I have a love hate relationship with my birthday. What a cliché. It’s not that I am all torn up about getting older. I still feel pretty young but with a relatively solid sense of self (usually). I like cake. I love seeing friends and hearing from people. But no matter what I do, there is a part of me every year that is tempted to stay at home. By myself. In bed. Watching movies and taking naps. Let’s start again on May 4th.
It’s the nostalgia. That’s what it is. On a normal day I am present with work, family, friends. But on a birthday you are reminded of everywhere you have been, everything you have done, everyone you’ve met. You hear from a lot of people. For me that is a bumpy ride. I start with feeling the tussle of wanting more time to see people who mean a lot to me. And then I am transported to Hyattsville, Scarsdale, Greenbelt, Georgetown, London, New York City, Boston. Even Sodus. It’s a marker. I have trouble thinking about many of these places (people) and not becoming deeply emotional. It’s too much.
I tend to get very emotional. And quiet. How am I 41? How am I a college graduate? Better yet, how do I have an MBA earned many years ago at this point? Two kids, two cats and a house? Oh forget it. We own a car, for Christ’s sake. How does that even happen? I am old enough to have taken bike trips around Europe by myself. We make arrangements for schooling…for our five year old. I shop for my own groceries and my mom has no involvement in scheduling my dentist appointments. My little sister has a job, and a house and drives a minivan. My father is gone and has been for almost five years.
It doesn’t help that I work with a lot of young people. When I mention Depeche Mode half my office thinks I am talking about a flavor of ice cream.
How did this happen.
I miss parents on my birthday. I still have one. But what I mean is I miss the parents who decorated the dining room with streamers and sang happy birthday after giving me a ten-speed bike.
I miss being little.
I like where I am – I do – but on birthdays I miss being a kid. Maybe that’s what it is. Maybe that is why birthdays are quiet for me. I feel ungrounded. I am out of control and I am amazed at what is behind me.
I need to turn present and forward. Birthdays though – they tug me backwards. All of a sudden I have a desire to read everything Joan Didion has written.
Maybe that is why you get flaming cake on birthdays. Take too long to be in the moment – linger too long in the past – and your whole cake melts away.
I hope it’s chocolate