My birthday is coming up—next Monday, to be exact—but I won't be around to talk about it, so let me address the subject a few days early.
I'll be 48 on the 21st, summer solstice. I was born in Decatur General Hospital in Decatur, Alabama, and I am the youngest of four daughters. I've never made a big deal out of my birthday apart from shouting it to everyone I know, just in case they were to forget. I get just a few cards (one from my insurance agent), I don't get many gifts and have only been given one birthday party in my entire life. I was 10, and we had cake and ice cream in the yard.
Some birthdays have been memorable, though, despite the lack of hoopla. Husband gave me my first French horn on my birthday 10 years ago. We saw James Taylor in concert one year, my sister took me to hear Andrea Watts and the Chicago Symphony another year, and we went to a Cubs game in Cleveland on another. The year I turned 21, I was a student in a Bible college and going to summer school, and a friend smuggled in a gin and tonic in an empty Coke bottle so I could enjoy it in my dorm room. Later that night, my sister took me to a Japanese restaurant for my first taste of sake.
Yesterday, I was talking with a friend who will soon turn 50, and she has mixed feelings about it. I'm not sure how I'll feel in ten years when I reach what seems like an arbitrary mile marker in the human aging process, but what I'm wondering is if people will still call me "kiddo."
It's a nickname I seem to inspire in people, and not just one or two. I'm "Kiddo" to plenty—at the end of a conversation, more often than not, it seems they sign off with something like, "OK, Kiddo. Talk to ya later." "All right, Kiddo. Nice t' see ya."
I am a quickly graying middle-aged woman. I have two grown daughters, an increasing need for reading glasses and a sciatica problem. I am old enough to remember Romper Room, when moon landings were exciting news with all-day TV coverage, televisions without remotes, when AM radio was cool, fantasizing about some future day when I could actually own movies instead of having to wait for them to be aired on WGN and when Bobby Sherman was a dreamboat.
Still, people call me Kiddo. I'm not complaining, really. Just curious. For how long will they think that's appropriate? Here are my footprints made the day I was born—these are the tiny prints of a Kiddo. I look at my size-nines today and wonder if my Kiddo days are numbered.
This year on my birthday, I will be arriving in Bucharest, and I'll be by far the oldest of six volunteers. Not one of them will call me Kiddo, I'm sure, so maybe this will finally be the year I lose the endearing little name.