Birthday Memories: Why and How to Save Them


The top drawer of my mom’s nightstand was always a bit mysterious.


Unlike its bottom twin which was always firmly closed, the upper one was usually open a few intriguing inches. Standing tall and proud like a sentinel, a container of Ammen’s poked out of the top (as a waitress, she said the talcum powder helped to cool her tired feet), guarding the other items which were always out of view.


I was always desperate to know what else was tucked inside, but never bold enough to venture inside.  


One day, long after I had reached adulthood and moved away, I was home visiting my mom. I can’t remember why, but she asked me to find some papers in the top drawer of her nightstand.




After so many years of trying to avoid temptation, she was literally inviting me to go where I had never been before.


I remember a mish mash of items in the drawer---a few newspaper clippings of Dear Abby and Erma Bombeck; various photos of my sister and me; and lots and lots of emery boards. (To this day, my mom still brandishes a well-manicured hand.)


Among the smattering of books was a combination appointment calendar and diary. As I tried to locate the information I had been charged with finding, I started to read a few pages. The entries were a mix of life’s necessary but unexciting logistics (went to the dentist) and some commentary.


I hit pay dirt when I happened upon an entry from her birthday. She recalled how she spent the day, who she celebrated with and how happy she felt. There was a regret as well—the friend she’d had a falling out with didn’t send her a birthday a card. It was fun to relive the day through her words.


I Became My Mother: 50th Birthday Memories

Years later, I would learn that my mother often did an inventory of the past year on her birthday. She’d also list details of her day, along with her wishes for the upcoming year.


I remember thinking, “I should do that!”...but it would be many years before I did, and even then, I wasn’t always consistent.


I’m celebrating a birthday this weekend and just flipped back through some of the birthday memories I did manage to write down.


Here’s what I had to say about my milestone birthday:

“Today I turned 50 and had a truly wonderful birthday, birth week and a birthday season. Everyone who mattered remembered. I felt special I felt loved I felt spoiled.”

I continued with the details, including how my daughter got up early to decorate the kitchen for me and used her own money to purchase a yoga outfit (which was silly expensive for a 14-year-old girl because, well, Lululemon!), yet she said she wanted to because I only turn 50 once.


After prattling on about different activities and people, I concluded my birthday recap with this:

"Truly the best birthday ever and I am extraordinarily grateful. I can’t wait for the rest of my 50s. They’re going to be amazing."


Reading sweet words like these made me relive my wonderful 50th birthday. It made me appreciate it, and all the wonderful people who helped make it so, all over again.


Write Down Your Birthday Memories: 10 Prompts 

On your next birthday, might I suggest YOU take a few moments to write down the special people and special memories of the day. Include your hopes for the future, your accomplishments from the past year or whatever you like.


This mini time capsule might even make you look forward to future birthdays, or at least appreciate the past ones anew.


Taking a bit of time to capture some of life’s happiest moments can soothe the soul on days when water pipes break; a doctor’s visit comes with yucky news; or we learn that someone we love is going through a hard time.

Here are some prompts to get you started:

  1. What did you do?
  2. Who did you celebrate with?
  3. What kind of cake did you have?
  4. Who sent you birthday wishes---birthday cards; phone/video calls; texts; visits
  5. What wish did you make when blowing out your candles?
  6. Did you have any work/school/business obligations?
  7. What do you hope for in the upcoming year?
  8. Were you disappointed by anything today?
  9. Any gifts or activities to note?
  10. How would you like to spend your next birthday?


I believe that birthdays are just an excuse to celebrate the people we love. When it’s your special day lap up every bit of it—and maybe even jot it down for posterity.