  However, in light of this pandemic, I find both of the old ways trite. Birthdays deserve more inner reflection and respect. They are one of the purest of simple of pleasures.

We have no control over the time and date of our birth. We simply accept that life is a gift. So now I stop and read those words slowly to myself:

Life.

Is.

A.

Gift.

Your life. My life. Your neighbors, friends, family, and strangers. The day any person is born, humanity grows stronger. Like an electric current, we gain another volt. Love given to that person and given by that person.

We’re in an unparalleled spring season. One that is precariously balancing great loss and great renewal. It gives me hope to know that each day is a fresh welcome. Each day, we have an addition that was not there before. Yes, a person only has one birthday, but there are 364 other days with at least 364 other people to claim them.

What kind of marvelous place would the world be if we treated each with the consideration and appreciation that it deserves? Because somewhere, someone is being born, someone was born, and someone will be born. Today could even be your birthday, and if so, then I wish you the most heartfelt happy birthday! And just by doing so, my day is made better, too.

 

About Sarah McCoy [1]

SARAH McCOY is the New York TimesUSA Today, and international bestselling author of The Mapmaker’s Children [2]; The Baker’s Daughter [3], a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee; the novella “The Branch of Hazel” in Grand Central [4]; and The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico [5]. Her work has been featured in Real Simple, The Millions, Your Health Monthly, Huffington Post [6] and other publications. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband, an orthopedic sports doctor, and their dog, Gilly, in Chicago, Illinois. Connect with Sarah on Twitter [7] at @SarahMMcCoy, on her Facebook Fan Page [8], Goodreads [9], or via her website, www.sarahmccoy.com [10].

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