Day Twenty-Seven: Happy Birthday

Facebook sends us a birthday list of every person we’ve ever known.  If I’m socially adept (I’m not), then I’ll remember to post something to their wall the day of each person’s birthday.

And some people do that.  They’re the same type of people who walk around an office saying, “It’s Ted’s birthday.  Remember to sign the card” and as you try your best to think of something better than simply, “have a great day,” you begin to wonder if we’ll be eating cake soon.

Christy decides that we should bake cupcakes for all the birthday people.  It fits both the homey and the trendy hipster segments of our friendships.  We soon realize, though, that we don’t know anyone’s address.  Furthermore, we have no idea if people are out of town.  It has me wondering if social media really allows for much of a connection after all.

“How about Cindy?”

“I’m pretty sure Al and Cindy moved out of town.”

“Oh.”

“How about Melody,” she says.  The truth is that we’ve been meaning to reconnect with Melody and Jeremy for the last year.  We kept talking about having them over for dinner, but life got crazy.  So, this experiment gives us a chance to live out what we’ve been talking about for the last year in theory.

*     *     *

I’m a big fan of birthdays.  The cake doesn’t hurt.  Neither do the gifts.  However, the real power of a birthday is the affirmation.  Shallow as it may be, I’m glad Facebook sends out birthday reminders.  What might seem like a nagging mom application has become one of the things I look forward to on my birthday – a clear reminder that I matter.  It’s a chance, midway through my narrative, to reconnect with characters and to make sense out of the plot line.

When I begin baking the cupcakes, I realize that I’m missing eggs.  A month ago, I would have driven to the store.  Now, I stop next door.  I realize it’s a small difference, but it’s a radical change for an introvert.  I’m finding community in front porches and driveways instead of blogs and Twitter feeds.

After frosting the cupcakes, we load the kids in the car.  Brenna begins an impromptu song about a frog and I start thinking that maybe we need to do this project after forty days if, for nothing else, we now have a common interest that we share as a family.  Yes, it’s hot.  True, we both considered avoiding this experiment for a day.  However, a hundred degrees is a small price to pay for authentic interaction.

When we get to their house, I feel uncertain about invading their home for her birthday. Again, I see the trend that the real barrier is fear.  What if we are acting crazy?  What if we are ruining her birthday?  What if this comes across as a really bad joke?  However, what begins as a small gift of cupcakes turns into an hour-long conversation with someone we never see, despite the close proximity.  It has me wondering if maybe this acquaintance will turn into a friendship.

Our goal had been to give away a cupcake as a gift.  However, today the real gift was the sense of proximity missing in my online interactions.  It’s the present of the present, in real-time.  It’s our sense of space.  It’s the chance to reconnect and to comment without a screen in the way.

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