Today is my birthday. I was born 38 years ago today, in Baltimore. It was snowing. I don’t remember it at all.
I had a lot of birthday parties as a kid. All of them in Baltimore. One year my California-grandfather brought a pinata to our house in Govans. One year, in a rowhouse on TV Hill, I had a taffy pull, just like in Little House. The taffy didn’t taste very good, but I was pleased. Another time, my mom took me and my best friend Susan to the Brass Elephant (which is gone now, sadly) for High Tea. We ate ladyfingers and honeydew ices. I never had two birthdays that were quite the same.
When I turned 21 I was in Chattanooga, at the Pickle Barrel. There were raspberries kamikazes. How awful! Brought to me by my favorite waitress, Alisa, who probably doesn’t remember it at all. Kind of amazing that I do…
A lot of birthdays have faded into memory. But then came the most important one.
Because the day I turned 30 I woke up in Vegas, and got hitched! In a cheap black dress, with a silly seedy-pearly hairdo. Prom hair. At the Viva Las Vegas Wedding Chapel. There was a tacky white limo with an ad on its tinted window, and a purple glow. We said the words, and danced back up the aisle to a song from Mermaid Avenue. Then we ate too much steak, danced a little, and gambled. We won. I don’t mean that to be a metaphor for our love. We WON. At the roulette table. Our wedding basically paid for itself. Not a bad way to begin.
Years since have been less fun, to be honest. Being a mom to small children can make a birthday hard. You can’t stay in bed. You can’t “do whatever you like” Even if your darling husband agrees to go eat Indian food with you, someone is sure to scream about how it’s “too picy.” Or they’ll pee their pants or bite you, or something…
But this year is nice, nice. Mose insisted I not lift a finger at breakfast. He poured his own milk, carried his dishes to the sink. Lew hugged me about 42 times. They went off to school, and now I’m sitting in my PJs. I’m going to take a bath, then write for a few hours. I will not do dishes. I will spend the afternoon watching whatever I like on TV, or reading my books. We’ll go out to eat, and nobody will freak out, because we’re mostly past that now…
So… I’m 38! with deteriorating fingers and a few gray hairs.
And I’m 8 years married, to a man I love. We fight now and then. Often we don’t have much to say. But mostly we feel pretty lucky and kind of smart, for flying to Vegas. For making the choices we’ve made. For doing things our own way.
I’m getting older, but I really don’t mind. Because despite everything my mom told me, I really haven’t grown up very much.
I’m still just as excited by cake. I still feel like a princess (of a sort). And I still believe in wishes. I do. I still believe, every time I blow out a candle, that I’ll get what I ask for, if I ask for the things I actually need.
It’s all about managing your expectations, wishing for the right things. Magic is tricky. You have to play by the rules. You have to figure it out.
(thanks to Carin Berger for the birthday image!)