About 15 years ago, my Dad came home from work EXTREMELY excited about a new Deborah Henson-Conant CD (yeah, who again?) he had purchased.
All for ONE song.
If you know my Dad, his childlike curiosity is an endearing trait that most definitely has not been matched by ANYONE I know.
And I cherish it, because most of us get bogged down and numbed by the stresses of LIFE, especially as we get older.
Not my Dad.
To this day, when I call him, he answers with 1,000% enthusiasm, as if we haven’t chatted in 20 years: “HI, JULIA!!!! Haha, GOLLY! It’s GREAT to hear from you!”
But, I digress…
You see, my dad’s intention with this new CD was to play this ONE song for my grandmother’s late 80th birthday celebration we were having that night.
My grandmother, affectionately known as “Happy” (from her maiden name, “Happel”) and my grandfather, affectionately known as “Gay” (from his German name, “Gerhart”), were approaching their final golden years.
They were legends in their own time, of the highest character, and laced with tight knit friends all over the Greater Grand Rapids area. Their durable and upbeat personalities were just as infectious as their names, outlasting most of their friends like Energizer batteries.
Though they were still in decent health and living in their same home of 50+ years, you could almost sense the urgency from my dad.
This ONE moment demanded this ONE song to be played, in order freeze this memory in time, forever.
Sure enough, some time after my grandparents arrived, it was time for my dad to play THE song. We all sat around our island kitchen table as he set it up to play on the speakers.
My grandparents were seated at the table, munching on some cocktail nuts and most likely sipping on gin and tonics.
My mom was fiddling with some fixings for dinner, and my sisters and I were undoubtedly hyper, but near the table as my dad put on this rather peppy song that sounded like it belonged on the Mister Rogers show.
Right off the bat, the song blared, Congratulations! You’ve Made It This Far!
I looked to my sisters, who smirked back at me, all thinking but not saying the same thing: this was SO cheesy.
As a 13-yr-old, I was over it.
I had homework to do after dinner. Besides, how was I supposed to understand what “making it this far” meant as an invincible teenager?
Nonetheless, I, and we all joined in my Dad’s excitement over the song, gathering around the kitchen counter.
And then, something happened around 1:59 in the song, which sings (click here to listen):
Now, when your birthday comes around, and you wish that it didn’t,
And all those people are comin’ up to you and saying,
“Oh, you’re not getting older, you’re getting better!”
And you know that no matter how much better you’re getting, you’re still getting older.
We all chuckled to each other, knowing this was the typical coin phrase for “over-the-hill” folks. The song continued…
And then one day, you wake up on your birthday,
And you just wish that birthday fairy would go visit someone else!
Well, here’s what you do when that birthday happens to you…
At this point, we all got curious, wondering what this cheesy song had to say. I looked to my dad, who knew what was coming, and already had a different look of sentiment on his face.
You walk up to your bathroom mirror and you look yourself straight in the eyes.
Because those eyes are still the eyes of a child.
And that child has been with you from the very first day,
And that child has been with you every step of the way.
And that child, that child wants to hear you say:
Congratulations, you’ve made it this far!
Congratulations for every thing, every single thing you are,
And when you think you’re nowhere doing nothing to me, you’re a shining star.
And after that last segment of the song, the winds of emotion COMPLETELY changed.
I looked to my dad, who was looking at his parents with a clenched jaw, smiling, and fighting off watery eyes.
My mom was embracing my dad, wearing the same face with an endearing, tearful smile.
My grandparents were also full of bubbling emotion, perhaps recognizing their inner child that the song referenced; and realizing their amazing journey and all of the birthdays they had been privileged to celebrate into old age.
It DID demand a celebration.
My sisters and I, all happy, high energy girls, sensed this immediate shift, but didn’t quite know or understand how to react.
It was a bit uncomfortable for us, the raw emotion of acknowledging old age, and perhaps, a frozen moment in time that may never come again.
We all embraced in a big family hug after the song finished, and then quickly wiped away the tears and moved on to presents.
Well, my dad was right about seizing that moment.
Just 5 years later, after both of my grandparents had passed, I remembered this ONE song that he just had to play years ago.
And I’m grateful for this song and this memory, frozen in time, which always triggers emotion brimming with celebration, appreciation, and a sense of urgency to appreciate the moments of NOW.
To this day, my sisters and I, along with my parents, either sing or play this cheesy but loving song for our birthdays – whether near or far.
Without fail, each passing year draws out more and more emotion when that ONE dang verse plays, even if I try to fight it!
I’m no longer that invincible 13-year-old anymore (especially after getting hit by a mail truck at 16 years…no joke).
Despite changes in appearance, changes in health, and changes in life, I think we all could learn from my Dad and this song, continuing to celebrate each passing year from the eyes of our inner child.
OYA: Own Your Age
Why don’t we all just OWN our age, rather than succumbing to society’s negative view?
Age is experience. Age is wisdom.
It’s part of life; something that is inevitable since the day we’re born.
It isn’t our choice as to when we were born; some people just happen to be born years or centuries before us, and many will come years and centuries after us.
Perhaps, the negative light on birthdays (after 25 years) is due to the unfriendly reminder of our pending fate: death.
But, if we stare it in the face and realize all the blessings we’ve been given and have, we can come to LIFE and even eternity, thanks to God.
Just this past year, I celebrated my first year of marriage to my perfect person, and we bought our first place of residence. I also lived in both Germany and Serbia, traveled to Colorado and California, spent tons of time with family, made new friends and rekindled with old ones, started an M.S. in Holistic Nutrition, started this blog (thank you for all your support!), and pursued opportunities towards my passion of nutrition and wellness.
Despite the peaks and valleys, I am grateful for all of it, and for God’s blessing of another incredible year!
And, as much as I am blown away by having already reached this ripe age of 28 a few days ago, it is my goal to go through life CELEBRATING and CONGRATULATING myself, along with every friend and family member on every birthday.
So, Happy Birthday to me. And as the song goes, “Congratulations for making it this far!”