Anniversaries and Birthdays

Do specific dates on a calendar mean anything to you? I don’t know much about the psychology of commemorating events, but I know I do it a lot.

I usually remember birthdays and anniversaries, or at least the month if not the date. I add that disclaimer because I forgot the exact birthdays of two close friends in just the past three weeks, but I did remember the months.

Birthdays are more important to me than holidays. Everyone celebrates a holiday. A birthday belongs only to you or me (and anyone else who has that birthday, but you know what I mean). Mine is near the end of January and I focus on it more than Thanksgiving or New Year’s Day. December 5th, April 1st, February 19th, March 19th, September 16th and some day at the end of August are on my mind each year; December 3rd was added recently; I’ve forgotten some others but plan to find them and actually note them on my Outlook calendar.

Personal anniversaries play an even more significant role for me and specific images fill my mind’s eye when I think of those days. September 27th is one going back to high school; the images include veal parmigiana, teenage awkwardness, long brown hair and a movie. September 9th is a bit bittersweet but sometimes it brings a smile when I picture that sunny day on a North Carolina beach. December 31st conjurs up a whole movie of images for me because I’ve had so many unique experiences on that day (and I even remember the ones during which I was drunk). July 17th features pinot grigio, pizza with spinach on it and my first view of one of the most expressive faces I’ve ever seen.

At various times in my life I celebrated anniversaries of car purchases, house moves, job starts and first dates. My sister noted once that I learned that last one from my Dad. Speaking of Dad, I clearly remember the day he died, in part because I watched him take his last breath. That is a powerful and sad image, but I try to focus on celebrating his life each November. Mom died nearly alone one September and I don’t need a calendar to remember the phone call that morning; I celebrate her unique life on that day each year.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I don’t know the psychology of celebrating anniversaries, but I know that for me it is a way to connect the dots of a sometimes disjointed life and make some sense of it.