Saturday, November 15, 2008

Growin' Up ...

(I have that Springsteen tune running through my head as I write this.)

Now that I am officially facing 40 – there are no other birthdays to hide behind; 40 is next on this hit parade we call life – I finally understand why some people seem to back off from their birthdays.

Not that I'm freaked about turning 40. Not at all. Bring it on, I say. And then bring on 40 more. And then some. I've been mulling over my 40th birthday party for many months already. I may never get married, so why not throw a big fete for 40, right?

I still like my birthday, I still look forward to it, but it's no longer the big deal it used to be. I used to anticipate my birthday with glee. It always seemed as though my birthday should feel different than any other day. And when I was younger, it did.

Back in the days, my birthday was a huge deal: a party and cake and ice cream and family and friends and presents and candy and games and tchotchke plastic prizes that to this day are taking up space in landfills everywhere.

My mom used to make me breakfast in bed for my birthday (she still offers, bless her heart) and I'd open cards and presents in bed, too. Our kitchen ceiling would be transformed with twisted crepe-paper streamers (two colors, always) punctuated by balloons of assorted colors.

I could have anything I wanted for dinner, at home or at a restaurant. I don't remember when I started wanting annual lasagne, but lasagne has been the must-have birthday dinner now for years.

I could have any cake I wanted, from a bakery or from mom's imaginative hands. Memorable cakes include Ziggy's head, a green Monopoly house, and, of course, the piece de resistance, the stuffed green olive complete with giant frilly toothpick. Mom conceptualized the olive using an Easter egg cake pan to render the cake in 3-D and I fashioned the frilly toothpick out of bamboo skewers and foil wrapping paper. My new annual cake from the local bakery is white cake with lemon filling and stabilized whipped cream in lieu of buttercream frosting, topped with pale yellow roses and pale green leaves.

This year, though, my birthday felt more like a regular day. This year, I woke up happy and said, still lying in bed, "Happy birthday to me!" And hopped out of bed and booted up the computer and had birthday e-cards and e-mails waiting from family and friends. And mom came by with helium-filled balloons and apricot danish. And I had lunch with 8 friends, all of whom presented me with something special – cards, flowers, presents – even though the invitation I send every year specifies no gifts. (I'm really at the age where I don't need anything. Not that birthdays should be about need. And I surely appreciate the gestures. And the gifts were all practical: a CD, a journal, gift cards, a magazine full of inspiring cookie recipes for this year's Christmas baking extravaganza.) Then dinner with my parents: the aforementioned lasagne and cake. And when I got home, phone calls with Patty and L.A. Dave to wind down the day.

So it was still a very "birthday" birthday, but it felt different. The youthful birthday glee has finally faded.

I'm very grateful for every birthday that arrives, of course. But now, the day is very much about the people in my life. I'm happy to have both of my parents with whom to share the day. And I'm blessed to have so many friends who gather to celebrate over a long lunch. Both of my brothers were traveling this year so I didn't see them or my sister-in-law but my nephews and niece did come by the night before to bring me my card and, of course, spending time with them is all the gift I need.

My 40th will be as big a blowout as my budget will allow, but that, too, will be about surrounding myself with those I love, not about the birthday, per se. Though there will be champagne. And chocolate. And wine. And cake. And whatever food I think I'll fancy on that day.

I wonder if mom can make lasagne canapes.


Blogger Mercurie said...

You know, I feel guilty that I missed your birthday. I was meaning to leave you birthday wishes Wednesday night for you to find Thursday, but I was so tired from work Wednesday that it entirely slipped my mind. I must confess I did not deal well with turning forty, but then it didn't help that one of my favourite uncles died the night of my birthday either.

6:44 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Aw, thanks, Merc, but please, no guilt on my account.

And how sad about losing your uncle on your birthday.

6:46 PM  

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