Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

September 22, 2013

A collection of birthdays

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

_ — At age 15, I got my learner’s permit. A year later, I got my driver’s license again.

When I turned 18, I registered to vote.

When I turned 21, I changed my driver’s license.

I always thought I would remember those birthdays. I figured — the milestone years — would stand out among the rest. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I celebrated my birthday last week. It wasn’t a milestone birthday, just a thirty-something birthday. But as I ate cake and opened my birthday card, I couldn’t help reflect on previous birthdays. Five, eight, nine, 10, 13 and 21.


When I was five, I had my first party at a local restaurant. All of my friends from kindergarten, church and the neighborhood crowded into the entrance. I remember being squeezed in the booth with my friends. The noise level was dangerously high. I liked being surrounded by all my friends and family.

At age eight, my birthday present was getting my ears pierced for the first time. All my friends — we were in the third grade — already had pierced ears. I had been wearing the fake earring stickers instead. I picked out tiny gold stud earrings. I flinched when the ear piercing gun squeezed my ear lobe. And then again.

When I turned nine,  my grandpa Pauley bought my birthday cake. It was a sheet cake with purple icing and dancing ballerinas. It was the last birthday I got to share with my grandpa; he passed away from cancer a month later. Whenever I blow out the candles on a cake, I remember birthday No. 9 and wish he was still here to celebrate.

The next year, my mom bought a card that said, “ Welcome to the double digits.” I thought I was the cool kid with two numbers, instead of just one. With a September birthday, I was always the last of my classmates to celebrate a birthday. I was jealous of their double digits for most of the summer. Looking back, I laugh at my desire to catch up to them in age.

Pizza, movies, popcorn and cake. I was finally a teenager. When I turned 13, I had my first slumber party. All the girls from school came to the house. Sleeping bags lined the floor. My best friend Kristy and I stayed up the longest. My poor parents probably didn’t get any sleep at all, thanks to the constant stream of giggles.  

I spent my 21st birthday sick with the stomach flu. Even though I was officially an adult, my mom still took care of me that day. She got me all the necessary items — crackers and Sprite. We watched terrible daytime TV together and a few movies. No matter how old you get, there is nothing like a mother’s care. I didn’t enjoy that birthday, but I will never forget the way she stopped her day and took care of mine.


The other birthdays, the ones in between, were just as nice. In the our household, signs were made; special cups and plates were used for birthday dinners. Everyone got a cake, or in my brother’s case, a pie. This year, I celebrated my last birthday as a single lady. It was filled with surprises, future promises and a homemade birthday cake, complete with candles. It will be a birthday I remember years from now. I know birthdays aren’t supposed to be celebrated by adults. We are supposed to moan and groan about getting older. Sometimes I am guilty about wishing I was still in my 20s or wanting the birthday clock to stop. That is no way to live and definitely, no way to celebrate. Each day is a gift. Each birthday is an opportunity. The number on the cake isn’t there as a reminder of time and age. But a reason to give thanks for all the memories from that very first messy cake to the more subtle celebration during middle age.

Jamie Parsell is the Lifestyle editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at or on Twitter