Today is my 52nd birthday.
50 years was ancient when I was a kid. I mean 30 years was old. 50 was practically dead. If you were 50, you probably remembered dinosaurs, or at the very least the Wild West. If you were 50 when I was a kid, you were from the Olden Days.
…I don’t feel 52. I certainly don’t feel old. I don’t feel like I’ve lived a little more than half of a century. I don’t feel like I’ve been alive longer than microwaves have been sold at Walmart. At least not all of the time. Sometimes I feel older than 52. When I stand up after sitting for a long period and my joints snap, crackle and pop like a bowl of Rice Krispies and I wonder if I am going to need hip surgery replacement when I get old. When it takes two steps for me to get going until my bones feel lubricated enough to move like the well oiled machine that they should be. That’s not me always, but it is me not always taking care of myself like I should.
I’d like to think I don’t look 52. But what does 52 really look like anymore anyway? It’s not our mothers teased and sprayed short hair. It’s not housecoats. I haven’t given way to elastics and polyesters but I am a little mindful of what I wear. In all honestly, I probably look like what today’s 52 looks like, which isn’t something that is all that bad. Harder in some areas, and softer in others.
Birthday’s don’t mean what they used to, to me. Let’s face it, they aren’t what they used to be. I pretty much have everything I need, and what I don’t have, I get for myself. I hated shopping for my mom when she was this age, because of this. She HAD everything she needed. I could only hope that a new Stephen King book would be released and place me in the clear.
In the past, I looked forward to receiving a few mailed birthday cards, and later maybe some phone calls. Maybe dinner and drinks with a friend, or current SO. Today I received more birthday wishes from corporations via email than I ever got via snail mail from friends and family. Phone calls are now well wishes via social network and text messages. My oldest daughter did call me. Sang me the Beatles “Birthday” song, which is a standing tradition I always woke them up to as kids. They’ve now turned the tables on the me. My youngest, who lives with me again, set the table up with colorful coordinating gift bags so it was the first thing I saw coming out to the kitchen this morning. In the same manner I always did for them growing up. I probably had that slightly gleeful feeling she did as a kid. It’s kind of funny how the hunter becomes the hunted after so long. But it’s nice.
Off subject for a second, but the song “Birthday” by the Beatles always strikes a youthful chord in me via Lucy Ricardo. I hate to use the phrase, “Why back in my day!” as I shake my cane towards the sky, but since it’s my birthday, Why YES, back in my day we didn’t have cable television with a bazillion channels. You had reruns of “I Love Lucy” playing what seemed to be, allll of the time, and I grew to be quite the little Lucy aficionado. My mom would nap, and I’d lay as close as I could to the TV to quietly watch the same Ricardo stunts played over and over again. What does this have to so with the price of salt in London? I’m getting there. There is a specific episode where Lucy is in Italy, and is feeling sad about missing Little Ricky’s birthday. She meets up with a young Italian boy who tells her it’s his birthday, so she arranges to throw him a party. Of course he invites all his little friends who exclaim, “It’sa my birthday too!” in their thick Hollywood-fake Italian accents. of course in the end he cops to the fact it’s not his birthday or anyone else at the table, until they find it really was one of the little girls birthdays.
The line in the song, “They say it’s your birthday, Well it’s my birthday too” – always makes me want to sing it in a hokey Italian accent, ala that I Love Lucy episode. I dunno. Some things just stick with me for weird reasons, and I simply feel like I must share them. That was one of them.
So – the morning is going well. Lots of social media well wishes. Gifts in the kitchen. I am walking into the office and it doesn’t dawn on me that anything there will happen. But the workmates actually surprised me. The friend and co-worker who was really the one good at decorating and remembering birthdays has left the company. I honestly didn’t think anything would happen this year. But they surprised me with a luau theme and clumsily, but appreciated-more-than-you-know, pink and purple streamers. All day, cardboard Hawaiian Hula Dancers on thin clear strings have danced around my head, while plastic leis frame my computer screen. They said they picked luau because it was the closest thing to “always being on vacation” that they could come up. They didn’t even need to explain, I knew what they meant. That’s how I am perceived. The one who goes on so many vacations and always seems so tan.
The one weird thing I sort of look forward to for the past couple of years? The bi-annual brief conversations with my ex. When we were together we made birthdays a big deal for one another. It was something I think we really looked forward to doing for one another, and looked forward to receiving from one another. Perhaps the new woman in his life does the same for him – on that count I really don’t care. But the first year after our break-up was pretty painful for me, and when he reached out to me, it was the first communication he had made in a while and it was like – a shared secret or something. Even as brief as it was. It made me laugh, because we had a joke about my remembering dates that he brought up. Last year I wondered if he would message me again, but he only passed a text message onto my daughter with a strange excuse on why he couldn’t directly contact me. Unimportant. This year he emailed me directly at the office. It was nice. There isn’t any underlining pretext of hope. It doesn’t elicit any dormant pain. No one has an agenda. It’s just a nice soft, yet solid memory that I think we are both happy to share with one another. It doesn’t open the flood gates to further communications. Next month about this time I will email him a happy birthday, and then we’ll probably wait a year until we speak again. Maybe it’s that we recall each other with enough fondness to want to wish this a happy day to one another that does it for me. I don’t really text or message any other exes on their day.
So, to a tortoise, or a parrot, or some species of whales, I haven’t even made it to middle age. Yet with humans we like to call 50 middle age, but who are we kidding? Like 100 is a given. Ha! But there isn’t this thing, this label, between Middle and Old age. You’re either there, or you aren’t. I’ll take middle for the time being. I’ll play the game.
For my parents, 50 was Dead Man Walking. Not something I really want to broach too much on the anniversary of my birth. But I’d be lying to say with each passing year it doesn’t tickle the back of my brain. Maybe that’s why I fit so much into life now. You don’t know when that last birthday celebrated will actually be your last. For me, I have gifts to open when I get home. I have a dinner to attend. I suspect I’ll have a really nice glass of wine to accompany that dinner. I won’t worry about who forgot well wishes, but be super thankful for all those people out there who took a moment out of their life to say “Hey you! You kinda matter, and I hope you’re enjoying your special day!”