HAPPY BIRTHDAY (real life, not the book)

Okay, I’ll admit it. Today, as I write this, is my birthday. I never share that information publicly or even privately. I have had a hatred of birthdays (my own) for most of my life. As a child, no one made much of a fuss about it, and with a mid-August birthday, everyone was always away, so it was always a non-event, and somewhat (or even very) disappointing. (We won’t discuss the totally flattened chocolate cake my parents sent me when they sent me to camp at 5 and 6 years of age, and again later, and they thought the cake would arrive by mail safely and on time. It never did. It showed up, whenever, flat as a pancake, looking nothing like a birthday cake. So I wasn’t very old when I decided that I really didn’t like birthdays. They always disappointed me, although for several decades now, thanks to my children, they have been great. But I am leery of birthdays anyway, just on principle. Besides, now there is the age issue, which adds insult to injury. For several years now, I have been trying to convince my family to adopt a system of 2 mother’s days per year instead (the official one, and one just for me in lieu of my birthday). I may be making some headway on that one since the whole family sang “Happy Mother’s Day to youuuuuuuu” today instead of Happy You Know What. (Yerghk. The B word). And a friend sent me the perfect candles for my cake, which instead of saying the number, spelled out the words “Don’t Ask”. Perfect!!! I want those candles every year!!! (There is a far less chivalrous friend who sends me a card with my correct age on it every year. Is he kidding? Did he think I would forget??? I toss that card as fast as possible every year!!).

Like a lot of women I am sensitive about my age. I got a head start on everything in life, I went to college at l5, finished at l9, married at l7, had my first child at l9. I also wrote my first book at l9. I have always been on some sort of fast track, shooting through the sky, in a huge rush to get to the same place as everyone else, but since I started everything so early, by now people must think I’m 146. Oh I remember her, she wrote her first book about 600 years ago, right? No, not exactly, but having started everything so early, I’ve been around doing things for a long time. And with 9 children, I went on having babies for years and years and years. People must think I’m a great great grandmother by now, parked in a rocking chair somewhere. Thank you very much, I’m not. Fortunately, it’s not that bad, I still have one child in college, living at home. I still have dark red hair, wear leather pants and stiletto heels (without looking too ridiculous, I hope), I go to discos with my kids, still weigh barely more than 100 lbs, and haven’t fallen apart too noticeably yet. But I still don’t like my age, am disappointed that my marriages didn’t last until ‘death did us part’, unfortunately divorce did instead, and in the game of musical chairs I was the one who ended up without a seat….oops….and I don’t like the age on my driver’s license or passport—-HOLY SH–!!!! Who is THAT??? I’m how old? You must be kidding!!! No, unfortunately not. I’m not 15 anymore, although sometimes I still feel it, and other days I feel 110. Welcome to real life. Fortunately, people stay young a lot longer than they used to, I wear clothes that my grandmother would have laughed at at the same age, and we live in a society where youth is prized, and if you’re not willing to give up your life and sit in a rocking chair once your kids leave home, you can have a fun and busy life. I can’t even imagine not working or going 100 mph, and I’m having fun, most of the time. (I got a very funny card from one of my kids today that said “The older you get, the better you get, unless you are a banana.” Now there’s a cheering thought. I’m not at the banana stage yet. I’m not sure what stage I’m at, but the leather jeans and high heels still seem to look okay. (Or at least people aren’t laughing at me yet. When they do, I’ll park the leather jeans).

Another reason I don’t like talking about my birthday publicly is the ‘horoscope’ thing. I really don’t want strangers writing to me telling me that their sign and mine are totally compatible, we were meant for each other, (could almost be twins), even though they’ve committed heinous crimes or have a screw loose in some major way. “What sign are you?” is never my favorite opening line. I don’t want to be burdened with what my horoscope sign says I’m supposed to be. I’d rather just be me.

On a more serious note, this birthday was likely to be a hard one. As some of you know, my ex husband, the father of 8 of my 9 children passed away earlier this year. And despite being divorced for many, many years, we remained close and spent holidays together with the kids. And with a family this size, birthdays are a big deal. This was going to be the first one without him, and I knew it would be hard, especially for my kids. I think we were all dreading his very noticeable absence from a family event. But in life, things change, people move on, and disappear from our lives. Kids grow up. Lives get busy, new relationships form, and whether we like it or not, things change. We had a memorial for him 3 days before my birthday, which was more than likely to make things even worse. And two of my sons were not going to be able to make my birthday this year. And my youngest son was working on the actual day although he came to lunch the day before, so what we found ourselves with was a girls’ weekend at the beach, where we usually spend my birthday—-all my daughters and I, and my only son in law (who was a good sport), and even though it was different, we had fun. They spoiled me rotten, and gave me thoughtful, beautiful gifts. We played Scrabble, walked on the beach, and talked about girl stuff, and a little friendly gossip. And although it was different, we all had a nice time. We felt the absences of their father and my sons….but even though it was different, it was lovely and good, in a different way. I’m not a big fan of change either, but it actually worked—–and when they sang Happy Mother’s Day instead of Happy Birthday, it was great!!!!
I actually got through the day without feeling 114 years old, I didn’t look in the mirror too closely so I reassured myself that things were still okay. I had a great time with my daughters, who came without their boyfriends, so it really was a girls’ weekend, and I think it was a success——–despite the changes, the absences, and the people we missed. We got through it in a gentle way.

I was doing fine throughout the day, and the girls very sweetly invited me to dinner for one more celebration of my day. At a new restaurant I’ve never been to, and I was looking forward to it. I tried not to focus on the things that have changed in our lives, the fact that they live in other cities now, and part of the year, so do I, that we don’t see each other as often as we’d like, that tomorrow they’ll all be on planes back to their own lives…..and as we talked and laughed over dinner, I was able to tell myself that nothing had really changed……until the check came. And then my fantasy of nothing changing fell apart. The waiter presented the bill to them and not to me, and all of them whipped out their credit cards and paid the bill, instead of me. That was a first. I felt very spoiled, and it suddenly told me that they are all adults—-with credit cards even!!! Credit cards? What are they doing with credit cards??? Aren’t they still 6 years old? I guess not. And suddenly there was no hiding from the truth: my children are now adults. They can actually take me out to dinner, and pay for it. They aren’t children anymore, and I guess things really have changed. I was shocked when we left the restaurant, and maybe felt older than I want to admit……when your kids can take you out to dinner and put it on their credit card, they really are grown up….and so am I. It may sound crazy, but it was a startling revelation……..but even with the changes that life forces us to adjust to, like it or not……some of the changes are actually very nice. I had a great birthday this year!!! What birthday was it???? As the candles on my cake said, “Don’t ask”. We got through another year!!! Happy Mother’s Day to you too………Love,Danielle

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20 Comments so far
  1. Maureen K. August 15, 2011 6:36 pm

    Hi Danielle,

    I heard you mention on “The View” that you are also writing songs now. I am interested in doing this too! Wondered if you have any advice on who to contact to share my lyrics with – someone who is fair and honest?

    Thank you for your time and HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY 🙂

  2. Kimberly August 15, 2011 8:51 pm

    Happy Mother’s Day!! Still close to 100 pounds?! Wow, very nice! Glad you got spoiled by your children! 🙂

  3. Stella August 15, 2011 9:15 pm

    Happy Birthday. Love, Stella

  4. CAROL O. August 15, 2011 9:44 pm

    Hello Danielle…and HAPPY BIRTHDAY….I knew when your Birthday was and thought about you all weekend….and its not that bad….We are the same age….and …..well…you know…but people think we look really good and find it hard to believe our age…thank you….and the reason…We are Baby Boomers and will always take care of ourselves….Reading Honor Thyself…and Love the Paris stories….thanks for the Blog….

  5. Jennifer Hughes August 16, 2011 3:43 am

    Dear Danielle

    it is my birthday today 16/08/11 and i throughly enjoyed your story it was sad, funny and reflective.

    thank you for sharing your intitmate details.

    I am now off to cook for my brood(yes on MY birthday)


  6. halldorj onsson August 18, 2011 4:05 pm

    Happy birthday Danielle.

    You do not have a rival in the world in my opinion. How could you achieve what you have done without being 5 hard working persons in one body? What energy !

    You are the greatest writer on earth!

  7. Lynne August 18, 2011 5:42 pm

    Danielle, Happy Mother’s Day! My “Mother’s Day” is in two weeks! I’ve read and loved all of your books, most of them more than once! Will you be making anymore of them into movies? You are my favorite author and I’ve laughed and cried through pretty much all of your books. It is so nice to be able to escape my own life for a while and transport myself to wherever your books take me. Thank you so much for allowing your fans into your world! Can’t wait to read the next one!

  8. Libby Rolao August 20, 2011 1:23 am

    Dear Danielle

    It’s always a pleasure to read your interesting and sincere monthly messages. Thank you.
    Delighted to hear you had a great day on Danielle Steel’s day. 14 August is a very special day – it’s a day a BRILLIANT STAR was born. Health, long life, happiness & love is my wish for you.
    My day was 14 July and my gift to myself was your book “Happy Birthday”. Beautifully timed!What a wonderful present … how lucky I am.
    Thank you for bringing so much joy to our hearts.
    With love,

  9. Debra August 20, 2011 8:39 am

    Just picked up Happy Birthday. As with all your books I just cannot put them down until I have read the whole thing. Thank you for yet another wonderful book for me to share with friends/family and my mom. I gave my mom one of your books and she is a fan. I always pick your new one up as soon as it hits the market, keep writing Ms Steel and thanks again.
    Yours truly,
    Debra in Seattle Washington

  10. Carla August 21, 2011 7:44 am

    How awesome to find out that my #1 favorite author (I have a hardback collection of just about every single novel you’ve written) shares a birthday with ME! My birthday is 8/15 as well! Happy Belated Birthday Danielle!!

  11. Lorraine Kovacs August 21, 2011 4:43 pm

    This was a really interesting article to read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m glad to know I’m not the only mom who still has a hard time adjusting to her adult children’s lives! Glad you enjoyed the day!

  12. Ingrid Soares August 23, 2011 11:36 am

    Olá Danielle!

    Fui a presentada a 1 de seus livros há mais ou menos 4 meses , e tenho que admitir que até hoje não parei mais de lê – los.
    Seus livros tocaram no fundo de minha alma.
    E agora que encontrei o seu blog estou fiquei muito feliz em conhecer um pouco mais da pessoa que escreve os meus livros prediletos.


  13. Mickey Miller August 24, 2011 11:40 am

    This a long shot! my name is Mickey ,I ran the Delancey Street Moving Comp in 70’s, I know I moved you twice. Any way,i have a close friend who has all your books, she would be over the moon to have a 8×10. do the names Dean Martin, zollie kilgore lawrence jackson bring back any memories We were pretty impressed. Had fun. my freinds name is geraldine.

  14. Lynda Osborn August 24, 2011 3:56 pm

    I read all of your books and enjoy them very much. I just finished Happy Birthday and loved it. I have one question for you. I realize you are a well-known author, but I do not understand why you have to take the name of the Lord in vain. In Happy Birthday, Valerie was a lovely, proper lady. It was awful for me to read when goddamn came out of her mouth. It just was not necessary and that is the question I have for you. Why use vulgar language?

  15. Lynda Osborn August 24, 2011 4:55 pm

    I wrote a comment about Happy Birthday, but I put the wrong e-mail address this is the right address. It is ymail not gmail

  16. Esther Slatkin August 27, 2011 12:26 am

    First Happy Mothers Day (you know what I mean) by the way I am a twin. I enjoy you so much thru your books. I own them all and enjoy reading them. This includes your new one Happy Mothers Day ( you know what I mean). Thank you for so much enjoyment. Do you ever go on tour? I live in southern California? Again thank you for the many nights of pure enjoyment . Esther

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  20. Melissa August 20, 2012 8:40 am

    I think you are one of the most talented writers. But, I will never purchase another book of yours again. The language is bad enough, but when you took the Lord’s name in vain numerous times throughout what would have been a great read in “Happy Birthday” I was confused.
    I hope you find salvation and happiness in your life soon.