End of the year celebrations come to a close

Andrea Joseph

By now, I imagine things are beginning to wind down a bit for everyone. Christmas has come and gone and now we’re getting ready to head into the New Year. Gifts have been opened, exchanges have been made and deal-seeking crowds have dispersed.

Along with all of the holiday hubbub, I had a birthday last weekend too. As my friends like to say, I get all my celebrations done in one fell swoop.

When people hear I was born the day before Christmas Eve, there’s almost always the “aww, poor you” reaction. But my parents always kept my birthday and Christmas separate. As a kid, there were never birthday gifts wrapped in holiday paper, combined parties or birthdays missed due to the Christmas excitement. Maybe that’s why I never felt “cheated,” so to speak.

At my age, birthdays really aren’t that big of a deal anymore. As I slowly creep closer to 40 – I have a few years to go, mind you – I like to think back on birthdays of my past.

When I was a girl, life was about Cabbage Patch Kids, Barbies, books and anything that had to do with horses. When I blew out the candles on the cake, I almost always wished for a horse of my own. I must have never blown out all the candles in one breath, because that wish has yet to come true.

During my teens, it was more about feeling independent. The awkward date of my birthday often meant friends were unavailable on the actual day, so often we’d choose a weekend or two before to celebrate by going out for pizza and a movie – often at the Fox Theater and pizza place in downtown Watsonville, which no longer exists. I wonder if I would be allowed to hang out downtown if I were a teen these days.

In my 20s, it was all about painting the college town red. The town, in this case, being San Luis Obispo, where at the time, downtown bar-hopping for your birthday resulted in free drinks – and free Cokes for a group’s designated driver. These were the times when I tested my limits and came to realize I’m a lightweight. I also look back now and realize how blessed I was with a tight-knit group of friends who made sure that, when we partied, we were taken care of and arrived home safely, regardless if it was a birthday or not.

Now I’m more low-key. Gone are the days of drinking just because I can and the need to feel independent. I am independent, and sometimes I wish I could go back to the days of being young and not so adult-like. But as I get older, time seems to speed up and I see my childhood slipping away more quickly than ever.

This year, some friends and I gathered for dinner at a waterfront restaurant in Monterey the weekend before my birthday. That’s more my style these days: Sitting among people I love and trust, catching up on each other’s lives and laughing the entire evening.

This past weekend, I did the same, laughing and spending time with my brother and his family up north, where we celebrated an early Christmas and my official birthday Sunday. Our parents made the trek north as well, so we enjoyed a family Christmas.

Being around my niece and nephew was the best birthday I could imagine. After the tragedies of late involving children, it was extra special to watch my niece open presents with my brother’s help and listen to my nephew cry and coo. I made it a point to take in and appreciate the tremendous gift they both are, even though baby girl had a mouthful of teeth breaking through and was cranky, and baby boy was fighting congestion and had moments of crankiness too.

Now, as we approach the New Year, I look ahead to what may be in store for 2013. I wonder if my dad will finally retire – and if so, whether he and my mom will move north to be closer to their grandchildren. I think about the newspaper industry and hope I can hang on to the job I love for many more years. I consider the careers my brother and his wife chose – he’s a police sergeant and she’s a police detective – and pray they continue to be safe in the jobs they do every day. And I think about their children, the niece and nephew I adore, and consider the changes they’ll go through during the course of the next year.

I’m hopeful that the next year is kinder to me, personally, than was 2012. And I hope the same for all of you.

Here’s wishing everyone a New Year filled to the brim with good cheer, health and – most importantly – the love of family and friends. Happy 2013!

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