On my 16th birthday, after spending most of the party in the basement for a tornado warning, a boy I liked broke a water balloon over my hair, which I had spent hours trying to make look as if it had it had large, soft, natural curls. The curls melted. I laughed and laughed.
On my 21st birthday proper, my roommate and I legally ordered a beer at The Brickskellar. A few days later, we had a full-fledged portable party, beginning at the bars at Dupont Circle, walking to bars in Adams Morgan, then over to Georgetown where we knew we could get post-bar bread and coffee at Au Pied de Cochon. In the course of the night, we crisscrossed the whole Northwest quarter of the city. Finally, we found ourselves on the steps of the Lincoln Monument as the sun rose. I was an adult in a city I loved.
On my 22nd birthday, I was no longer in the city I loved, but in a new place, hot and dry and uncomfortable, surrounded by people I had known for less than two weeks. They got me a funny card. The friendship of one of these people has supported me even beyond graduate school, beyond singlehood, and twice, we've chosen the same town in which to live.
My parents threw me a party in northern New Mexico for my 30th. Friends flew in, and we spent a day rafting the Rio Grande on historically high waters. The trip was beautiful and terrifying. In our float down through the deep canyon, we saw ancient bridges, wildflowers, and where a jet had flown into the canyon wall; the whitewater violently tossed our guide and she lost her paddle, our guide screamed orders and curse words at my father who couldn't hear them through the helmet and high water, and at the end of the trip, we hit unpredictable rapids that left me hanging onto the boat by only the toes of one foot and the grip of my mother's fingernails in my ankle. We all survived. Later that summer I met the man who would become my husband.
On a walk on my 32nd birthday, E and I decided we'd marry each other, and my 33rd birthday was my first married to my favorite person.
I love excuses for parties, so I'll never bash birthdays; however, they don't carry much real meaning other than being marked days. I rarely remember years later what I may be doing on the 17th of June, but I always remember the 18th. So many times, my family and friends have made this unremarkable day incredibly remarkable, and for that, I'm very thankful.