The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on August 26, 2010.
When I was in my mid-20s, I always had fun sending birthday cards to my friends on their 25th birthday. Inside the card, I would glue a quarter and a penny, and then write around and between the coins so the message came out, “Happy quarter of a cent-ury.”
I was in my 30s when my husband and I belonged to a church group that included several couples who were a bit older than we were. I remember when one of the women was getting set to celebrate her 50th birthday. We gave her a card, and I thought about using a half-dollar to wish her a happy half-century, but that didn’t seem to express the same type of sentiments as it did at the 25-year mark. That was just fun and a bit clever. This felt more like I was reminding her of how old she was getting. So I just wrote a note wishing her a happy 50th birthday. And I saved myself 51 cents.
The reason I’m thinking of this now is that my son just turned 25. His birthday was Monday, and we’ll be celebrating it with him whenever his schedule allows for his next visit home, which is usually every few weeks or so. His birthday card will include a quarter and a penny, and 25 years’ worth of memories.
I suppose I should issue a “Nostalgia Alert” right here, because I’m not going to be able to keep myself from reminiscing about the 25 years I’ve spent as a parent, and marveling again at how quickly time goes by – especially when you’re looking over your shoulder at it. But this year, there’s even more to it than that. Maybe it’s because the thought of the birthday card coins snaps me back to when I was the age my son is now. Or maybe it’s because he’s now reached the age where birthdays start to flow one into the next, and it gets hard to differentiate one from another.
On top of that is the fact that it’s been eight years now since my son graduated from high school, and four years since he got out of the Marines. I can’t speak for him, but I know that the time he spent in the Marines was one of the longest four-year periods of my life. And the time since then, one of the shortest. Still, I don’t think I could name any distinguishing characteristics of his last four birthdays, but it’s a different story for the four before that. I remember clearly and painfully, but proudly, how he turned 18 in boot camp, 19 in Iraq, 20 in preparation to go back to Iraq, and 21 at home on leave. No matter how much time goes by, I know I will never forget those birthdays.
Or this one. Although there’s nothing special or official about the age of 25, as there is for 18 and 21 and every age that ends in a zero, it seems more important and relevant somehow. Maybe it’s just me, and maybe it’s just because of that silly thing with the coins in the card. But 25 seems to be an age at which we can look back at one phase of our lives – the one where we do our most significant growing and learning and turning into an adult. And it’s one where our lives truly open up to us, where we can see all the possibilities still ahead of us and all the growing and learning we’re still going to do. Or maybe we don’t really see that until another 25 years have gone by. After all, I’m looking back over my shoulder at those, too. For myself if not for my son.
That might be something for us to talk about when he comes over to celebrate his birthday. The past and the future. The life lessons and the memories. The hopes we still have, for ourselves and for each other.
I don’t know how much practical advice I can give my son about where life will take him from here. But I’ll still give him my two cents’ worth. Plus a quarter and a penny.
© Betty Liedtke, 2010