A gift that keeps on giving

My 37th birthday happened at a fraught time (no, really?) but I planned ahead: 4 friends and I, tiny Brazilian restaurant, pitcher of mojitos.

No crowds. No fuss. No presents, please.

That was important. I was preparing to move but didn’t know where yet.

So Joyce and Graham, the techies, got me an early iPod Mini. Laura, an artist, got me an extraordinary shawl. Vince, a true gentleman, did exactly as I had asked and felt terrible about it.

My 37th year had been full of character-building surprises. I had decided not to reprise turning 36 because the subsequent year had been so rotten, but I wasn’t happy about getting older. Even before the drinks were poured, I was bitching about my age.

Joyce and Graham, who were just peeking over the shelf of 30, said, “There there, it’s good to be seasoned, age brings wisdom,” and so on.

Laura, a couple months older than I and the most sensible artist I’ve ever met, said, “Yeah. It sucks.”

Vince, who was barely old enough to rent a car in his own name (although he was bright enough to write the certification tests for Borland C++), with a self-deprecating shrug and a charming little pinkness, said, “I don’t know, you always seem to me like you have a mental age of 17.”

I remembered being 17 — happy, busy, fit, secure in my slice of the world, delighted with most things and amused by the rest, my adult mind just blooming, and absolutely no idea how cute I was.

Once I could reef in my grin enough to use my mouth for speaking, I said, “You just gave me the best present of all.”

Sadly, he didn’t exactly believe me.

The iPod Mini was superseded, then stolen. The beautiful shawl disappeared, along with everything else, when the US Mail failed to deliver what I mailed in my move.

But every year, when yet another birthday looms, I remember Vince twitching his shoulders and saying sweetly, “I don’t know…”

And, really, the count of years doesn’t seem quite so bad.

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5 Replies to “A gift that keeps on giving”

  1. One of the great joys in life is discovering what each age is like. How you feel physically – yes that can be a bummer. But also how you feel spiritually and emotionally. How you’ve changed since last year. It’s voyage of discovery and you can take notes right here on this blog.

    If you see this year as a journey into that particular age; say, a thorough investigation of, in my case, 45ness, I guarantee you’ll enjoy it more.

    Advantages? People automatically call me madam.
    Disadvantages? Hot flushes.

  2. “If you see this year as a journey into that particular age… I guarantee you’ll enjoy it more.”

    I suppose I would if I had any choate sense of being a particular age. I really don’t. My whole relationship with time is a little odd, though. The 17-ness of 17 had to do, not with late-adolescence, and not only with the life and health, but with the lack of rational dread. (The adjective is key.)

    I do enjoy life by the moment, having learned long ago that living backwards or forwards was not nearly as rewarding, even when the present doesn’t seem all that nice. (There are exceptions, of course, but there are ways to get through those times.)

    Looking back on how I’ve changed each year has been an absolutely stunning exercise in anguish and loss (physically, cognitively, emotionally; in my raw survival, in my circle of family and friends, in my ability to work OR play; burials, losses, diseases, betrayals, you name it) for many years now, Christina, but I don’t write much about that here — I handle it offline, since it turned out nobody would read it! Nor could I blame them 🙂

    You’re onto something, though, in that my focus needs to change! I’ll take my 45th as an opportunity to look at the year ahead — avoiding dread, and not getting attached to outcomes — and maybe congratulating myself not just for surviving the past year, but for whatever progress I’ve made in my ongoing efforts to become more inwardly civilized, regardless of how barbaric circumstances get.

    I have often said that my inward self is probably better than ever. I’ll make a mighty effort this birthday, and NOT focus on whats and hows, but on the inward self I’ve cultivated.

    It’ll take until April 19th to figure out just what that means, so I’d better get busy.


  3. Oh my author pic is real and recent – but it is very small.

    And God – surviving to mid-life is something to celebrate. You’ve made it to 45 – congratulations, you should be proud of yourself.

  4. This was an extremely useful exercise. My 45th birthday was sparklingly lovely, peaceful, pleasant, productive, and ended with a dinner with one of my most excellent friends. It was absolutely wonderful.

    First time I could say that in years!

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