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By Shelley Murphy
What is 27?
It’s the number of bones in the human hand.
It’s the overall width (in feet) of an official singles tennis court.
It’s the number of letters in the Spanish alphabet.
It’s the only positive integer that is three times the sum of its digits.
It’s the number of outs each team gets in a regulation professional baseball game.
No doubt these fascinating facts are handy for a round of Jeopardy!, but I find 27 is also a mind-boggling figure.
Last week, my older son celebrated birthday number 27.
It seems impossible: 27 birthdays. Perhaps it’s because I’m in a bit of denial about my own age; and in my mind, I’m still somewhat youngish. When I’m asked my age, I always need to pause and think, then fib.
But the sum of my son’s birthday parties provides the mathematical calculation verifying his age.
Throughout the years, we’ve marked all the big milestone birthdays, beginning with an over-the-top shindig celebrating his first year, then turning double digits, becoming a teen, learning to drive, getting to vote, and ordering a drink.
Yet I did skip one special observance—the Golden Birthday. In my defense, I didn’t know it was a thing back then. I’ve since learned the Golden Birthday is when one’s age is the same as the date of birth. (For example, if you were born on the 30th, your Golden Birthday is when you turn 30 years old.)
I only just discovered a similar phenomenon; it’s called the Double Golden Birthday and was obviously created for clueless parents like me. A Double Golden Birthday is when one’s age is twice the number of one’s date of birth.
Alas, again, I arrived late to the party and missed marking another once-in-a-lifetime event. Making matters worse, I didn’t realize birthday number 25 is considered the silver birthday and signals a special sparkly recognition. My only salvation is if a bronze birthday lies ahead.
Minus the mathematics, I love celebrating my boys’ birthdays—but the pandemic tested my party planning patience.
I hope to never celebrate another quarantine birthday; but, if necessary, I’ll exhume the do-it-yourself hats, decorations, and banners for the festivities.
I may struggle with numbers, but I can remember being 27, and it doesn’t seem like decades ago. Although if I’m frank, it does feel like a lifetime ago. I divide my existence into two time periods, B.C. and A.D.—Before Children and After Dependents.
My older son’s birth changed my life in ways I could not foresee or comprehend. Perhaps in part because I skipped the scary chapters in America’s pregnancy bible: What to Expect When You’re Expecting.
As a naïve new mom, I worried a lot; my husband might say incessantly. But, back then, I also considered my affliction a temporary piece of the parenting puzzle.
I assumed my angst would miraculously alleviate at the precise moment my son crossed a stage to accept his college diploma. Ha!
Instead, worrying became my superpower. Nowadays, I can flip “Is he up yet?” to “Is he still up?” in a heartbeat.
My firstborn’s willful ways began in the womb and progressed with his arrival three weeks early. In hindsight, perchance his hasty entrance was intended to prepare me for his take-charge, self-assured, and achievement-oriented ways.
A go-getter from the start, my son, like other firstborns, favors navigating the world on his own—hence, my worry.
My earliest memory of his fierce independence dates to his first day of preschool. As we walked hand-in-hand to his classroom, my heart raced and my grip tightened. But the second my son spied the kids beyond the doorway, he ditched my hand and sprinted like an Olympic athlete into the classroom, never looking back.
My firstborn, regardless of his chronological age, will forever remain a child in my heart.
What is 27? It’s the number of years since my son made me his mom.
Happy birthday, my sweet boy, and thank you.
For more than 20 years, Shelley Murphy and her husband have lived in San Clemente, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times since 2006.