“The secret of eternal youth is arrested development.”
–Alice Roosevelt Longworth
Today is my birthday (did you get me a present?), and I share it with actress Geraldine Chaplin, ballplayer Hank Bauer and spiritualist Helena Blavatsky. I learned this from Linda Rannells Lewis’s The Birthday Book: Their Delights, Disappointments, Past and Present, Worldly, Astrological and Infamous (Little Brown, 1976), which includes a list of famous people born on each day of the year. This graceful meditation on how people have seen birthdays — from pagan times to the disco era — is neither so scholarly that it’s impenetrable nor so lightweight that it has nothing to say. And I like it partly because many of its examples come from great books. Remember Natasha Rostov’s thirteenth Name Day party in War and Peace? Or A.A. Milne’s rhyme: “But now I’m six, I’m as clever as clever / So I think I’ll be six for ever and ever.” Lewis does, and although her book is out-of-print, it may be ripe for a new edition for stop-the-clock baby boomers. The epigraph comes from Dyan Thomas’s “Poem in October”: “O may my heart’s truth / still be sung / On this high hill in a year’s turning.”
© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.