*The following is simply the way I remember it. Memory is faulty. If you remember it differently we will have to agree to disagree.
I just celebrated my 46th birthday. I’m now closer to 50 than to 40. I have lived longer than Jesus and Princess Diana longer than Elvis and River Phoenix but I’m not even halfway to Betty White. So, I’m really focusing on Betty.
My birthday has always coincided with back to school chaos which was fun when I was a child. New shoes. Old friends. Mom buys me Sassoon jeans. It’s not quite as much fun when the day opens with your own kid blaming you for ‘nearly missing the bus’ because they were not awakened at the perfect time. Alert: Concierge parenting services are no longer available here starting on Monday. I’m 46 for pete’s sake. I need my beauty sleep.
This is my birthday in 1974 in my graphic lion dress. I’m not clear why there are 19 candles on the cake when I was 3 but I am clear why they held my hand so that I wouldn’t fall face first into a 3rd degree facial burn. Polyester can also be quite unforgiving with open flames.
In elementary school, I associated my birthday with friends coming home on the bus with me, our little legs in terry Izod shorts sticking in the high humidity to the green vinyl seats on the school bus. Home parties with favorite foods and games and favorite friends and Pepsi served in crystal glasses.
This is 1978. I’m in my yellow gingham “Jenny” dress. Nice feature to have your name embroidered on your clothes in case your friends forget who you are. (In later years I would force my brother to wear that dress and march him around in it. I called it playing “Fashion”. He was a very good sport but a hopelessly clumsy runway model.)
This is a few years later. The 80’s. We had english muffin pizzas and someone gave me an ice cream cone puzzle. Look at those fashion icons. I’m in front wearing my “crayon shirt”. Nothing will catapult you to popularity quite like wearing school supply graphics on your clothing.
Then there were some years of stress with birthdays. Who to invite. Who not to. Would my dance theater friends blend with my school friends. Did I have to invite so-in-so just because I went to her party? Someone was mad at me, should I include them? The middle school birthdays are a blur as the middle school years are a blur.
High school. My very best high school birthday was junior year. 16. My grandma made me a bouquet of sugar cubes tied with pastel ribbons for a “sweet 16”. I’ll never forget the time and care she put into making that. I had spent the previous summer at The School of Cleveland Ballet and was eager to see my friends again. My friend Eric picked me up in his sporty car and we were going out to dinner. Very decadent. I dressed up in my “I spent my summer with artsy people” grey and white striped floor length skirt and long grey t-shirt knotted to the side. We went to TGIF’s and several other friends were there to surprise me. It was a happy shock. I deeply regretted wearing my weird skirt. Friday’s was not yet ready for the avant-garde apparel. God I loved that skirt.
College. Freshman year my birthday happened less than a week after arrival. It felt weird and sad being in this unfamiliar place on my birthday away from my family. I had exactly one friend on campus. Paul. We had known each other forever but he was dealing with his own adjustment…and everyone else around me was new. But then my entire corridor of 7th floor Mohn made me signs and cards and brought chocolates and made a huge deal out of it. Near strangers. I was floored. Unbelievable. It was going to be ok. These were good people. Later, a few of them would be in my wedding party. Later still, one of the sign makers would be my very first phone call when my dad died. And Paul, even amidst his own swirl of the new normal stopped by and gave me a white t-shirt and black cotton cardigan from the Gap. In a box with tissue paper. And it was wrapped with a ribbon. I cried. I wore those shirts until they were threadbare. Senior year I turned 21. I was the last to turn 21. Many of my friends were abroad studying in other countries. Two friends set aside the fact that they didn’t know each other and took me out to a bar called the Rueb that is closing this month after 50 years. One friend was Paul. The other was Tam. Tam ordered a Japanese import beer and Paul ordered a tap beer. They both disapproved of the other order but kept it to themselves. I didn’t know what to order. They gained consensus on assuring me I would love numerous long island iced teas. 21! Woohooooooooo! I had exactly one that gave me a blinding headache and then I went to bed VERY early for a 21st birthday.
The pre-children years. Dinners out. Parties. Cards and coffees and phone calls with singing voicemails. One year my husband surprised me at a local restaurant with friends at a long banquet table on an outdoor patio. The weather was perfect. The mood was perfect. It was so much fun. My husband pointed and said, “Look!!! I found Tam. I FOUND HER! I even FOUND TAM!” It was quite a feat. I mean she was just in Minneapolis but this was before Facebook and Google and somehow he found her digging through my mysteriously curated address book.
The kid years. The first year we had a baby we went on a boat ride while my parents watched the 5 week old. It was 50 degrees. We had cocoa on the boat and wore fleece jackets and had to cut the boat ride short because I was nursing. I bolted from the car into my house screaming, “GIVE ME THE BABY-MY BOOBS ARE EXPLODING!” Memorable.
This was 40. Family over for dinner. The glasses do not help facial symmetry. Look at that glorious cake.
Years of sweet cards from the kids. Trying to behave themselves and keep the sibling punching to a minimum because “It’s Mom’s birthday.” Punching resumes September 9th. Take a picture with Mom. Sit still for just ONE photo. It’s her birthday. Just do it.
Good takeout on my birthdays. Well wishes. Phone calls. Facebook love. Emails. Texts with emoji’s. Tiny nieces and nephews singing on my voicemail. Some birthdays spent at curriculum night or dance carpool or both. Some with breakfasts out to celebrate my birthday AND the kids going to back to school. Below is year 42.
And now 46. It’s easy to think that there is nothing new on the horizon for birthdays the older you get. But expect the unexpected. I had a delectable coffee and french croissant with my Mom. I got my hair cut and colored from my dear friend Patty. She mercifully squeezed me in last minute so I didn’t have to turn 46 AND have grey hair. I got surprise presents on my doorstep. A friend of 39 years sent me flowers. I went home to assemble egg bakes for 50 people for Saturday when my friend came over with some sporting equipment for my youngest son. We were discussing how it would have be fun to go the U2 concert. While we lamented and I whisked eggs, my husband bought tickets, sent the email link and pretty much made the decision for us because we are both professional procrastinators. I got to see U2. Finally. Bought my very first concert t-shirt at age 46. Finally. Did something spontaneous. Finally. I felt 16 again because I knew every song. Bono…he still has it at 57. It would have been a different experience at 16 since Bono seemed so much older then and I wouldn’t have had my miniature gin and tonic because…well illegal PLUS $10. $10?
I took my puppy on a short walk in the afternoon. A woman in a small car stopped and jumped out, leaving the car running. She said, “Oooooh. I don’t believe I’ve met this little guy yet!.” She hands me her business card. She is cooing to my dog. She says, “Well, he’s cute. But that fur? It will get matted if you aren’t careful.” I look at her card. I am defensive. I say, “He’s just a puppy.” I am defensive about my dog’s unruly fur. She says, “I do IN-home grooming. I come to you. I groom a TON of neighborhood dogs. So let me know.” I’m not feeling it. She criticized my puppy on my birthday. 20 seconds before she hops into her car, she turns and says, “Just so you know…I do it ALL. Everything. I groom, do their teeth, the ears, trim their nails. I do it all in your home. I even do the anal cavity. What I’m saying is, I will come to YOUR OWN HOME and do the anal cavity if that’s what you are looking for.
Then she sped away. And I’m speechless on my birthday.
So-The important memories and people remain important. I am still in contact with everyone mentioned above. A birthday wish is never wasted. I am overflowing with gratitude and love for all the people in my little world. People are so good. My birthday means I’m aging but I’m getting more grateful and more focused. I don’t have the luxury of wasting time but have the gift of knowing how fleeting it is. And I celebrate just being here to make another trip around the glorious sun.
Don’t give up middle aged people. You never know…you may just get an offer this year on your special day that you just never EVER expected or never knew existed.