Marking a birthday: Millstone or milestone?

Susan Manzke
Russell, Rebecca, Bob and Susan 1980s

Today, I’m going way back in time.

This column was written on August 29, 1980. I had been doing my weekly newspaper submission for a whole eight months at this time. When it all started, I was a mother of three, with a new baby. Sometimes I was ready to pull my hair out. Other days, I just marveled at the lovely family and world I had surrounding me.

This column may sound about like any other day on Sunnybook Farm, but it wasn’t. It was my birthday, my 30th birthday.

After so many years, I should be able to take this day in stride. I mean, I always know when it’s coming. I have enough warning, enough time to prepare emotionally. But yearly, it still manages to take me off guard.

This year is supposed to be different, a lifetime milestone. I hope it doesn’t prove to be a millstone. It should be just another ordinary day—my 30th birthday.

I’ve promised myself not to make a big deal over the mere passage of time. It happens every day, every hour, every second.

Clocks continually tick-tick-tick. Age doesn’t matter to a machine. TICK-TICK-TICK. Seconds add up quickly to make years—30 years! Thirty years of ticks by those darn CLOCKS.

But I’m not going to be a hysterical person and let the figure get to me. I’m going to be calm and try to ignore my birthday completely. Then maybe it will go away.

So I’m 30. So what? Does one day make me any different than the day before when I was 29? Of course not. Do extra wrinkles jump on my face overnight? I should say not. Can I, as a mature, stable, reasonable person handle another birthday? Sure.

It’s not like I was alone with this problem. There are a lot of 30ish people out there. I’m even married to one. Bob survived this day without any scars. (Well you can’t notice the twitching unless you look very closely at his right ear. Hardly worth mentioning—kind of like his salt and pepper hair. No one really notices he is getting saltier every day.)

If my husband can overcome the 30s, so can I. I may even celebrate. I’ll get my hair done, have a facial and buy a new outfit.

Susan celebrates her 30th birthday in August 1980.

On second thought, if I have my hair done, the beautician may find a gray hair. And who in their right mind wants to look in the mirror for age lines? So forget the facial. The new outfit will have to wait, too. I have to start saving money for my old age, which is quickly creeping up on me.

But I’m not going to let this day bother me. No. I’m too stable a person. I’ll not even refer to it as my birthday any longer. I’ll just call it BLACK FRIDAY!

I was a kid when I wrote this column, just getting started with life, with writing. (Reminds me of the time as a child I contemplated leaving the twentieth century. The year 2000 was so distant. Now it’s long past.)

The newspaper I began my column in was called Farmer’s Friend. The Wisconsin State Farmer didn’t take me on for another year.

Forty years later, I’m turning 70 and I feel less frightened about this number than when I turned 30. In the 80s I lived in a house filled with children and noise. It was hard to find time for myself, unlike today when I have too much quiet and time to myself.

Today, I look back at my old columns, recording some on YouTube, and find memories to cherish. The years have sped past, but I appreciate each one, even with the addition of wrinkles. 

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;;