Originally published in the Miami News-Record on January 24, 2016.
I am writing this on my 43rd birthday. By the time you read this I’ll be 43 and three days. Remember when age was able to be broken down into increments? “I’m 15…and a half.” Or when your kids were little you’d proudly say, “She’s two and three quarters.” At the age I am now, 43 is 43 for an entire year and there is really no point in halving it or quartering it. It is what it is: old.
Being a January baby, it usually snows on my birthday. Sometimes it’s just rain. I think I can only recall maybe three years out of 43 that it hasn’t precipitated on my birthday. This year, as I look out the office window, I see…..bleh. There is just enough moisture in the air to glaze the world with a dangerous sheet of ice – a scary thing for a woman who is at a stage in life where she is genuinely concerned about breaking a hip.
The first time I met one of my best friends in the world, the girl who would be my sidekick (and I, hers) for many a year, was at my 5th birthday party. Mom opened the front door to behold a brown-eyed neighbor girl named DeLisa who was standing under a yellow umbrella with her mom in a torrential downpour. We remain friends to this day. 38 years. I haven’t even known my husband that long.
It was probably my 8th or 9th birthday that school was canceled due to a major snow storm. I was devastated because school birthday parties rocked. You got to skip that last subject of the day, your mom brought cookies or cupcakes and Koolade, and you usually got to be the first “doggie” in a game of “Doggie, Doggie, Who Has the Bone?” To soothe the disappointment of having to stay home, Mom sat me up behind the loveseat at the sliding glass door with all of my Strawberry Shortcakes and gave me a present every hour. By day’s end, I was getting individual outfits for the dolls, a shoe here, a hat there (they were probably part of a multi-pack, but I think Mom had to get creative after about ten hours of presents), but it remains one of my most memorable birthdays.
For my 11th birthday, my parents decided I was old enough to have a slumber party. Stacie, Chloe, Necia, the ever-present DeLisa, and I stayed up suuuuuuuper late (like, MIDNIGHT!) and began a tradition that lasted for many years: we drank soda from baby bottles. Do not ask me why. My kids have asked repeatedly and I cannot even begin to tell anyone why on earth that became a thing. But I have photographs that seriously amuse my children regaling the entire weird thing. Thankfully, by the time we got to 9th grade we let that one go. Whew.
Birthdays have lost a little of their excitement as the years have gone by. When the kids were little I was showered with crayon drawings on construction paper, kisses, hugs, and promises to not fight with each other and pick up their toys. Paul has been good to try and always take me to dinner, even during the lean years when money was tight. Those were the years when McDonald’s was a treat. He’d even let me Super Size. I don’t find myself struggling to fall asleep the night before anymore – in fact, I was dozing in the recliner by 9:30 last night. I intended to slouch around the house all day long, but am on my way to put on a little makeup because Mom is insisting I have dinner out. And I was thinking that maybe later, I’ll round out this special day by taking down my last remaining Christmas tree. Hey, don’t judge me. We old folks forget things. And sometimes it’s things like 6-foot tall Christmas trees in their dining room.