Friday, February 15, 2013

Ghosts of Birthdays Past

It's my birthday.  I am old.  I believe, at 43, this is the last year I could say that I am in my early-40s.  Once you're 44, you're officially "mid-40s."

I was thinking about this number 43, and it seems so impossibly big, when I don't feel remotely old.  That got me thinking about past birthdays, and where I was at the various points in my life.  Which spurred me to do a post similar to my friend Lisa's old Valentine's Day post in which she chronicled various relationships she's had in her life.  Only I'd do it with birthdays.

5 years

I was living in Venezuela, in my last year of preschool at Kinder Snow White.  I don't remember much, but I have fragments.  I remember wearing a long blue dress with some kind of white design.  The party was at our house in Altamira, and I'm sure there was a pinata involved.  I remember that house so vividly, even though I haven't seen it in over 30 years.  It had a tile roof, and there was a wall in the back of the yard that I could scale to get myself onto the roof.  I remember that I loved to sit up there and fiddle with loose tiles.

Now that I have a 5-year-old, if I ever caught him up on the roof of our house, I'd freak the fuck out.  But I had the balance and sure-footedness of a mountain goat (still do), and I felt very safe up there.

10 years

We were living in McLean, Virginia.  The Lake Placid Winter Olympics were going on, and I remember being in a tizzy about Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner, a duo that was competing in the pairs figure skating competition.  I was in 5th grade and a bunch of my girlfriends came over for a slumber party in the basement of the big townhouse that my parents used to own.  In addition to watching ice skating, we played a game that one of the girls made up -- "Washington Secretary," I think about young women working in city and falling in love with their bosses.  Gloria Steinem would not have been amused.  My brother Josh was 8 and my brother Sam was 2, so I'm sure we thought that Josh was a pest and that Sam was really cute.

Sorry, Josh.  I love you. (You too, Sammy.)

13 years

I don't remember my 13th birthday at all, but I had my Bat Mitzvah a few months later.  The actual service where I read my Torah portion and all of that was in a beautiful little synagogue in Jerusalem (we were living in Israel at the time).  I remember a luncheon afterwards.  I received amazing gifts, because my parents had all kinds of artsy friends -- musicians, painters, sculptors, political cartoonists.  A few gave me original prints that they had made.  I also got some pretty jewelry that I still wear.  I was wearing a peach dress with poofy sleeves, a dropped waist and pastel stripes.  These are not colors or styles I would ever wear today.  It was the early 80s - I have no other excuse.

Thirteen is a horrible age.  I was on the tail end of puberty, mystified by my new boobs and the effects they seemed to have on men, completely unsure of myself.  Awkward, gawky, you name it.

15 years

Back in Virginia, 10th grade. My parents surprised me by getting me out of school early and taking me to see Cyrano de Bergerac at the Kennedy Center (Derek Jacobi, an amazing actor whom my grandparents had taken me to see doing Shakespeare in Stratford, Ontario, won a Helen Hayes award for his portrayal of Cyrano in that production).  I have awesome parents.

Fifteen was a rough year and a great year.  Being in the States, in a wealthy DC suburb, was very odd.  I was used to being in the bosom of the diplomatic community in Israel, in a tiny little school, where everyone knew me and I knew everyone and I felt like I belonged.  In McLean, my parents weren't rich, I didn't get a car for my 16th birthday, and I was in a high school of 2000 people.  I did my best to fit in - being on the diving team and in the GT program at school helped - but I was so happy when we moved to India later that year.  I loved India.

21 years

I was a fourth-year student at the University of Virginia.  I went with a bunch of my sorority sisters from UVa to stay with my parents in northern Virginia.  We went to a bar in Old Town, Alexandria and I used my own driver's license to buy alcohol for the first time in my life.  I somehow managed to avoid getting really shitty drunk, instead maintaining a pleasant buzz.  They had me wear a big sign around my neck that said, "Kiss Me, I'm 21," or some such nonsense.  It was really fun.  I'm still good friends with all of those women.  ZTA love, girls!

Twenty-one is such a stupid age.  You think you're so mature and grown up, but you're really an idiot.

25 years

Law school was done and I was living the single life as a newbie lawyer in Atlanta.  My friend Nessa and Chris took me out to dinner and then made up some reason about why we need to go back to my apartment (which I was sharing with my friends Jane and Nancy).  I was dubious, but we went back to the apartment where there was a surprise party waiting for me.  We ended up dancing the night away at some club in Buckhead (I can picture it, but I can't remember the name).  Fun times.

28 years

Still living in Atlanta, in the big house on Valley Green Drive.  I was dating the scion of a prominent Atlanta family and very much in love with him, but that relationship kind of chewed me up and spit me out into the depths of my first awful bout with depression.  I tried to fit into his world, and when I didn't, I hated myself and felt like a fool and a failure.

Things were still good on my birthday, however -- he took me to New York for the weekend.  We stayed at the SoHo Grand and went to nice dinners and took a long taxi ride up to see the Cloisters.  I felt very special.

34 years

I had met and fallen in love with J two months earlier, and went back down to Costa Rica to surf and celebrate my birthday with him.  He threw a little birthday party for me at the surf camp, including a cake that he had paid some local woman to make, and which he had carried back to the surf camp in one hand while steering a bike with the other hand, as he navigated his way down a steep hill.  Barefoot, as usual.  It was a lovely party, but I was suffering through the early stages of a UTI, so that kind of put a damper on things.

38 years

We were living in Hawaii, and I was a new mom -- Zeke was about 4 months old.  I was still getting the hang of dealing with a baby, changing diapers, worrying about starting him on solid food, getting him to sleep through the night. I was missing my Atlanta crew so much, so J rented a house on the North Shore for a week and all of my peeps, plus my mom, came to visit me.  In order to pay for the house, he had been hoarding cash and keeping it in a sock in his closet.  I had actually noticed that he was constantly taking out large sums of cash from our account, but mysteriously never had any money on him.  Did he have some kind of drug or gambling habit?  Was he saving up to leave me?  When he went to pay the woman the deposit on the house, he actually took the sock with him.  She thought he was nuts.

We had a blast surfing and laughing and hanging out.  It was a great birthday.

43 years

My mother, father, brothers, and my friend Ali call called me to sing/wish me happy birthday.  My mom told me the story of the day I was born.  Zeke asked, "will there be cake?"  So I will stop in at the market on my way home from work and get the fixins to make a cake.  Tomorrow night J is taking me out for dinner.

Life continues...

1 comment:

  1. Happy Birthday Wendy! You have had a very interesting life, I hope I have as much energy as you when I'm 43... or at least enough energy to do even one of those crazy workouts you do!