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When do birthdays become less important?

    Clara Caufield

Remember being a kid when birthdays were eagerly anticipated, a golden day, occasion for a party when we got to be the center of attention: Mom or grandma cooking up our favorite treats, even only hot dogs and chips, baking a favorite cake, gaily wrapped presents and secretly even looking to the birthday spanking, giggling while trying to evade pesky brothers, cousins, etc. all determined to give a good swat?

That seems to last through high school and then the anticipation birthdays gradually wains becoming “just another day”.  Yet as we grow into “elder” status, it once again becomes an occasion for celebration, the birthday person often wondering how he/she got s0 darn old.  “If I’d known I’d live this long, I’d have treated myself better,” is a common remark.  One other hand, we can also say “It’s been one hellava ride and I’m not ready to be turned out to pasture just yet.  Might have a few more goes left in me.”

That’s why I and my gang of fellow oldsters recently threw a birthday party for Tom, the baby of the bunch, now 61.  We put on the dawg for him: barbeque, beverages for every taste and inclination, my special dark chocolate/cherry torte, complete with candles.  It was trick to get them all lit.

He got cards and some great gifts, even the gag type.  The greatest gift, of course was our time and the attention lavished upon him – king for a day.

Tom is a white guy, but doesn’t really know it, having been born and raised on the Crow reservation, counting many friends and relatives among us. (To be delicate I won’t mention his ex-Crow and upon occasion Cheyenne exes.)  Tom has a great respect and understanding for tribal people, even avowing that his once saw some “little people”.  His association with us gave him a great respect for extended family, which includes his many adopted tribal friends.  And he’s often known to say “Gads!” a common Crow slang word.

So? What’s so important about a birthday party?  Everything, I say, especially during these dark days when the future is uncertain.  We just can’t hide in a hole when there is an occasion to celebrate life, laugh and enjoy the companionship of good company.

The Cheyenne women often say that it takes a man a long time to grow up and mature. I’m happy to report that Tom is getting there. He spent the entire evening laughing, telling jokes and little stories upon himself.  The gruff guy that he usually is took a vacation in order to party. Isn’t that great?  Maybe we should have birthday parties more often.


(Clara Caufield can be reached at

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