I ’m a birthday hoarder. Each year, I acquire a new age, try it out for size, and promptly deposit it where it belongs — that bulging corner that says “Grow Up!”

I wasn’t always like this. When I was five, I couldn’t wait to start first grade and have homework. At ten, I couldn’t wait for Shabbos when there was no homework, and later, for my bas mitzvah, so I could fast Yom Kippur. When I was 16, I couldn’t wait to turn 18, have no homework, and become the perfect homework giver, a.k.a. teacher.

So birthdays were fun! They fit perfectly into my growing body and mounting inches. Birthdays opened up this gigantic fun world of homework and fasts and all fun stuff adults like when they are idealistic kids.

Somewhere around my mid-twenties, though, I started outgrowing the “I can’t wait to be older” phenomenon and switched to the “Uh-oh, I’m getting older” panic. Birthdays consisted of old reflections, new resolutions, and a severely defaulted calculator. What? It’s been 365 days since I signed up for that spin class that expires today? Surely there must be a mistake. I was supposed to start tomorrow?!

When I got married, this love-hate birthday relationship became even more complicated. My poor brand-new husband, indoctrinated to never, ever, dare forget a woman’s birthday, was in for a mean learning curve. He quickly learned, relatively unharmed, that under no circumstance can a waiter sing happy birthday for me at a restaurant. In fact, we shouldn’t even sit near any birthday people or tone-deaf waiters.

Surprisingly quickly, my savvy, less-new husband graduated summa cum laude in celebratory science. There was to be no fanfare, lots of chocolate. A card too, preferably with something written in it. And yeah, rule of thumb: Diamonds were a windfall of greatness that wouldn’t garner much protest.

Hitting my 30th birthday, however, was especially sobering. I had known the twenties for ten long years; separation anxiety was threateningly large. I couldn’t check off the 25-to-30 box on the stupid survey anymore, and dang it, I was my teenage assessment of old. A graduate of youth. I was 30.

I wasn’t a teacher, never became one. I wasn’t polished or mature. I wasn’t sophisticated, and I didn’t have life figured out. I was 30, and I was as intellectual as my six-year-old and her impossible homework.

“I’m not ready to be 30 just yet,” I brooded darkly. I scolded my body and the past way-too-short 30 years. I couldn’t even reach the top shelf of the pantry and I still sang nursery rhymes. Surely I wasn’t big enough to be 30, right?

Birthday fussiness aside, the sun rose and the day happened. I was 30. My husband was excited. “We’re going to celebrate,” he enthused. Of course he was pumped, he didn’t have to be 30 for another whopping six months. He had those youthful rights mature adults are no longer privy to.

He wanted to celebrate.

Oh, well, a good wife does the will of her husband, doesn’t she?

I followed him to the car, wondering what he had in mind. Please don’t let it be a theme park, I prayed. I hate roller coasters or anything faster than 60 miles per hour, he knows that, right? And he had better not take me for a helicopter ride, I panicked.

We pulled into a parking garage in midtown Manhattan, and I was relieved that there wasn’t a roller coaster in sight. Stumped, I followed my husband to the elevator. I was still clueless when the doors opened to this place called the Escape Room. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 588)