In Judaism, the number eighteen is a felicitous number. Numbers in Hebrew are represented by letters, and the number eighteen, if read as a word, is chai, meaning life, as in L’chaim! When making donations, or giving bar- or bat-mitzvah gifts, Jews customarily write checks that are multiples of eighteen.
Yesterday was my birthday, and it started well when my son called early in the morning to wish me a happy day and to point out that my age this year is a multiple of eighteen. No wonder the day had actually become special the night before when a dear cousin had called with good wishes. Now, the auspicious numerology gave me a sense of being afloat on the wings of good fortune.
I thought back to the last time I was a multiple of eighteen, and realized that year had ushered in a delightful period: I fell madly in love and enjoyed a sustained period of spiritual depth and uplift. That spiritual change became an integral part of me, in spite of the relationship’s recent end.
Then I realized that this week, even before I realized I was headed for a multiple of eighteen, I was already moving toward a happy birthday. I had rescheduled a dentist appointment for a non-birthday-day. I had just finished and mailed invitations to an open house I am throwing next month, with the result that lots of people began telling me how happy they were to be invited. With the dentist out of the way, I had time to have a fun lunch with some fellow writers. Next came a phone call from my college roommate, with whom I celebrate almost simultaneous birthdays; so I shared the good news about chai with her. And soon after that, my daughter called with birthday greetings.
By the time the day ended, I was fully in the swing of being a multiple of eighteen—it’s a buoyant swing to be in.