Tomorrow is my birthday. It will be 41 years since I was born, my birth being the one visible sign that my parents, at least at one point, really loved each other. It will be 41 years since my grandmother while away at a Baptist retreat, rushed back to town with equal parts joy and annoyance that I arrived early. It will be 41 years since my dad and grandfather made their peace with each other, my grandfather having to surrender to his immense love for me, whether my mom should have married that black man or not.
It’s incredibly heartwarming for me to think about how my family must have been at the time of my birth. I know how I felt when my own child was born and it amazes me to think that there were people who probably felt the exact same way about me once. I can’t help but feel loved when I think of what that moment must have been like, and it saddens me that none of those people are in my life anymore.
I know it is common for women my age to complain about getting older. (I’ll withhold my comments on patriarchy.) I do not, however, have a problem with aging. OK, so I do have more aches and pains than I used to. If I stay up past midnight I am a complete mess the next day. And the day after that. I don’t think I could lose weight if I was wrapped entirely in Saran Wrap for a week, eating nothing but celery and lemon water, permanently affixed to a treadmill. And even though I tell myself that I am going to accept the gray hairs because I refuse to be vain, I just can’t help but yank them out sometimes. The wonderful thing about aging, though, is that the level of just-don’t-give-a-fuck goes through the roof. (I hesitated to write the word “fuck,” but I felt like doing so illustrates the point beautifully.) I’m not sure why it took 40 years for me to get to this point, but I feel pretty confident in saying there is nothing better than feeling comfortable in my own skin.
I will admit that sometimes I think it’s strange that we celebrate birthdays. I mean, is there anything more egotistical than throwing a party just to acknowledge the fact that we were born? Do we really need to feel that special? Then again, who doesn’t like a reason to eat cake? I realize, of course, that what birthday celebrations are really about are telling the people we love how grateful we are for their lives. It’s hard to take a curmudgeonly stance with that in mind.
It is true that for every birthday of mine, I feel a little pang of sadness. Birthdays make me miss my family pretty badly, and it’s hard for me to not think about what I have and haven’t done with my life. This year, with the impending divorce, there is a whole different layer of sadness. I am again having to accept that birthdays are going to be a little different from now on. Tomorrow, though, I will spend the evening with dear friends, eating good food, and hearing live music. Saturday, Simi and her dad are going to attempt to make me a cake. I know there will be phone calls and Facebook messages, and I am going to feel like people are grateful for my life. Really, how could it not be a happy birthday?