A very Merry Unbirthday to you, to you . . .
- from the 1951 Disney film "Alice in Wonderland"
Lewis Carroll coined the term "unbirthday" in "Through the Looking-Glass," the sequel to "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." But if you grew up in Hawaii during the 1960s or '70s, you probably associate the idea and the song with Checkers and Pogo.
Stars of Hawaii's longest-running locally produced TV show (1967-1982), Mr. Checkers and Pogo Poge greeted us every day after school with cartoons and a cast of crazy characters like Professor Fun and Super Spy McPig. The lucky kids in the studio audience played games like Eat the Doughnut Off the String or Whistle With a Mouthful of Soda Crackers. When the Unbirthday Song played, the camera would pan across the peanut gallery and come to rest on one smiling face. That was the luckiest kid of all, the one who got to celebrate his or her unbirthday by pulling out a fistful of pennies from a big jar. The celebrant also got a party hat and, I think, a cake from Leonard's Bakery.
I like the idea of surprising friends with unbirthday presents or parties. Or giving yourself permission to occasionally observe your own unbirthday. I do think, though, that unbirthdays, like birthdays, should be celebrated just once a year, otherwise they lose their specialness. Don't worry, that doesn't mean you only get two days a year. I like to stretch my birthday partying over a full week and I see no reason to do my unbirthday any differently.
Birthdays and unbirthdays - and rebirthdays - are heavy on my mind right now. 'Tis the season to be melancholy. Sorry, that was overly dramatic just for the sake of a rhyme. I'm not sad, I'm just sentimental. This is an eventful time of the year for me, with several big birth-related days to commemorate.
My late husband, Barry Shannon, would have turned 73 on Friday. And on Monday, our baby, Mana'o Radio, marks 11 years on the air. Barry would be proud to see our little nonprofit, noncommercial, extremely eclectic radio station now. He's been gone for more than half its life, but his presence is still felt there and over the air. He bristled whenever I used the word "little" to describe our low-power FM station, admonishing me to expand my vision, think big-time.
Well, guess what, Barry . . . we're going big-time. As Mana'o enters its 12th year, we're getting ready to move the transmitter and increase our wattage and our reach. We'll be moving up the FM dial, too, from 91.5 to 91.7. When we do, our signal will reach all of Maui, except for Hana. So we'll be celebrating our 11th birthday for much longer than a week, with various benefit events to raise the funds needed for new equipment.
But two birthdays do not a season make. I boarded this emotional roller coaster Feb. 7, my late father's birthday. Mom and I observed the day as we have for the past 14 years, with dinner at Sheik's. Daddy probably averaged three meals a week at the Kahului diner, over some 30 years. Every year, I tell myself I should order fried chicken or spare ribs, his favorites, but I always end up getting the chop steak or mahi. Or breaded teri. Mom orders something different from me, and we split and share our dinners while we reminisce.
The next milestone on this annual sentimental journey is Barry's rebirthday, the anniversary of his death. April 7 makes six years. In widow years, that could be a lifetime or the blink of an eye. I plan to mark the occasion privately and simply. I'm sure Barry will approve. Even though he never liked celebrating his birthday, I think he would appreciate the idea of a rebirthday remembrance.
Two of my three granddaughters were born at the end of April and the beginning of May. They're still young enough to love every minute of their birthdays. And I enjoy celebrating with them, even if it's long distance.
But right in between those purely joyful occasions comes the last of Barry's Big Three. May Day would have been our 24th wedding anniversary. I haven't yet decided how to commemorate this one, but it's a safe bet that I'll spend part of it in tears, sentimental fool that I am.
It's OK, though. I already have a plan to ensure that I finish this season on a high note. I'm going to throw me a surprise unbirthday party, right around May 2. And it's going to last for a week.
A very Merry Unbirthday to me, to me . . .
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.