Friday, March 19, 2010

You Know Your Face is All Covered with Your Birthday Cake

Bella's class has rotating weekly jobs -- you know, line leader, bell ringer, conflict resolution manager (remind me to tell you about that one some time, bless these Quaker schools!) -- and this week she's on calendar/date detail. Which means, oh, right about now, she's informing her class of 20-something kids and two teachers that today is her mom's birthday and she's turning 41. This after a somewhat serious conversation where I told her that not all adults like to talk about how old they are, so it's not always polite to ask them or announce it if she knows. But in Bella's world, birthdays are for cake! and celebrating and presents! and cake! and seriously Mom, what's the big deal?

:::

I've always been fairly low key about my birthday, save maybe for grad school where for some reason everybody loved birthdays and really got into them. There were big elaborate dinner parties and cake and shitloads of presents (how on earth did we afford all that stuff? I mean, they weren't big things, but somewhere out there is a picture of me a few sheets away wearing a brand new raquetball glove and holding a Sting CD) and maybe we just needed the excuse -- especially in winter, and March in Wisconsin was still winter, don't be fooled -- to drink and eat and have an evening off. I've always requested a locale where I can watch basketball because I'm riveted to the tournament, and in fact I'm now remembering that six years ago, pregnant with Bella, at my direction, I met a bunch of people at a sports bar for my birthday dinner.

My brithday fell almost a month to the day after Maddy's death and did nothing but remind me of time passing and how I had experienced massive fail at building a family in my thirties. I remember I made a cake, but requested no presents, and I'm pretty sure I ate said cake at the counter, like the song says. I also had this memory of telling my therapist that I made a cake and her eyebrows shooting up, as if to say, "Well hey now, that's impressive! Not bad, you grieving mom, you!" The following year was more or less the same, staring the big one in the eye and wondering if I'd ever get my life back.

Last year was bad. I spent the day -- a chilly, damp one -- moving my grandmother into a home. (She died five months later.) I think I passed on the presents again, but there was chocolate stout cake (or as Bella calls it, "Beer Cake"). I then sunk into a few weeks of 40-Funk. I remember going to New York shortly after my birthday and having our friend ask me at dinner how I was doing, and replying -- with a big nasty grin -- "Horrible!" And then having to explain to myself. Nothing like feeling an entire decade has slipped out from under your feet with very little to show for it. And my husband chimes in, wait a fucking minute, how about that little PhD thing? Or the, you know, getting married thing? Or buying a house thing? (And buying another?) Or having Bella thing? And I nod, but it all seems to get swallowed by the big ugly on the eve of 38. I guess I thought if that turned out ok, I'd have two years to get a great job and visit the pyramids and make up for it all. Or something.

Sometimes you need to hit bottom to give your feet something firm to rest on while you bend your knees and push upwards.

It's almost as if once 40 was in the rear-view mirror, and the mourning period was over, I felt like the monkey was off my back, without the big date looming over me. And a month or two later, I had this crazy idea that maybe we should try this project one more time. I think just the trying was good enough for me, because now I could use 40 as an excuse if it didn't work. I could try everything, but if it all failed and they came back and shrugged their shoulders and sadly mouthed, "Forty," I could shrug mine and say, "Well that's ok, I expected it." And go home knowing I tried but it was just too late. In retrospect, I really may have expected that to happen. Because I was a bit shocked and caught off guard when it didn't.

Today, in a departure from years past, my husband and daughter are taking me out to dinner at a very lovely restaurant (where we will all pray that my daughter behaves and finds something on the menu that she will eat). Again, I am making my own cake, but I love to bake and birthdays are great excuses so no pity there. And I know because I've seen the amazon boxes arrive that there are two gifts -- an electronic gizmo that you set on your counter and throw meat and vegetables in and by the next evening it has made your dinner and mopped your floors and weeded your garden; and a game for the Wii that starts with FIFA and ends with 2010 and makes me all giggly. There will be craploads of basketball in the interim. And it's absolutely beautiful outside, with an expected high of 72.

:::

A few years ago Niobe introduced me to Bishop Allen's The News From Your Bed. It became my song. It still is my song, especially today. In fact, back when you could make your own ringtones, I spliced this song so that my ringtone started with the verse "When Your Family Calls, You Make Nice to them all/Assure them you're fine and you're great." And then because every mac product melts into a pile of worthless dung when I touch it, I synced my phone and lost my ringtone along with a ton of notes and other stuff, and I can't recreate it. Just writing about it now makes my blood pressure skyrocket and my eyes brim, I get so angry. (My ringtone is now the tornado music from the "Wizard of Oz," which when you think about it is appropriate for just about any call I could possibly receive on my cell phone.) But it's still in my music mix, and I still cling to it like a security blanket. I may not have a lot of friends anymore to go crazy with, and I can pour my own cakes (and drinks) but I've got a few people still looking out after me, and that? Will do.

27 comments:

Jeanette said...

Sounds like a pretty good Birthday plan to me. (and psst I'll be 41 in just a few weeks too!)

k@lakly said...

More than a few, way more.
Happy Birthday my friend. I hope 41 kicks 38's ass.
xxoo

Rebecca said...

Happy Birthday! Still praying for the little gift in your belly.

kriswaldherr said...

Happy birthday, Tash! I think that 41 is going to be a kick ass year for you (fingers crossed and all that). Sending you love and hugs

erica said...

Hoping the dinner is delicious, and that this birthday and decade are good ones.

Audrey said...

Happy, happy birthday.

I pour my own cakes, too, and I LIKE it that way.

I am a somewhat austere parent where toys are concerned, but I have a weakness for small, portable, silent things that will keep small ones engaged before the food arrives at a restaurant. I realize that this might be too late to be of use, but my favorite is called Kanoodle: http://www.amazon.com/Educational-Insights-2978-Kanoodle/dp/B000FGECAI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=toys-and-games&qid=1269025315&sr=8-1

Wishing you a lovely evening and weekend.

loribeth said...

My birthdays have been relatively low key since I grew up. At the same time, it's nice have at least a LITTLE fuss made, to know that someone out there is happy that I'm here. : )

I look back at my 40s as kind of a lost decade, the "NOW what?" period of my life where I just kind of chugged along aimlessly after flunking out on the family-building front. I'm hoping to kick off my 50s in a much better way. Preferably on a beach somewhere (my birthday is in January, lol).

Have a great one!

AKD said...

I hope that you all have the happiest of days on your birthday!!

Hope's Mama said...

May the rest of your 40s be full of many good times and much cake.
Happy birthday, Tash.
xo

Jen said...

Hi

I have been following your blog for a month or so, I lost my daughter to a crazy recessive gene at the very beginning of the year.

I have read through your whole blog and have enjoyed it.

Happy birthday, it is my 35th in a few days, birthdays will never be the same....

x

janis said...

Happy Birthday, Tash! I mean, Happy FORTY-FIRST!!!!! Birthday!
(just in case you forget, you know...)
May the restaurant experience be a pleasant one, and if traumatic, you have the moola to pay for therapy.

Tell us what you bake this year, will ya? I bake my own cakes too. Matter of quality control, I say.

Many beautiful thoughts sent your way. Happy Birthday, again. xo

CLC said...

Happy Birthday Tash! I hope 41 is the best you have felt in years! Hope you have a yummy dinner and eating somewhere good. I am wishing something like Osteria or Melograno on you. Of course, there are a gazillion more restaraunts in this area that are yummy too. And I love the fact that Bella is still young enough to think that you might actually be excited by a birthday! It's just so refreshing!

angie said...

Happy birthday, Tash! Since Temple lost on the eve of your birthday, I know your entire bracket is effed up now...sorry, dude. (I josh. No one but an alumni would EVER rely on Temple in a NCAA bracket.) Still the weather, march madness and fifa means this birthday has the potential of kicking some serious patootie, even if it is just 38s, 39s and 40s.

xo

Reese said...

Happy Birthday Tash! Hope it was a great one!

Melissia said...

Happy belated birthday, I hope that you had a lovely night.

Betty M said...

Happy birthday albeit a bit late.

Thalia said...

Happy Birthday. I'm so glad that this year is that tiny bit easier. Hope that cake is great, dinner is lovely (and well-behaved), and that the 40s are going to come up roses for you.

Life in Eden said...

Happy Birthday Tash!

And from one alum to another -- ain't nothing wrong with picking good ole TU in yur brackets! Hope it was a great one!

Tash said...

@Angie, @LifeInEden: Just to clarify: 1) I did't fill in a bracket this year. I still enjoy the tourny tremendously. 2) IF I DID: Life, I think *Angie* is the alum. I myself am an Ivy alum so I tend to cheer for them in the first round. And since Cornell put the fear of God into Kansas back in January (ringing bells?) I probably would've picked Cornell for at least a round, and taken Kansas out early. Although I don't know about this early. It's nice when the hometown teams win, but I honestly didn't see either going very far this year. 3) Today is a bit confusing since it pits the Ivy against my grad school. So I'll put on red and be happy with whomever wins.

Go basketball!

K77 said...

Happy birthday! I always make my own cakes too.

Bon said...

41 sounds good.

and i like the idea that leaving 40 behind is somehow freeing. i am beginning to stare it down, and feel its weight, and i'd forgotten that there will be an other side. duh.

happy belated, Tash. :)

Azaera said...

Happy birthday

G$ said...

Happy Effin Birthday! I hope you had a great time, even without the gin & tonic (too early yet anyways).

xoxo

Lollipop Goldstein said...

Happy birthday. I hope it was a wonderful weekend.

As the resident cake baker, I've done my own in the past. This year, I've picked a bakery and I've asked Josh to get one for me from there. I don't love bakery cakes, but I want someone else doing the work :-)

moplans said...

Hope you had a great day Tash.
I am glad to know I am not the only one who macs seem to hate.

luna said...

happy belated birthday, tash! sounds like a good one.

p.s. where did you get the tornado ringtone? all I can hear in my head is the wicked witch of the west music...

MsPrufrock said...

Happy belated birthday!! God, I suck.

I hope it was wonderful. I've missed you - through me never reading blogs for the past few months and you not blogging much anyway, time has just slipped by. Sigh.