Let me just start by saying IT’S MY BIRTHDAY. You would think that by the age of 49 this wouldn’t be such a big deal, but I love my birthday. Even if nothing happens, and I receive not a single gift, that’s OK. I don’t need gifts to enjoy my day. I'll make myself happy.
I have had some memorable birthdays. When I turned 12, my sister Myra was married, and I was a bride’s maid in a floral dress and white hat. One year, Husband gave me a Kitten, which I named Theodore Roosevelt. Another year, he gave me a French horn, which I did not name. A few years ago, we went to a James Taylor concert, and I had to stop myself from singing all the words because that's annoying to other people in the audience.
One year ago today, Eustacia and I landed in Bucharest to begin our volunteer adventure at an orphanage, which probably tops the list as being the most memorable. Today, I’ll be making lime curd in preparation for a party (unrelated to my birthday) I’ll be hosting on Friday; and if it doesn’t rain, I might do a little swimming and floating. I think I might also clean the shower and change the sheets on the bed, mop the kitchen floor and create a pro-bono business card for somebody. And I might read—Tender At the Bone by Ruth Reichl—and play my horn, which is feeling neglected and lonely, having been tucked away in its dark case for so long.
My mother has been staying with us for the last weeks, and yesterday she flew back home to Georgia. Before she left, I thought about reminding her that my birthday was coming up, but her short-term memory is basically in the toilet, and I was afraid she’d feel bad about not remembering that fact on her own and about not even sending me a card. She’s excused, I think, but I find myself trying to remember how she celebrated my birthday when I was growing up.
My mother was one to make cakes every Saturday, so I suspect she made one just for me, although I don’t recall specific cakes. I probably got a couple of gifts to unwrap, but the only one that comes to mind is the stuffed dog radio I got the day of Myra’s wedding. I used it to listen to a forbidden AM rock-n-roll station, quietly tuning in at night under a tent I made with my top sheet and quilt. When I was ten or so, she threw me a birthday party and invited my little friends, the only birthday party I have ever been given.
Interesting, I think—I remember so much about my childhood—the clothes I wore and the games I played and the books I read, my teachers and the layout of my school buildings—but I remember so little about my birthdays during those years. Maybe we just didn’t make a big deal out of birthdays, and maybe that’s why I make a big deal privately out of mine now.
Or maybe I just like having a day all my own. There is so little in life that we can each call all our own, that we don’t share in some way with people, either by choice or by force. Today is the day, and it’s all mine. That’s enough, and I don’t even mind using it to mop the floor.
The photo up above was taken just after I turned one. We were still living in a nasty, old rented house in Trinity, Alabama at the time. My mother says that house, owned by my slum-landlord great aunt Lillian, didn’t have a consistent water source inside, so I was given a bath in a metal tub in the back yard, surrounded by cotton fields and cows. Clearly, I didn’t mind the humble circumstances. Apparently, I didn’t need a big-deal birthday back then either, just a day, all my own, in an old metal tub. Happy birthday to me.