The Hubbub Behind “Happy Birthday”

Then there are the people who decorate front yards for the milestone birthdays. These usually are advertised on the “tens,” but we divide the number:

The big four – OH!

The big five – OH!

What’s up with that? Now that we’re aging, we have to break up the number like on Sesame Street so we can keep up?

Anyway, the yards are decorated with crows, gravestones, and other macabre items. These are timely reminders that your life is slipping by and one day you’ll be dead. Great friends. Happy Birthday.

God forbid that you FORGET someone’s birthday. You remember at the most inopportune moment, and the person whom you forgot gets that hurt look, followed by the martyr’s anthem: “That’s all right. I don’t mind. I know you’re busy.” Actually, the thought is, “You careless idiot. See if I ever remember your birthday!”

Blended Occasions

My birthday (December 27) happens to arrive on the heels of the Christmas holidays, and over the years I have always suffered for it. Faded photographs from my childhood birthdays show me in the foreground blowing out candles while my weary parents and relatives in the background are recovering from giving their kids great Christmas mornings. How could I have had the nerve to be born then?

Occasionally, an aunt or uncle would give me a Christmas gift then suddenly remember my birthday was in two days. “We spent a little more on Ronnie this year because it’s also for his birthday.” Translation: “We are not buying another gift before the end of the year—we’re broke from Christmas as it is!” I would always smile and say,“Oh, well, thanks for remembering me.”

In the end, I guess remembering a birthday is simply an opportunity to tell the person you care. The British writer Oliver Goldsmith penned a line I have always found revealing in its simplicity and honesty: “All that a husband or wife really wants is to be pitied a little, praised a little, and appreciated a little.”

Maybe that’s what “Happy Birthday” is all about.

Ron Ciancutti is the Director of Procurement for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at


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  1. Year Of Tens
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  3. Reaping Rewards
  4. Reality Check
  5. Windblown And Whimsical

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