You Say It’s My Birthday

*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.)

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

And this…

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.

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A Diamond in the Ruff

I am no fun.  Risk averse. Chaos averse. I’m in recovery for non-spontaneous behavior syndrome.  I lack impulsivity.  Looking for a wild evening that could lead to anything? Don’t go with me.  Looking for a vacation where I have researched, planned, and booked things with 5 contingency plans and 2 extra of everything in your suitcase? I’m your woman.  If I wrote a memoir, potential titles would include “Addicted to moderation: One woman’s adherence to balance.”  I’ve been avoiding obvious blunders like the plague for as long as I can remember.  I figure enough crap happens that I have no control over…I have plenty to fill up my ’embarrassing story’ bank.

I need for no more. But-

I’ve gone ahead and done something wild.  Truly flies in the face of all logic.  It’s unlike me.  Maybe 43 is the year I really start to lose my grip on reason. I told my kids yesterday that this is probably the 2nd craziest decision I’ve made on purpose.  This was a huge decision.  They asked me what the craziest one was and I said, “Get married to a human.”  They rolled their eyes. I reminded them I loved Daddy but it was by far the single largest and most important decision I’ve ever made.  And now this.

So…(drumroll please) This happened.  Grover. He happened.

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We adopted him today.  I have a purse dog and I don’t have any clue what I’m doing. I ordered a book from Amazon on Yorkies.  It arrived the same day as Grover. Praise God for 2 day shipping.

I bought something called “Beef Fritatta” for him to eat.  I’m not kidding.

I went to Home Goods and bought a pet bed.  I literally had to whisper out loud to myself “The dog bed doesn’t need to be a fashion accessory.  You don’t need a chevron dog bed. Just pick something. Anything.”  Also, they sold Isaac Mizrahi designer printed bags for poop.  I don’t feel like I should pay extra for gift wrapped poop.  I resisted.

My son has already asked if we can buy him a sweater for Halloween and dress him up. Sure. What dog who has been rescued doesn’t love some fool dressing them up?  It’s not like he already has suffered enough humiliation growing up in a puppy mill.

Now, I’m not a huge dog person.   I’ve loved just two dogs in my life.  Snoopy was my childhood dog.  A hyperactive Brittany Spaniel.  My parents got Snoopy as a puppy to soften the blow of me getting a brother.  My mother readily admits it was not ideal to have a 4 year old, a newborn, and a puppy all being needy and helpless at the same time.  They let me name her (since they wouldn’t let me name my brother) and Snoopy was the only dog name I knew (Hey-I was 4!).  My poor dad would take her duck hunting and when others called out for Thor and Duke and Bandit and Maximus-he had to yell, “Snoopy, Bird down!”  That is me and Snoopy below. 8th grade. I can tell the year because of the unfortunate “I should totally get bangs!” idea.  See. Spontaneity-never pays.

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The only other dog I’ve ever loved was named Clyde.  Clyde, the massive black lab who belonged to some dear friends, was trained to play until you simply said “Game Over” and then he would sit and gaze at you with wisdom in his eyes.  He has his own theme song, “Clyde, clyde, the best dog in the world.”

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So, I’m not super keen on the dog thing.  I mean I’ve just recently trained 3 people to not eat things off the carpeting or pee on the floor and yet I find myself taking in something that will surely do both of the above and I can’t take away screen time as punishment.  I surely must be losing it.

The kids have been working on me for some time.  When I got pregnant with #3…my son said, “I want a boy. It has to be a brother.  If it isn’t a brother, I’d rather just have a dog.” That was 7 years ago and while he did get his brother, he hasn’t forgotten about the dog.

Then 3 years ago my two oldest children participated in something school called “The Principals Challenge.” It’s a summer challenge aimed at having kids keep up on reading/writing/math and if they complete The Trifecta (and they did because I cracked the proverbial whip ALL summer) they have lunch with the principal and get a gift card for the book fair.  The challenge requires each kid to write 6 stories.  At the end of the summer we had 12 original stories.  When I went to compile them for submission I realized there was a theme. 8 of them were about getting a dog, finding a dog, wanting a dog, dogs talking to other dogs, dreaming about a damn dog.

So why now?  Good question.  It’s the fault of the baby.  The baby is no longer a baby.  He said just two days ago, “Is it a thing now that people keep forgetting that I am six AND A HALF!?” Then a chain of events…One friend kept posting pictures of rescue dogs. Another friend knew of this specific rescue organization she knew and trusted (underdogrescuemn) This rescue organization was having a foster dog event 5 miles from my house. We went.  My two oldest sat in a pen filled with dogs that were in foster care.  I knew it the minute they set foot in there it was going to happen. Their eyes glassed over with happiness.  We talked to Grovers foster parent.  She said all the right things. AT the event was another friend from college I haven’t seen in 20 years. She works for the organization and is the one in charge of this breed of dog for adopting. She said all the right things. Except for the fact her own dog just had a $2700 surgery. I’m ignoring that.  Everything else she said was reassuring. Dog kismet.

It was meant to be.  I can’t even believe it.

I am not a dog person. Yet.  I’m very much a people person.  And my people?  These people. They neeeeeeeed a dog.  Badly.  So Grover it is.  Honestly, I couldn’t even live with myself if they don’t have this experience.

They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend but dog is mans best friend.

If this doesn’t go well, next time I’m getting a diamond the same carat weight as Grover.

Ooooooooooh he is pretty darling though.

Help.Me.

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