Today is my birthday. I don't put that forth to fish for well-wishes, but because it causes me to think about traditions.
Thirty-three years ago (I remember the year clearly because I was pregnant at the time, and my daughter is now 32...) we discovered that my husband's friend's girlfriend (now wife) shared my birthday, and the four of us went out to dinner for a joint celebration. We've been going out to dinner to mark our coincidental birthdates every year since.
Every single year.
Sometimes it's just the four of us, sometimes other friends join us. Sometimes the restaurant is terrific, sometimes not so much -- like the year we went to a now-closed steakhouse and were surprised to find a cockroach emerge from under a plate and scurry across our table before being smashed by our friend wielding a water glass -- but it's usually memorable. And it's always reassuring to know that my birthday will be marked by friends, food and fun.
We have a similar tradition around New Year's Eve. Thirty years ago (soon to be pregnant that year) we'd intended to go out with another couple whose daughter was the same age as ours, but a bad snowstorm changed our plans. So we bundled up our two-year-old and made our way to our friends' home, where the girls toddled happily while we cooked dinner, drank champagne and watched Dick Clark call the plays on televised Times Square revelry.
After that, it just became What We Do For New Year's Eve. That tradition has survived our friends' move to another city, family emergencies, even their trip to Hawaii, from which they returned early just so we could spend New Year's Eve together.
The years when we whipped up Steak Diane or Cream of Brie soup upstairs, while the kids celebrated with grape juice and frozen pizza in the basement, might have been the most fun. But these later years have brought good times, too, as we prepare our meal at a leisurely pace, then struggle to stay awake until midnight.
For some, I'm sure doing the same old thing for 30+ years would be boring. Even I would find too many more such traditions to be stifling.
But tomorow night when we head to yet another restaurant for yet another birthday dinner -- our 34th together -- I'll be grateful for the fact that I'm still on the planet and in this unpredictable world have a few things I can count on.