The Birthday Rose

There’s a tradition where I come from that’s called the ‘Birthday Rose,’ and it goes like this:

On your birthday, someone gives you a rose and your job is to head out for a long walk and take this rose with you.  It’s generally better if you’re in a city with a lot of people around, because your job is to find the person who belongs to that rose.  And when you find them, you explain this is your Birthday Rose – and if they’ll take it, then you get to make a wish and they get to make a wish, and both those wishes will come true.

The Birthday Rose

Sometimes people absolutely refuse the rose, even if you explain that it’s a tradition and that they get to make a wish.  And some Birthday people get the rose and refuse to take a walk with it.

I understand both, because it’s frightening to approach a stranger with a rose.  But it’s also exhilarating.

So that’s the tradition of the Birthday Rose

There’s just other thing about this story – which is that I don’t actually come from anywhere.  I moved every year of my life ’til I was in my 20’s. So when I say it’s a tradition where I come from, I basically mean “I made this up,” but nobody will do it if I say that.  So I made up the part about it’s being a tradition, too.

On the other hand, the place I come from is the place where you make things up. So turns out this is a bona fide tradition, which means you can feel utterly safe doing it yourself.  At least, where I come from.

From now ’til 11-11-11 I’m blogging on Birthdays Remembered in preparation for my Birthday Concert Fri. Nov. 11th at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, MA:

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15 Responses to The Birthday Rose

  1. joe ruivo says: You’ll always be a Rose no matter what tradition and why not start new ones.

  2. I love the idea of a rose. I’ve given someone special a present on my birthday as a tradition. It’s fun. It lets the ego know that without that person in your life you wouldn’t be the person you are today. That’s how I feel about you. A happy birthday every day.

  3. Biagio Sancetta says:

    I do like these traditions, and “where I come from” has always meant where my heart lies. It is not a physical place most of the time, though perhaps it is and I just remember it from some other perspective. A gift to a stranger may be a rose, a smile, something to make them laugh or think deeply – the point is that it is mine to give and theirs when given…and I can walk away with my own inner smile and one less thing to carry.

  4. Linda Hill says:

    Traditions often come from something someone made up. I especially like this one, Deborah! Very kind and sweet gesture.

  5. You’ve seem a rainbow of different responses to this over the years, I’m sure! Is there one story that stands out in your mind? A case of someone who seemed especially moved, or who moved you in an unforgettable way?

    • HipHarp says:

      What a great question! I think the most unforgettable was the woman who absolutely refused the rose, and seemed to feel intimidated, almost threatened by it — or rather, by me. She actually ran away. I think she was screaming … or just about to.

      I backed off. Way off.

      But I definitely remember that one, because it seemed like she was so sure I had an ulterior motive that even I started wondering if I did. That experience became part of a musical sequence much later … in a piece I wrote about how we view ‘friendliness’ differently in adults and children.

      But the “Birthday Rose” experiences often blur for me with the “Post-Concert Bouquet Transfer” tradition … which I see I will definitely have to write about soon. I have several lush and delicious memories of that old tradition for sure …

      • The “ulterior motive” question is interesting. Makes me wonder what I’m up to when I surprise a complete stranger with some small, unexpected kindness. Am I doing it for them, or for me? Hmmm.

  6. jeska says:

    I’ve lived in one place most of my life, but I like to think I come from the land of made-up things, too. I like this idea.

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  8. Rebecca says:

    Deborah you are such a wonderful creative writer. I hope you one day take these blogs and use them to create a teaching book on electric harp. This would be a great segway into the emotional mechanics of musical improvisation. Isn’t every creation a rose waiting for a stranger to wish upon it?

  9. Nelleke says:

    I love your tradition and today is my birthday so I’d love to try it. .. However I’m waiting for a rosegiver so I can reintroduce a genuine american tradition back in Europe 🙂

    • HipHarp says:

      Oh, wait! I forgot to say that you can also buy your own roses (I often do!) … although I think it may be a little too late there now? But 11th-hour … or even midnight “Birthday Rosing” is perfectly fine … and in a pinch, I’ve used an iris (actually, I sometimes prefer the iris).

  10. Linda says:

    I have a birthday coming up very soon and I will share a Birthday Rose to those I meet on that day… wonderful, love this thank you Deborah…

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