Today I'm 38.
Hold your applause.
Truth be told, I like the concept of people celebrating my birthday - Kristen from work baked me a cake, I'm having a lobster dinner with my parents and I snagged a few birthday cards and gifts along the way. I guess what I don't like is the getting old part. Oh, birthdays were fun as a kid with cake, ice cream and presents. Birthday parties were fun celebrations, full of magic and whimsy. Even in my 20s, birthdays were fun, with beer replacing soda. Still, back then I was something I'm not now: young.
I am getting old. I can see it in my thinning scalp, in the extra pounds, in my general demeanor. Yet with age comes wisdom. That's the real rub: the older we get, our bodies sag, droop and faulter, yet on the inside we get smarter and savvier with experience. If the world doesn't dull us or leave us jaded, it makes us tougher and more resilient. Nietzsche said it best: "What does not kill me makes me stronger."
What made all of those years tolerable, at least what made the birthdays tolerable was a stupid plastic record my mother bought me what I was six years old. The record, In 1976, the American Broadcasting Co. offered a record containing a personalized birthday song. Sung by Stewart Sloke, the song depicted Captain Zoom, a spaceman who sings a song to children on their birthday. It's a cheesy, campy and overtly stupid song and my mother always played it on my birthday.
And I mean ALWAYS. Every single birthday from the time I was six until now. Every August 31 she'd break out the plastic record and I'd hear:
“Hey, Eric it’s your birthday
I’m in charge of the stars and I’m here to say
Hey, Eric, you’re the big star today
My name is Zoom and I live on the moon
But I came down to Earth just to sing you this tune
Cause Eric, it’s your birthday today!”
For the last 30-plus years I've heard that song. I always shunned it; embarassed, thinking my mother was trying to humiliate me. Yet just this year I've really embraced the song. Call it nostalgia or senility or whatever old people get that makes them long for the past. I don't really mind holding on to that now. It's the one constant in an ever-changing existence for me: a childhood birthday record that once was ridiculous and silly suddenly having profound meaning as a link to my past. So instead of running away, I listened to Captain Zoom all the way through and loved every silly second of it. Thanks, Mom!