Phyllis Britt

Phyllis Britt

My birthday was last week, and it’s interesting how your perspective changes over time.

The first birthday party I remember was the year I turned 6, I think. My parents and I had been living in a small duplex in a post-World War II development for a couple of years, and the summer before that birthday, they bought the house that I would live in until I married.

I think my mother felt that, since we were new to the neighborhood – and in reality the subdivision was new along with most of its residents – she would have a party and include all the children my age who lived around us. I think there were about six other children, and we gathered in our small dining area for the party. (Now that I think of it, that was exactly what “they” recommend today – one guest for each year of the child’s life.) I don’t remember much else about that day. I can picture us all sitting around the table, but I don’t remember the cake or any of the gifts. I will say three of those children would remain my playmates much of my childhood.

After that, birthdays were a big family deal. In fact, this was once a topic on which my husband and I disagreed. In his family, birthdays were acknowledged with a cake and a gift, while my family – maybe because I was an only child – saw birthdays as a time to really celebrate, sometimes with a party and always with multiple gifts. I believe my parents subscribed to a philosophy that is going around now (except now the discussion is about Christmas – “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.” For the longest time, Tom didn’t get why I was often somewhat disappointed on my birthday – I still say your birthday should be a very big deal.

At the same time, I only remember two other real birthday parties in my life. When I turned 16 my parents offered to have a party at our house to which I could invite anyone I wanted. Sadly, the only things I really remember about that party are twofold: 1. Lots of friends from church and school came, and 2. You should never serve blue bread. The color scheme of that party was blue and yellow. We went to the local bakery to order certain items, and they suggested yellow cookies, which turned out well, and blue bread for sandwiches. Unfortunately the bread turned out to be fairly dark blue and reminded us all of moldy bread. (I think I remember this in large measure because for a while it would come up each year during Child Abuse Month – for the longest time a local club would provide blue jello to elementary schools to highlight child abuse awareness. I’m afraid I always questioned the color choice. Yes, I think blue is the designated color for Child Abuse Awareness, but my question was always “Why?” Is it because bruises are black and blue?) But I digress.

The only other real party I recall was planned and executed by my friend Susan on the occasion of my 50th birthday.

Oh, Tom has gotten much better about birthday fare, but putting on parties is definitely not in his comfort zone.

Tom is also not good with surprises. That took me a while to get used to, as well. Even when he tries to surprise me, he often gets so excited that he starts dropping hints so that eventually I will figure out what his surprise is. This year, I gave him a big hint – a text with a flyer advertising that “Beautiful” will be in Augusta in December and a comment, “You can give me this for my birthday.” So he did.

We did go out (with Susan, too) for a great dinner at the Willcox, and we had a family birthday dinner on Sunday – complete with cake (yummy coconut by Susan) and some thoughtful gifts.

Then comes the perspective on age. This is getting complicated, because, you see, I found an age I like and I’m sticking to it. I have been 39 for some time now. The only problem is that my children are currently 39, 36 and 36. Being 39 is getting harder to explain. (I have previously reported here that fudging my age all began when I was truly 39. A child in our carpool had reported his teacher was 56 – in reality she was more like 36. When I laughed, the child asked, “Well, how old are you?” I replied, “23.” Somehow everyone in the car believed me. From then on my children would count from 23 on each birthday, and who was I to correct them? At some point – I think it may have been as late as my children’s middle school years – they began to do the math and realized that was impossible.)

But with age I have come to believe that what matters most is being surrounded by the people I love. The best parts this year – besides tickets for the upcoming show – included a video and a call from grandchildren Clarke and Pearce (and their parents) from Greenville, a call on my birthday from son Mac, a handmade monogram painted and etched just for me by granddaughter Payton, a marvelous collage of photos of the younger Britts, a lovely blanket scarf from Cat (just in time for the chilly weather), a sweet “happy birthday” from 3-year-old granddaughter Maddie, hugs and birthday wishes from all my children and grandchildren and even a Facebook page filled with well-wishes from friends who took the time to acknowledge the passing of another year in my life. Thanks to all for this.

So this year I turned 39 yet again. And it’s looking like 2020 will be a great year to be 39 again.