Birthday Newspapers

When my son was born in 2003, I saved the Seattle Times newspaper published that day, and have saved the paper from each of his birthdays since. Same for my daughter, who was born in 2005. These papers have all been copies of the Seattle Times, and it’s been interesting to see how newspapers themselves (or at least the Seattle paper in particular) have changed over the years. While my kids have grown taller, the newspapers have grown shorter, with fewer pages, and with fewer sections (for a long time it was usually just the news/business section, lifestyles and local news in the second section, and sports in the third, except on weekends when there are additional sections—and in 2019 the weekday papers have shortened to just two sections). I’m sure newspapers have changed in other ways too, just as much as the world itself has changed (I didn’t have a mobile phone when I saved that first newspaper, let alone a smartphone, and now both my kids have smartphones, and have no idea what a flip-phone was). For some reason I’ve never saved the papers from my own birthdays, or my wife’s—this is just for my two children. I lament the day when newspapers will be purely online.

My kids know I save the papers for them. I’ve been glad that no truly horrific news was ever reported on their birthdays, which has given my little collection a more ordinary feel, which I think is the point. I save everything—all sections of the paper, including advertising inserts, so they can see products and the prices of things as well as whatever was newsworthy that day, locally, nationally, and internationally. Saving these newspapers is a little ritual in celebration of each passing year in the lives of my favourite son and daughter.

One year I forgot to save the paper from my son’s birthday (in 2014 or 2015, I think). I accidentally recycled that paper—to my immense horror, and didn’t realize it until after recycling had been picked up that week. But that’s when I discovered—thank goodness—that the Seattle Times keeps back issues available for at least six months. Ordering that back issue cost me $9, but otherwise I’ve been able to save each paper as it was delivered to our door.

Some day when my kids are older I’ll give them all these papers, which will be a sort of time-capsule for their lives—and I hope they appreciate them. And hopefully they’ll continue with the tradition for their own birthdays, and maybe do the same for their own children, by saving future newspapers too. Decades from now it might be quaint to have a “paper” newspaper, if everything goes online, but I hope that day never happens.

—28 December 2016, Sammamish, Washington