Generally, I am a big fan of birthdays, but this one had been hard for me. The year has not gone at all as planned. The only saving grace being that I was to bridging the gap to “middle age” (eww) by bringing a new life to the planet. I guess I had hung way too much on that hat rack. This birthday had come with a sense of loss. All my life, 40 has seemed like the beginning of the end, the winding down, the getting fat-and-slow-and-sore. I pictured 40 as the year you become an extra in the film of your own life, while children take the center stage. The year you start talking about your aches and your retirement plan and new facial hair. The year you lose you.
But it came. It came despite my attempts to ward it off. I woke up yesterday, and I was oooooold (all of my over 40 friends can laugh at this point). Like I said, I was being a huge baby. I battled the kids to get ready for church and showed up 20 minutes late, already refining the “slow” part of old. But at church, no one appeared to notice that I was creaking while I walked or that there were cobwebs in my ears. Everyone seemed right pleased to wish me a good day, until by the end of church, paper birthday- crown on my head, I was feeling a little bit, well… normal. I hadn’t even had a single cardiac arrhythmia, and as far as I could tell, my bladder was holding out just fine.
But like a good little granny, I came home and took a nap. I woke to the beautiful music of my hubby on the piano, and yummy smells from the kitchen. The kids were in the studio being “busy” (“Don’t come in here, mom.” said with a secret-y smile, homemade birthday cards hidden behind backs), and all seemed well with the world.
My husband presented me with his cherished gift... hours spent in painstaking preparation culminating to the pinnacle of a gorgeous gourmet meal. Just for me, he invented a chicken breast stuffed with cream cheese, cashews, bacon, spinach and red onion, topped with smoked gouda and roasted pear slices, with a sweet, tangy pear cream sauce on the side. Beside it was a brilliant orange scoop of mashed sweet potatoes mingled with onion and bacon, followed by broccoli and French bread. A meal fit for royalty. I had a battle I have never had before; ‘which flavor do I choose as my last, lingering bite?’. It was a toughy. I went with the chicken.
Just as we were finishing up, friends began to arrive. There were so many people Guy would have invited if I would have let him, but I could only expose my aging underbelly to a select few (exposure metaphoric, of course. I'm not that far gone yet). We laughed and visited, and opened gifts. Peggy and “Baker” (as he is known to my children, David to us), did the foster-grandparent thing that they shine at, becoming hug dispensers and jungle gyms for my kids.
My friends know me so well… Heidi remembered my skin allergies when choosing bath soaps. From Steph, an elegant hand stamped box filled with “love notes”, little embellished cards for me to use for love notes for my dear ones, (and dark chocolates!). Dave had spent 3 days designing and building a journal for me (which will need be a post all unto itself). I actually want to hug it, it is so wonderful. Ethan remembered the name of my favorite childhood book, Girl of the Limberlost, and ordered it specially. We will read it together. Guy helped the kids each choose something special. That's the word for it all... special.
We indulged in an amazing chocolate Ganache cake with strawberry cream filling and the most amazing icing I have ever had (though true to form, Guy was analyzing the texture, calculating future improvements to the recipe). We stayed up really late, on a school night no less, and talked art, religion and food. We said goodbyes under a moody sky that teased with random rain drops, and I could not say enough thankyous to satisfy the bubbling gratitude I felt in my chest.
My hunny and I walked across the wet grass holding hands at nearly midnight, and soon inside, were washing up the dishes. I flashed back to our first night of premarital dish-doing so many years ago. Time has passed, but some things have not changed.
What a blessed day. I fought it so hard. Silly. If getting older means better food, better friends, more time with my sweet family and more gratitude in my heart, maybe it won’t be that bad after all. After all, I will never be younger than I am today, and I have a whole new book to write.