you’re the birthday boy or girl

I’ve just discovered it’s Pentecost on the sunday i’m doing a space at Fitzroy – I was talking with someone last week who had to protect their Gippsland home from the fires in February. She said that when she sees a candle flame out of the corner of her eye it still triggers a strong physical and emotional reaction – i don’t think this is the year to try redeeming language of flames and fires, so I’m going with Ezekiel and the dry bones…

As usual, my first response to the pentecost thing is pretty cynical… actually i have 4 pages of saccharine sweet crap that i just churned out which I won’t bore you with, so this is really a second response. But it was triggered by a phone conversation i had with my friend Sue, towards the end of those 4 pages, where something reminded me of the oh-so-personal birthday song her family sing to each other:

‘You’re the birthday
you’re the birthday
you’re the birthday boy or girl’

Is this one of those songs where you have to know them to think it’s funny? This poem / reflection / whatever is kind of born out of that song… and perhaps for the same reasons it might mean absolutely nothing to anyone else…


so we bring out the cake and the party hats
celebrating another year
that if we’re honest
is marked most clearly
by its distance
from the life that we once had.

am i the only one who feels like
we’re the half forgotten great great uncle
celebrating a stolen birthday

[the last one left of a generation
surprising everyone
every year
by not yet being dead]?

but the ghosts of hopes lost
that whisper such thoughts
are drowned out by the clamour
of distantly related children
making their annual appearance
in their sunday best
for the special party day

and with Emily on our left and Lily on our right
[or is it the other way around?]
it seems churlish to protest.

so we blow out the candles on the cake

grateful it only takes three tries.


  1. Emily

    Cheryl, Thanks so much for your thoughts and writings. As a pastor who creates the worship at a slightly non-traditional Mennonite Church leaning hard to the left your blog is a breath of fresh air and hope for the dry bones in Harrisonburg, VA USA. Thank you thank you thank you. Keep up the honest, creative, fabulous work/words/thoughts.

  2. Emily – thankyou so much.
    I love the sound of a slightly non-traditional Mennonite Church leaning hard to the left…

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