Today, I am half a century old. I don’t feel it. Thank goodness.
I’ve taken the day off of work and it is mine to do with what I want. What do I want?
I remember when I turned forty. I remember when “we” turned forty, my group of friends from high school, and earlier. We’ve been friends, forever. The oldest of us has a February birthday and she has always sort of been our “leader”. The first to drive, the first to be able to attend R-rated movies without a parent, the first to be able to buy alcohol, legally. I’m next, with my July birthday. Two birthdays in September, one at the beginning, one at the end. The youngest of us has a late November birthday.
The year we all turned forty, my February friend was thrown a secret, magical surprise party, by her husband. It was thrown at a winery, in the caves, and for some reason, I was unable to attend, some conflict with leadership and kid activities, if I recall. Which is regrettable. But, the party was grand, by all accounts, and attended by many, and the surprise was total and complete. Salute to the man who can pull off such a masterful surprise for his wife! From planning through party, impressive.
My November friend had a big birthday party for her fortieth, too. Not a surprise, as she is the master party thrower and entertainer, but a large fete, again, attended by many. Falling on Thanksgiving weekend, and with the whole family in tow, we set off late and ended up stuck in traffic for nearly four hours, and only half way there, the night now nearly over, we aborted and returned home. Organizing my family, at that point in time, in particular, my husband, was like steering the Titanic through a slalom course; impossible. Not one to appreciate parties or social gatherings, they upset his constitution and caused an undue amount of stress and anxiety for him, and so, for all of us. It was barely worth the effort, I preferred go alone, but that was a whole other problem. So, we rarely made these social gatherings, and the cost was high.
The September girls celebrated their fortieth birthdays on their own, that I know of, no large forets were held.
My fortieth birthday was a surprise all its own. Now, my thirtieth had been a big party, all my plan, all my doing; a weekend of camping, loud music and wakeboarding with friends at a lake in the Sierra foothills. My husband hated it. Every single minute of it. And was none too quiet about it. Which made it miserable and awkward for everyone in attendance, for the whole weekend. Never again, I vowed. As my fortieth approached, I secretly hoped a surprise was being planned, a party with friends and food and celebrating. I knew better, but I liked to entertain the idea. I kept quiet about my birthday, I didn’t make any hints or suggestions, provide reminders, or anything. I just kind of wanted to see what would happen. I got pretty much what I expected; a great big surprise! My daughter was at camp, so on my actual birthday, mid-week, we decided to go out to dinner, my husband, my son and me. This was not anything unusual, we went out to dinner more than we ate at home. When asked where we should go, I mentioned a restaurant we didn’t normally go to, one that was a little more expensive than our “usual”. Still, no mention of the date or the significance of the date. The restaurant was agreed upon and my husband, my son and I followed the hostess to our table. I ordered a very nice glass of red wine, which was not unusual behavior. I ordered my dinner, nothing extravagant. But when I ordered dessert, an eyebrow was raised. Wine and dessert? At which point I said “Surprise! It’s my fortieth birthday!”
A few years ago, I vowed my fiftieth would be an unforgettable party, the world would be invited. As the year approached, I thought maybe a chauffeured limo through the wine country with my closest dozen friends, or so. As the year arrived, and it became evident that wasn’t going to happen, with busy lives and tight budgets, I downshifted. Maybe five people I’m acquainted with, who happened to be free, in a Civic.
I woke up, today, late, and against my whole, sprouted grain snob attitude, consented to eat Eggo waffles with my mom. Which I washed down, quickly, with mimosas. What is it bout Eggo waffles, they don’t retain heat for two seconds? I have never eaten a warm Eggo waffle. And they don’t brown, they go from frozen and pale to dark, dark, dark brown and too crunchy to cut with a serrated knife, in about two seconds. But no matter the degree to which they are burnt, they are cold before they touch the plate, butter never melts on them and the warmest of maple syrup quickly congeals on top. Thank God for mimosas.
I received a phone call from my daughter and son-in-law from Saratoga Springs, New York after the first mimosa. We chatted and they wished me a happy birthday. I felt loved. I miss them.
I exchanged texts with my son, I’d made noise about going to DiRosa Art Preserve or to Castello di Amoroso for the chocolate and wine tasting tour, by myself, so he wasn’t sure where I’d be or what I was up to. And there I was, at the kitchen table, sticky with maple syrup, silly from mimosas and still in my PJ’s. He was free for the day and his close friend was home from a semester in Brazil, before returning to school in Hawaii. It was agreed, they’d both come down to help us celebrate, in some way, my half-century birthday. I’d have to pay for their gas, and part of their dinner, but it was worth the price to have them in attendance. So, it was four of us, in a Civic. We went to V. Sattui Winery for a tasting, then to Longmeadow Farmstead for dinner. It was low key, but it was a splendid day. I am determined to continue celebrating in my own way over the next week, or so. I have a few tricks up my sleeve, a few bucket list items I may seek to satisfy. We’ll see how it goes, but I do not intend for my fiftieth birthday week to pass without some sort of commotion.
As far as the girls go, now that we’re all turning fifty; my February friend had a big get together at a local tavern. I was in Alaska. I missed it. With the rest of our birthdays coming up in fairly rapid succession, and one of the September girls in what appears to be, hopefully, a permanent remission from cancer, a treatment plan for life, and a prognosis of, as she put it, “I’ll be alive until I die, just like everyone else,” we’ve decided a girls’ retreat to a winery estate villa for a weekend of celebrating is in order, and so that comes up in a couple of weeks.
I guess with age, comes a certain amount of wisdom and certain amount of flexibility and understanding. Yes, I’d love a big party, but the people in my life, whom I care for a great, great deal, are not and never will be the big party planners or participants that I may be. I don’t love anyone less for that. And making such plans on my own, and “requiring” people to attend for which it maybe a hardship is not fair, so I am understanding and flexible and appreciative and will celebrate with all those I love, each in their preferred manner. I know that I am loved and that is better than any drunken limo ride. I suppose this comes from maturity, goodness knows I should have THAT by now, I’ve had fifty years to practice!