Growing up in an Italian home, birthdays were never overlooked. Actually, any excuse for a celebration was fully embraced. I am noting this because tonight we are having a small gathering to ring in a new year for my husband, Ralph. He will be forty-two on Monday. Ralph did not grow up in anything close to an Italian family, although he joined an Italian Clan the day he said ‘I do’.
Adjusting to the Italian culture was slow at first. He did not know what a misslette was, how many relatives I really had, or that birthdays required some effort. He did not see the value in making merry each year for our children, nor spending money on birthdays. In contrast, ingrained deep inside me is the truth that birthdays are to be celebrated. Period.
A lot of money does not have to be spent to recognize and honor the birthday person. Simple, creative efforts are required to announce they are alive, and they are blessed to rejoice in another year of life. It is their day to feel special, maybe spoiled, and definitely appreciated and loved.
In my clan this was shown with gifts, the gathering of favorite people, a large painted birthday sign, silly games and our favorite cake, if not a wedding-reception-like-party. The birthday person owned the day. Dysfunctions aside, my family knew that each of us holds the innate desire to feel loved and special. It is in every one of us, not just Italians. Some have mastered the recipe for cooking up joy to honor the birthday person. It is my mother who taught me how to create an impressionable birthday ritual.
Tonight we will observe forty-two years of Wonderful Ralph; an adored husband, loving father, true friend, tolerant and kind son-in-law and sometimes quirky engineer. The festivities will include ‘Ralph Bingo’ and food from a favorite restaurant. He will be forced to drink margaritas, blow out candles and make a wish to carry into the next 365 days. I know it will be worth every ounce of time, money and effort to proclaim that he is loved and special…..because he is, and it is his turn to be reminded. Cheers!