Thursday, January 14, 2010

Forty-seventh Birth Day

Forty seven years ago today, I entered the scene. My parents were living in Longview, Washington, where my father had a teaching job. There was a snowstorm, icy roads, but still they made their way to the hospital, where at 11:30 am, finally, I was born after causing my mother pain and gas, "a terrible combination, but so worth it," as she puts it. They must have left my brother, Pancho, a mutt adopted while my mother was pregnant with me, waiting patiently at home.

If "holiday" is a bastardization of "Holy Day," then truly my birthday is a holiday for me, a day on the calendar that matters, full of ritualistic observations, same-same practices year to year. I never work on my birthday. I made that mistake seven years ago, new job, new pressure, didn't want to ask for the day off. That was a ridiculously sad day for me, brightened briefly by a friend and her husband who stopped by and brought me an ice cream cone (nice!) - but I learned my lesson. Nope, my birthday is a special day for me, too special to spend with people that are in my life by circumstance rather than by deliberate choosing.

This birthday is so much better than last year's. A year ago we spent my birthday morning at UC Davis Veterinary Hospital. Our sweet Jasper had been diagnosed with canine melanoma, and the first available appointment was on my birthday. After the appointment, we went out to Bolinas and watched him bounce around blissfully in the surf, totally unaware that in a week he'd be having a big surgery to remove the tumor. It's not hard for this year to top last year!

Today started the way I remember birthdays always starting for me. I stay in bed, pretending somewhat to be still asleep (fat chance of that) while Joe and Laurent conspire, enter the bedroom singing Happy Birthday and bearing gifts. I open presents in bed. These days, that means that Jasper helps to unwrap the gifts with his mouth, an accidental bit of training engrained by years of birthdays and Christmases together, leaving the bed littered with soggy little bits of wrapping paper. The singing and presents in bed is, I think, a tradition I learned as a child, probably the result of busy work and school days, but still ensuring that the day starts out special. This morning, Joe remarked that the day felt like Christmas, meaning that -- success! -- that particular tradition really, really works!

I stay home most of the day and lounge about and think and stare and read and write and plan the year and bake a cake and think about the last year and hike with Jasper, and then there's generally dinner somewhere. I do whatever I want and nothing I don't, the way I wish I could spend every day. And I feel a lot of gratitude to my parents, of course, for the many gifts of my childhood and upbringing in making me the person I am now. Today especially I am reflecting on one of the chief lessons they imparted: the supreme importance of creating a beautiful life.

The sun is shining, lighting up the remaining drops of yesterday's rain on the trees in the garden. The sky is a phenomenal winter-blue. Birthday wishes are pouring in, and I'm savoring them, sitting as quietly as I can in the middle of this abundance and taking it all in, feeling the heat and love and rewards of a life well-lived.

Truly, that's what holidays should be about -- counting your blessings, appreciating and loving the life you've made and the people in it. This 47th time around the sun is my day to do just that. It's really just so beautiful!


Ariane said...

My sainted mother adds the following details, "Snow and ice everywhere, Jean-Paul had to make the car b ounce back and forth between the driveway and the street, to finally get it on the street, it was a Monday, that's why you're fair of face, and finally got to a hospital in Longview, not Kaiser in Portland that I was afraid we wouldn't get to. Gas, not internal gas, but gas they they gave me to breathe - a person at that time couldn't request what she wanted.... so it was in a fog for me that you were born." Love knowing all this!

Martine said...

I just read that! So amazing.