posted Tue, 19 Oct 2004
It’s time for my annual year in review. Yes, today is my birthday. I am 41. I have found that birthdays are just not as exciting now as they were when I was five or six. Back then, my mom would make me a beautiful Barbie doll cake. I got to pick the menu for supper. One year, I even got to go out to eat with my mom and dad. Going out to eat was a rare event in my family when I was a child – it happened at most maybe once a year – and to go out with my parents without my brother and sister was – well, even now, I cannot think of the words to describe it.
I was going to indulge in a complete pity party of a post. Oh, woe is me. My life hasn’t turned out the way I planned.
Well, damn. Whose has, really? Like anyone promised me anything special?
Yes, I would like to have something big and dramatic happen in my life. I would like to have a Big Adventure, like moving to Nepal or ending up living in London and getting a PhD and teaching college or meeting a really cool guy on a blind date after friends have been trying to set us up for two years and then getting married and finding myself living on an Air Force base in South Dakota with three kids.
Not that I necessarily want those particular adventures, but I want something on that scale.
All those adventures, by the way, are things that have happened to friends of mine. Megan met Steve at a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer party (the group she and Leigh and I started in M’town specifically to meet men). They married 18 months ago, moved to Nepal a month after the wedding, had Henry this spring, and are moving to Uzbekistan in November because the Nepal Peace Corps program is closing, thanks to the kinder, gentler political system proposed by the Maoist revolutionaries in Nepal.
This is Megan with her baby, Henry, at his rice-feeding party. She did not explain what a rice-feeding party was in her email, so we are left to our imaginations. Some Nepalese tradition, apparently.
Debbie met Dominic, an Englishman, when he spent a semester on exchange from London Business School at the University of Texas Graduate School of Business. She moved to London, they married, she got her PhD at LBS (starting her first class three days after giving birth – the woman has tons of energy and doesn’t even take any drugs), and now teaches college marketing and has three boys.
Heidi met Bruce in San Francisco. She was working in Texas; he was in law school. He had gotten out of the Air Force, where he had been a pilot, to attend law school. They had mutual friends who had been telling them for years they needed to meet. She had a business trip in SF, so agreed to meet Bruce. He proposed on their third date (while she had a bad cold and looked terrible, so she knew it was true love). They just had their third baby. He is a JAG in the Air Force, stationed in South Dakota. She is quite happy not to be in the telecommunications industry any more.
But I digress. The point is that I want a Big Adventure. A Big Change. And I was all set to whine about it.
But then this morning (I took the day off from work – I always take off on my birthday, just on principle), when I was driving to the Junior League Thrift Shop just in case they had some good winter coats so I could return the full-price one I had gotten at TJMaxx, I realized that the car ahead of me looked familiar. It was Leigh’s. I honked and waved. She recognized me. I had my cellphone with me – my work phone, actually – so called her. “I didn’t know you had a cell phone!” she said accusingly.
“It’s my work phone,” I explained. “I only have it with me because I haven’t been able to reach Toni. We’re supposed to have lunch together. Where are you going?” She was going to work – at 10:15 in the morning! Although I guess if your employer laid you off in January and rehired you as a contractor just to avoid paying benefits and is now paying you by the hour, there is no reason to show up at the crack of dawn.
I told her I was going to the thrift shop and she agreed to meet me there. We got there and gabbed and she found a really cute dress for me and told me the houndstooth coat I wanted didn’t look good on me. Only a really good friend will do that for you.
Then I went to the good little hardware store by my house – the one I can’t usually get to because they are open only when I am at work. The new Home Depot that will be only three blocks from there is supposed to open in a few weeks, but I don’t think they will hurt Stewart Brothers. The Stewart Brothers guy talked to me about the shovels, then told me what I needed to do to hang pictures on plaster walls (hint: not what I did when I moved into my house three years ago). Then he sold me the plastic anchors and the screws for hanging the pictures at half price. “Because you said nice things about us against Home Depot,” he joked.
I met my friend Toni downtown for lunch. Toni had moved with her four children to Pensacola last spring because the schools are so much better there than they are in M’town, but the hurricane destroyed the schools. So now they are back here. I am happy to have her back and so is her husband. Her youngest child, Dominic, is not in school yet, so he joined us. We had a great lunch. Toni is Mexican, from Puebla. She is a lawyer. We have the best conversations – we share many of the same interests and always have fun.
I came back home and thought, how can I whine about my life? I can, I know, but really, can I reasonably expect much more than to spend time with good friends? I am lucky to have a job I enjoy and that pays me well. I am lucky to be healthy. I am lucky that my family and friends are healthy. I am lucky to be an American (oh, so lucky). I am lucky to own a cute little house in a nice neighborhood.
I am not thrilled with the external signs of aging: I notice the saggy eyelids and the droopy jawline and of course, the all-time favorite, the ability to retain about five pounds of water for every grain of salt or MSG consumed, but everything still works. Could be worse.
I am thinking of nice birthday celebrations in years past. Harpo grew up in a family where birthdays were not a big deal. (I have had several boyfriends like this.) But despite that, he has always managed to find really cool presents for me – things I didn’t even know I wanted until he got them for me, like pruning shears and limb cutters and a belt sander.
But I think the nicest birthday I had with him was a few years ago when we were in Florida visiting Tom and Marsha, his brother and sister in law, who live in the Keys. It was actually a few weeks past my birthday and I thought Harpo had forgotten, but one evening, after supper, Marsha pulled an ice cream cake out of the freezer and she, Harpo and Tom started singing. Harpo had arranged the whole thing.
I’m going to leave it there. It’s pretty outside. I am going to take my book outside and sit on the porch swing and read.
The end of the line
11 months ago