A birthday represents that one very special day each year that should be devoted entirely to you. The younger you happen to be, the more special your birthday is because it means gifts and parties, and gifts and cake, and gifts and friends, and gifts and family.

Certain birthdays stand out as a “rite of passage” – 13 means becoming a teenager and inheriting all of the ups and downs that go with it. Twenty one is admission into adulthood, which is accompanied by an entirely different set of ups and downs. Each of us has a golden birthday that is celebrated somewhere along the way, and then when you hit 40, it’s your “over the hill” birthday. A decade later, “50 is nifty” is the phrase that is meant to take some of the sting out of the looming AARP years ahead. Then, when you reach 60, you are at the mercy of your loved ones.

Our two oldest grandsons celebrated their golden birthdays at age 7 and 8, and they each had a themed party. We had a sports-themed party for one that included an afternoon of bowling, and for the other party, we dressed as characters from Harry Potter as we were magically transported to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

My golden birthday didn’t occur until I was 28, and themed parties weren’t in vogue, so I never got to dress up as one of my childhood heroes.   

When I reached 40, Deb surprised me with a house full of neighbors and friends. They were a partying type of crowd and continued celebrating my birthday long after I had gone to bed. At 50, my co-workers at school dressed in black, gave all my students black armbands to wear, and brought a wheelchair into my classroom. I took it all in stride as the day rolled on.

For my 60th, I decided a much more subdued gathering was required, so Deb planned a small party with just family members and a few life-long friends. Because I was born in the ’50s and survived the turbulent ’60s, everyone surprised me by dressing up like hippies. Even our grandchildren wore tie-dyed shirts and faded blue jeans. Our daughter brought a collection of CDs with the music of the ’60s and during the course of the party, the house rocked to the beat of the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and all the other groups that Ed Sullivan and Dick Clark introduced to us so many years ago.

Yes, my friends and family had all kinds of surprises in store for me, but I had one surprise for them, too.   

Sometimes I’m spontaneous; sometimes I’m calculating; sometimes I combine the two traits so that I’m spontaneous in a calculating sort of way.

Everyone was having so much fun they didn’t see me slip out of the room for a few minutes. When I reappeared I was hiding a secret identity.

It was time for the cake and ice cream. First, everyone sang the Happy Birthday song and that was followed by family members taking turns relating stories that were meant to embarrass me. I just smiled and listened patiently while waiting for the right moment. My older sister began explaining how I had wanted to grow up to be a cowboy like the Lone Ranger or an avenger like Robin Hood. She said that I dreamed of being some kind of superhero. I couldn’t have asked for a better cue. With that introduction, I stood up on my chair, which got everyone’s attention. Then I ripped open my shirt to reveal a Superman T-shirt and cape. The transformation wasn’t complete until I struck a pose of flying through the air by extending my arms out in front of me and stretching one leg behind while balancing precariously on the old wooden dining room chair that had been glued one too many times. The room fell silent, the mouths of our five grandchildren dropped open as their ice cream dripped off their chins, and our son and daughter helped me down from the chair before I hurt myself or someone else.

I can’t wait to see what they plan for my 70th birthday.