It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

I’m reading a great book right now! I’ll rephrase that. Of the six or seven great books I’m reading simultaneously, one relates to the following story I have to share.

I’m reading “I Can See Clearly Now” by Dr. Wayne Dyer, one of my favorite authors. I’m reading it on my Kindle, on my phone via the Kindle app, and I’m listening to it on Audible in my car as I drive north, south, east and west for my various adventures and social engagements.

In a recent chapter, Dr. Dyer tells the story of a final exam he took in a graduate course where he’d studied, as I did in college, Abraham Maslow and the Hierarchy of Needs and “self-actualization”; the highest need. The professor gave the class a question and asked them to write an essay, giving them thirty minutes to complete the assignment. The question went something like this, “A self-actualized man attended a party. When he arrived everyone was in slacks, jackets, and ties. The self-actualized man was in jeans, a t-shirt, and athletic shoes. What did the self-actualized man do?” The entire class wrote their essays, all taking nearly the entire thirty minutes, filling page after page with carefully constructed details. When the professor returned, he asked each student to read their essay aloud. Each essay was roughly the same, stating that the man acted on confidence and didn’t feel self-conscious about his non-conforming attire. The professor told the class that everyone, in jest, had failed the exam.  The question could be answered in exactly three words; he didn’t notice.

Self-actualizers, among many other characteristics, have a comfortable acceptance of self and others. They are also reliant on their own experiences and judgment, they are independent and don’t rely on culture and environment to form opinions or views. A self-actualized man would not make notice of his attire in comparison to the other party attendees. There would be no comparison of self to others; the self-actualizer is completely fulfilled, comparisons of self to others are unnecessary.

I went to a party this weekend, a masquerade ball, to be exact, at a popular winery in Sonoma. I was invited to the function as a member of a MeetUp group I am active with, a women’s networking group. I saw in the excerpt describing the party that it was a costume party and quickly scanned the list of attendees. A great group of gals were planning to attend, so without reading any further, I clicked “Yes!”,  added the event to my calendar, and purchased the $65 ticket online, as one of the very few details I did read said the event was likely to sell out fast. I was committed.

A couple of weeks before the event, the same group of ladies had an impromptu happy hour gathering at a restaurant nearby. I attended and we all chatted about many things over snacks and sparkling wine. With the masquerade ball fast approaching, the topic of costumes came up. I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a procrastinator and I had only a few very vague costume ideas in mind. I had not even begun the process of deciding, making, acquiring, or purchasing. When asked, I mentioned that I had a great black dress that I have worn as a costume, playing the role of Morticia Addams from the Addams Family. I also had in mind a zombie school girl outfit I could assemble from wardrobe items on hand. The group organizer informed me that the masquerade ball was actually an eighteenth century masquerade ball and that our costumes should be reflective of that period. She then mentioned that her costume was going to be a twist on that theme, and would be “steam punk”. I am aware of “steam punk”, and had a quick visual image of how she might incorporate that with an eighteenth century ball gown.

I wasn’t too worried. I happen to have an entire storage unit full of beautiful sequined ball gowns, all hoop skirts and corsets and boning and the whole deal. Okay, only the top layer of my storage unit is beautiful sequined ball gowns, all hoop skirts and corsets and boning and the whole deal. I really need to go through that storage unit and get rid of stuff, but, thank you “universe”, for making me a procrastinator; I haven’t purged the ball gowns. You just never know when you’ll need a formal ball gown, right? They were my daughters, from a youth group she was active in during high school. Fortunately for me, I’ve shrunk, deliberately and with considerable effort and discipline, over the past several years and there is a good chance theses ball gowns will fit me. If not, there is, somewhere in that storage unit, an old Jessica McClintock dress in a very forgiving size that I’m sure I can make work. While I totally embrace minimalism, there are still remnants of the former quasi-hoarder lifestyle I escaped from a half a decade ago. Like ball gowns and dresses from the 1970’s. The universe works in very mysterious ways, or, perhaps, it’s just a freaky coincidence. Anyway, I’m not worried, in the least, about having a costume for the ball. 

The day of the party arrives. I’ve selected the best fitting dress of the lot, and, of them all, my all-time favorite. I’ve made my own mask, which I’m quite proud of, it matches the unique orange sherbet color of my dress precisely. I am feeling so beautiful and confident and perfectly outfitted for the event, I can hardly wait to arrive. In fact, I am so eager, I arrive a full forty minutes early. I select a very strategic parking space in the gravel lot so I won’t have to walk too far in my lovely sherbet orange, ornately sequined, taffeta and tulle gown.

Scarlette Begonia

I sit in my car and wait for my girlfriends to arrive. And, as I sit and wait, I observe other early arrivers as they emerge from their cars. There is a man in a powder wig. Excellent. There is another man in a top hat, he looks like Abraham Lincoln almost! Perfect. A woman exits a car in black slacks and a purple and red striped tunic top. With a mask. What? More people begin to arrive and woman after woman after woman, I observe in slacks, maxi dresses, and LBD’s (little black dresses), some, quite slutty. Cute, but slutty, and, most definitely not eighteenth century ball room, masquerade ball, style dresses. I am comparing my brilliant orange, sparkly affair with the outfits of all the other women I see. I am near frantic. I glance at the clock. I live on the very western edge of Napa, if I push the speed limit, I could make it home, change my clothes and be back before the festivities begin. I seriously consider it. But, then, I remember, my girlfriends are all going to be dressed appropriately for an eighteenth century masquerade ball. We’ve discussed this. I’m cool. I hang. I continue to watch. I continue to watch and to compare myself to every other female who arrives. After about one hundred LBD’s, carefully paired with stiletto heels and a cute mask, I see one woman, about ten years my elder, arrive in a period-appropriate dress. Ok.

I never see any of my girlfriends arrive, but, it is getting darker and I am trying to observe most of this action in the rear view mirror of my car. I check the MeetUp app to see if anyone has posted their arrival in the comments section. Nothing. I see several more LBD’s arrive and no other period-appropriate dresses. Again, I glance at the clock on my dashboard; if I left right now, went home, changed and drove back, I’d be 23 minutes late for the official beginning of the party, which is known as fashionably late. I’d be fashionably late and I’d more fashionably fit in.

Why do we have such an innate desire to “fit in”? I am consumed by this need and why it isn’t at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy, I don’t know. I think “fitting in” fits in to “love/belonging” and “esteem” rungs in Maslow’s hierarchy. But it isn’t at the top. Apparently, I’m not a self-actualizer. Yet. That’s a crowd I’d like to fit in to. Sigh.

More LBD’s, more black maxi-dresses, all with masks, though. Hoo-fucking-ray for the masks! None of them are orange, though, like mine, they’re all black. I seriously consider forfeiting the cost of the ticket and just going home, having a glass of wine, and continuing my study of self-actualization. I check the MeetUp app again to see if anyone has commented. That moment when you realize you’re the only one in bright orange taffeta and tulle.

The party begins in a few minutes and the organizer has commented, “Here!” Much like my RSVP to this event, I send of a rapid fire response, “OMG! Everyone is in LBD’s and I look like the frickin’ queen!” No reply. At least I have ridiculously dressed friends at the event, they’ve somehow eluded my watchful eye in their corsets and bustles, their taffeta and tulle, their colors and sequins. I am emboldened. A little. I extricate myself from my Civic, which is no easy feat. The tram has arrived and I step aboard. There are four rows of seats in the tram, each wide enough for three humans, unless, of course, they are in a period-appropriate dress. I take up an entire row and am trailing orange sherbet colored tulle behind me as we speed up the paved drive towards the winery.

Everyone on the tram is in black and modern attire, except one woman, probably twenty years my senior; she is in a period-appropriate dress. It’s black, though. But, at least we can both fret with our hoops and corsets and bustles, exiting the tram, in tandem.

The tram pulls up to the winery where a crowd has assembled, awaiting the lowering of the chain across the entrance. The party has not, apparently, officially begun. I gracefully slide off the tram seat and alight on the ground. My taffeta and tulle catch up with me several seconds later, in their brilliant sequined orange. There is a hush over the crowd and every head turns. “Hello.”

I hold my head up high, I smile, I make eye contact, and I frantically look for a recognizable face. Where are my ridiculously dressed friends? Where is the wine?

Scarlette Begonia

I find the wine, thank the lord. Our group organizer finds me, in her “steam punk” dress, which is actually an LBD with some anitique-ish looking accessories that could be argued as period-appropriate. She looks so gosh-darned cute, and sexy, and pretty, and I look like the Great Pumpkin from the Charlie Brown Halloween special. The organizer brought her friend with her. I’ve met her before, she’s super fun and funny and cute, with a delightful accent. I suck at accents, but it’s from somewhere cool, I’m certain. She is in an even L’erBD, with lace and leather and barely covered body bits, and a mask, of course. More wine, please.

I am having a very difficult time navigating the crowd with my very fluffy skirt. My daughter is a full four inches shorter than I, so I am struggling with why the skirt is dragging on the floor for me and it didn’t for her. I’m not good at physics, or trigonometry, oh, wait, that’s triangles, geometry, then, I guess, but I think it has something to do with the circumference of the hoop. Pi, or the square root of pi, or some derivative of, I don’t know. I do know that people keeping stepping on my tulle train which immediately halts any forward motion I am attempting. My daughter’s lovely pumpkin dress cost $500. I know, I bought it, and I really, really, really don’t want to ruin it, though it is highly unlikely anyone will ever wear it again, anywhere. My mom, ever  ready for the worst case scenario, which, in my estimation, just paves the way for the worst to manifest, left, on the kitchen counter, for me, a ten-year old bottle of chemical wonder called “red wine stain remover”. So far, they have only poured bubbly, here. Per the event program, red wine is on the third floor. I love red wine, but I may seek to avoid, at the event, and just imbibe in the bottle of Zinfandel I have on my desk, when I get home. I may just stick to the first floor, all bubbly, and I won’t have to navigate the stairs or commandeer the tiny elevator, me, my skirt, and I.

My gal pals and I head for the Bubble Room, on the first floor, where they remove jackets and other outer garments to further reveal the beauty of their eighteenth century as interpreted by the twenty-first century costumes. And masks, of course. They both sit, easily, in the chairs. I move to sit in a neighboring chair, my ass hits the seat a full several seconds before my abundance of tulle settles around me. I’m sure everyone is watching the spectacle that is me. I smile confidently and adjust my chin a bit higher. Though, whether sincerely, or out of sympathy, several people have remarked on my dress, in a complimentary manner. The employees behind the wine bar, the hired dancers and musicians, and other paid individuals, are all wearing full skirts and flounces, they appear corseted and bustled, but aren’t, actually, as am I. I wonder if the other guests assume I’m hired entertainment. I decide, if that is the assumption, perhaps I shall oblige and act as though I am hired entertainment. I shift, nervously, smile more confidently, and raise my chin even higher. I am probably grimacing, by this point, and that I notice the raw beams of the ceiling suggests my chin may be held a bit too high, at the moment. I readjust.

I have two questions; where are the other gals from our group, one, and, what are they wearing, two?

We three polish off our bubbly and decide to explore the rest of the venue. We make our way out to the foyer and there are two or three other guests milling around. Where is everyone else? There were dozens of folks milling around outside before we were allowed to enter. We finally locate both the stairs and the elevator at the back of the room. We collectively opt for the elevator. When the car arrives, I gather up my yards of orange tulle and squeeze into the back of the elevator. My two friends manage to negotiate their way in, and, surprisingly, the doors close without hinderance. We exit at the second floor where the program states there is a fortune teller. There are two or three guests milling about, looking puzzled and a little bewildered at the lack of festivities, as are we. The fortune teller occupies a table and has a person seated across from her. I favor telling my own fortune, I sure as heck don’t want some acne riddled, twenty-something, making up a story that may seal my destiny. The power of suggestion is far too mysterious and too close to reality and manifestation for me to flirt with. We circle the limited space of the second floor, find no food and no wine and quickly retreat to the elevator once more.

We make our way to the third floor and as the elevator doors part we see where everyone has accumulated, not that there is a great crowd yet, but the dozens assembled out front prior to the party seem to have gathered here, on the third floor. There is food on a long table on one side of the room and every color of wine being poured a bar at the edge of the room, oh, and a juggler. I am hungry. I ran twelve miles earlier in the day and have metabolized all I’ve digested thus far, and then some. I approach the table. The mask I made, the beautiful glittery, sparkly, sequined mask I made, I decided should be of the sort that is on a stick and could be raised and lowered in a coy fashion. I did not want some mask strapped to my face for the duration of the party, smearing my eye shadow, messing up my eyeliner, or mashing my mascara enhanced lashes. I didn’t want my face to sweat. So, I am trying to manage the now empty wine glass I was told to “hang on to”, a mask on a stick, and a napkin, as there seems to be no small plates to amass finger foods upon. My very full skirt doesn’t quite facilitate approaching the buffet completely. I am a yard or so away, kind of leaning in to snatch bits of food perfectly positioned near the edges. My “dinner” for the night consists solely of some overly bright red meat like substance, some kind of salami, and thinly sliced deli variety turkey, which I despise. But I’m famished, and drinking, and must later drive home un-inebriated. I make a reach, snatch a few morsels of cured meat, retreat in an orange taffeta and tulle flourish, and scarf it down, approach the table again, and repeat. After a few repetitions, I feel adequately nourished, though not totally satisfied. What I’ve ingested thus far in food and beverage hardly accounts for my $65 admission. An occupational hazard, I try to not cost things the rest of the evening and focus on just having some fun.

There is music. A DJ. A rotund, middle-aged, DJ. He is playing music from “my era”, music popular in the 1980’s. I glance around at all the beautiful people dressed in small bits of black fabric, with masks. They all look and act older than me, but are probably “from the eighties”. There is a smattering of very beautiful, very young people, but they are loving the “old school”. There is dancing happening. This makes me happy.

I’m feeling a little the third wheel, at this point. The MeetUp event organizer and her “+ one”, aka guest, have known each other for nearly twenty years. They are very close and share two decades of shared experiences, stories, and inside jokes. I smile confidently, adjust my yards of tulle, and raise my chin a little bit. We do the girl-dance-thing, you know, when a bunch of girls really want to dance and there are no men who want to be caught dead dancing. In other words, every dance and every date and every party I’ve ever attended. We dance in the customary circular formation, each of us acting as cool as possible and yet keenly aware of just how good a dancer the other ladies in the circle are. There is unspoken competition here, but, I am disadvantaged. When in a very short, very form-fitting LBD, it is quite apparent how the hips and torso are being moved to the beat of the music. When your hips are adrift in twenty seven yards of orange taffeta and tulle and your torso bound in very rigid boning, movement is not perceptible to the casual observer. I must overachieve. I must overcompensate.

The next song is the “Nay Nay” song. I don’t know the name, or the artist, but, thank god, it is more contemporary than the litany of eighties songs. I love eighties music, but I’m craving something from the current century, I want to break out of the mold of old. The DJ demonstrates the Nay Nay dance and all the LBD’s follow suit. I do my rendition of the Nay Nay dance and only my arms appear to move. I take it up a notch, or two. I’ll admit, I am now having fun and our awkward little dance triangle has dissolved and I am on my own, free to express myself in the art of dance. I win the contest. The DJ awards me a CD of some sort I have yet to listen to. I am presently, actively, looking for the appropriate electronic equipment on which to listen to whatever has been recorded to such antiquated a medium. I mean, I have a turntable, but I don’t have a CD player. Get real. But, it, the CD, is recognition, it is my prize, and it is shiny, like my sequins, so I am happy. I’ve concluded that I won the Nay Nay dance contest, not because I was the best dancer, though I was, but because in the sea of LBD’s, I was the only recognizable dancer.

Scarlette Begonia

At last, we locate the other three gals from our group, also wearing LBD’s, with masks, of course. They’ve made their way to the third floor and the party can now, officially begin. They all compliment my dress. I smile confidently and raise my chin a little higher. And we dance. We dance, we dance, we dance. I am on the dance floor and every song that comes on is my jam! Sometimes there is one other lady dancing with me, sometimes two, sometimes three. The only constant, is me. I dance and dance and dance. I dance the night away and I have an absolute ball. At the ball. With my mask, of course. In fact, I dance for such a very long time that I danced to Abba’s Dancing Queen, not once, but twice! It’s my jam. The only song more my jam is the Cupid Shuffle; I love this dance, I rock this dance, I did not need to remember to smile confidently and raise my chin higher, I was high and all smiles doing the Cupid Shuffle; me and my skirt. I have, by this time, figured out exactly how to move so as to make al twenty seven yards of orange taffeta and tulle do amazing, swirly, things. I am the belle of the ball! I am the bright spot in a sea of LBD’s, the poor dears, all blendy-blendy in black, all in high heels, limping around, doing that “wincing walk” thing. You can tell when a girl’s feet hurt in her outrageously high stilettos, you can see how their stride becomes shorter, eventually a mincing little shuffle, and with each foot fall, a stifled moan and a wince. I have the most comfortable pair of flats I own on, never perceptible beneath my bountiful skirt. “Orange” you having fun?

Scarlette Begonia

The crowd of “older people” (people my age) is beginning to thin. The younger crowd has been rendered motionless by their aching feet. It is nearing the bewitching hour, ten o’clock. The wine has stopped flowing and the party trays are no longer being replenished. There are four of us “old girls” left, still dancing, still partying, still having fun, one has over-indulged. No worries, though, the three other gals have Ubered their way to the party and are sharing the cost to Uber, once again, from Sonoma, back to Napa. I opted to drive myself, and my twenty seven yards of taffeta and tulle, in my Honda Civic, to and from the party. I have been prudent and am in fine shape to drive the twenty minutes home. I make certain the most inebriated girl, being the one responsible for summoning the Uber ride, has successfully done so. There was a period of time in which she was lost. I finally found her in a bathroom stall changing into Birkenstocks. Well, if not Birkenstocks, something equally as ugly and at least as comfortable. You see, I could have worn Birkenstocks all night and not a soul would have known. I am feeling so right and so proper and so winning in my big, bright, orange dress. I am feeling like the Great Pumpkin, in fact. Once I got the three reunited and was certain Uber was en route, I headed for my car. I decided not to wait for the tram, but was feeling so exceedingly well, that I ran to my car. I ran, me and my skirt, all twenty seven yards of orange taffeta and tulle, and as I approached one couple from behind, the female of the pair, limping pathetically along, they turned to see what the fast footsteps behind them were all about. There I was, skirt gathered in hand, running, comfortable but cute shoes still on, down the festively lighted path, towards the parking lot. They called out, “Cinderella, did you lose your slipper?” To which I replied, “Yes, have you seen it? It’s glass, you know!” And I continued on. The woman complimented, “Such a pretty dress!” I responded, “It’s my daughter’s! And I must hurry, because if I don’t have it back by midnight, it’ll turn into the great pumpkin! Oh, wait …” And I scampered on, me, and twenty seven yards of pumpkin colored taffeta and tulle.

I had so much fun, and so many compliments, I overcame my insecurities of being different, of being “the Great Pumpkin”, and, in fact, found that the being different, if comparisons need be made, actually enhanced my experience exponentially. I may not yet be self-actualized, but I am so grateful I didn’t slink home and seek to conform. I had a ball, at the ball. With a mask, of course, in twenty-seven yards of orange taffeta and tulle; the great pumpkin!

Scarlette Letter – September 6, 2015

Students of happiness agree that certain habits foster feelings of contentment, peace, and joy. These habits include:

Gratitude – The sense of accomplishment that comes from tired, slightly achy, muscles

Affirmation – I am tolerant

Attitude – Feeling tenacious

Activity – Recovery

Nurture – Meditation for fifteen minutes

Enrichment – “Take in life cheerfully”

Nourishment –

Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia Scarlette Begonia

Giving – I helped Mom solve her Jumble puzzles, on request. Then I “Amazon Primed”  a new pair of slippers for her.

Connection – A gathering of many, friends and acquaintances, old and new, for a surprise celebration of thirty years of marriage for a couple of lifelong friends

Simplifying – Today’s story is about simplifying.

Story – It’s a Beautiful Life

My life is beautiful.

Constancy, variety, clutter, simplicity.

Because my life is beautiful, I take pictures. I take lots and lots of pictures. I take lots of criticism for taking lots of pictures. But that’s what I choose to clutter my life up with; pictures. I take pictures of everything I eat, for example. I do this for two reasons; to kind of keep a journal of my dietary escapades in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle and, because, frankly, I think food is beautiful. I take pictures of all the places I go, all the things I see, the people I love, that is the diary of my life and, as I am lousy with dates, it is also a record of events I oft refer back to. (Continue Reading)

Scarlett’s Letter July 17, 2013

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!

 

So this is fifty? Eggo waffles for breakfast? I want to go back!
So this is fifty? Eggo waffles for breakfast? I want to go back!
V. Sattui Winery
V. Sattui Winery
Family and friends at V. Sattui Winery for wine tasting.
Family and friends at V. Sattui Winery for wine tasting.
Longmeadow Ranch Winery
Longmeadow Ranch Winery
Longmeadow Ranch Farmstead Restaurant for my birthday diner.
Longmeadow Ranch Farmstead Restaurant for my birthday diner.
Longmeadow Farmstead - birthday dinner - a delightful "wedge salad" split four ways.
Longmeadow Farmstead – birthday dinner – a delightful “wedge salad” split four ways.
Longmeadow Farmstead - birthday dinner - fresh, local oysters, split three ways (the fourth wasn't interested).
Longmeadow Farmstead – birthday dinner – fresh, local oysters, split three ways (the fourth wasn’t interested).
Longmeadow Farmstead - Salmon and succotash. I LOVE succotash! I love salmon. There's a difference between LOVE and love.
Longmeadow Farmstead – Salmon and succotash. I LOVE succotash! I love salmon. There’s a difference between LOVE and love.
COOKIES!!!! At Longmeadow Farmstead - split four ways!
COOKIES!!!! At Longmeadow Farmstead – split four ways!
Three generations of "Begonias", as it were.
Three generations of “Begonias”, as it were.

Party Like an Eight Year Old

Do you remember Geoffrey the Giraffe? The Toys ‘R’ Us giraffe? Remember his song? “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys ‘R’ Us kid, blah dah blah dah blah”. I can totally relate.

When I was eight, I had it all figured out. I want to go back. I want to party like an eight year old.

Remember those birthday parties where you got to invite everyone you knew to come to your house that was decorated with whatever you were into that year, Barbie or My Little Pony or Power Rangers?! You got to eat cake, play games, eat ice cream and you got a gift, wrapped in wrapping paper, with a bow, and a card, from everyone who attended and sometimes, even, from people who didn’t. And you didn’t have to plan the party or clean up the mess, you got to show up, party, and then go play with all your loot, unsupervised, while the grown ups cleaned up the mess. And the grown ups footed the whole bill, too. Those were the days.

At Christmas time, you got a million gifts, wrapped in paper, with tape and bows and little nametags on them. And you got gifts from your parents, all your aunts and uncles and Santa Claus, too. You didn’t have to plan, or cook, or shop, or clean. You just showed up, partied, and someone else cleaned up the mess and footed the bill while you played with all your loot. Those were the days. I forget, now, why I wanted so desperately to grow up. It kind of sucks by comparison.

I’m kind of tired of how grown ups do this whole birthday and Christmas thing. A Facebook wall post ensures you haven’t been forgotten, thank you, Facebook, for reminding everyone, and still, you only get about 1/6 participation. I post birthday greetings on Facebook absolutely, positively every single day for absolutely everyone on my friends list, whether I know them, or not, and people call me crazy for doing so. Sorry. They’re “friends”, it says so on the list, so I wish them happy birthday because that’s what friends do. It takes like, five seconds, and, if you’re super worried about overcommitting yourself, there is actually an app that allows you to do them up to two weeks in advance, all at once, and it “delivers” your sentiment (or you can simply go with the default “Happy Birthday”) at the date and time you prefer. It defaults to 9:00 AM, your time zone, on the actual birthdate. Not hard. So?

If you’re super, duper special, as a grown up, you might get an old fashioned greeting card, in the mailbox, requiring postage and some display of thought, commitment and effort like; I went to the store, or happened to be at the store to buy milk, and remembered your birthday was, (pick one): a) last week, oops b) today, oops c) this year, some time, oops. I bought this card with a sentiment that someone else wrote, because (pick one): a) it made me think of you, b) it was the first card I laid hands on and I don’t think it was offensive, or c) actually, I had someone else pick it out so I have no idea what it says. Then, I laid down $5 for it, scrawled my name inside and put it in the envelope. If I was smart, I bought stamps while I was still at the grocery store, or else I had to show extreme effort and stand in line at the post office to buy a single stamp for this single card and have it sent to you. I got three, two mailed. Mom handed me hers.

I still buy and wrap real gifts for everyone special in my life. And at least one card, sometimes more than one, if I find more than one super appropriate card or several that make me laugh out loud in the Target card aisle. I’ve been known to give two or three cards. I even buy “the perfect” card, or cards, in advance and file them, by intended recipient, in my file cabinet. I plan all year long, I have lists, secret, password protected lists, on my iPhone, where I jot down gift ideas for family members as things are mentioned, or I notice something I think would be appreciated. And in my “contacts” section of my phone, I keep secret, detailed notes on my loved ones, like shirt size, shoe size, pant size, the ink cartridge their printer requires and their preferred Starbucks, In N Out, and deli sandwich orders. You don’t?

I take great pleasure in seeking out the gift, the perfect version of the perfect gift, and I buy it and wrap it up with real wrapping paper, you know, like with tape (that sticky stuff that comes in a roll) and the whole deal. I rarely use gift bags and tissue paper (not toilet paper, tissue paper), especially for Christmas, but depending on the size or shape of the gift, every now and then, a gift bag is the best solution. Then I present the present (or presents) to my loved ones and it makes them happy, but it makes me even happier. I love to give people gifts. I’m as excited as they are for it to be opened. There is nothing quite like witnessing an adult, totally jazzed to open a gift you’ve taken some time and effort to find, buy and wrap. I’m alone here, aren’t I? Apparently.

I even take an inordinate amount of delight in selecting the wrapping paper, and then choosing tissue paper, for inside the box, that matches, or is a cool contrast with, the wrapping paper. I also choose a matching bow or other embellishment, and all of this is done with attention to things like the recipient’s favorite color, or favorite cartoon character, or a design or pattern I think they’ll find pleasing or attractive. For Christmas, I buy new wrapping paper every single year. Usually. Last year was a departure, and, frankly, I found, as a result, the Christmas spirit was a bit subdued. Last time I do that.

On rare, and I mean rare, occasions, I buy people gift cards, but usually as a result of being asked directly for a gift card. For graduation gifts, though, I give cash, and that’s the only time ever. I got cash for my birthday. I spent it on gas, and a frozen pizza, and a six-pack of premium beer. I’ll never forget it.

How is it that this has become a lost art? Is it really that difficult? Do we need to consider offering this as a required class in high school, or something? Gift Giving 101. Fail.

People in my life wonder why I have sort of a shopping habit. Let me explain. I buy for myself what I want and I know no one is going to buy for me. They’re gifts, I guess. I just spread them out over the year to mitigate the economic impact. I think I’m fairly likable, so for everyone who likes me and didn’t buy me a gift, I’ve got you covered, I buy myself a few gifts for Christmas and a few for Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s Day, and my Birthday. Did I miss a gift-buying season? I hope not, because I’m broke after my birthday, I bought myself a dress, and an awesome pair of shoes, and a couple of cute tee shirts and a skydiving trip, I had a hard time wrapping that one. It was a big birthday, I got carried away. Now I gotta save up before Christmas rolls around again.

If the current trend continues, I can foresee, in the not so distant future, people not knowing what to do with a box, wrapped in bright, cheerful paper. You’ll hand it to them and they’ll just give you a blank stare and, perhaps, say, “Wow, a pretty box. Cool.”

Did you ever give a baby or a toddler an awesome gift, in a box, all wrapped up? They tear the wrapping paper off the box, open the box, take the contents out, and climb into the box, gift totally overlooked, and they’re so totally enthused, you just let it go for a while. That’s what’s going to happen in the next decade, for all of us, if this alarming trend continues. “Wow, a cool box! I can use this, for something!”

We had a dog, once, who loved to open presents. Yes, guilty, I even bought the dogs birthday and Christmas presents. And wrapped them. They got a cupcake, too, and a bowl of ice cream. And so did the humans. Any excuse to party, I tell you, that’s what I’m all about. But this dog, Wylie, the Springer Spaniel, he loved to open gifts! He’d lie down on the kitchen floor and grasp the box between his front paws. Sometimes his butt was up in the air, tail wagging, other times he was flat on the floor, but the tail was still wagging. He’d tear the paper off the present with his teeth and paws, and then start working on the box. The other dog, a Beagle, Genevive, would get into the act, too, she wouldn’t initiate the gift opening frenzy, but she’d help once it was underway. It. Was. Awesome. Until I stayed up all night wrapping Christmas gifts and found them all unwrapped under the tree the next morning. We went back to the “Santa Claus plan” after that; all gifts stayed in their hiding places until early Christmas morning. Oops, spoiler alert.

So, I don’t know. I write a lot on things we can do to maintain our health, to prolong our youth, vigor and lust for life. What I really want to know is, how can I expand on this exponentially, so I can go back in time? I really want to party like an eight year old.

 

My birthday cards! :D
My birthday cards! 😀