Birthdays : Turning, Marking and Saving Pages

(My  house’s grey water outlet has been frozen for several days so this birthday morning,  as I ran a smidge of water for my coffee,  I stared  at the pans catching the overflow from the  dishwasher.   Some part  of  the day’s celebration  would include  ladling water into a bucket and dumping it outside.  I looked at the clock.  Dumping would have to wait  till  after work.

Outside the kitchen window, an  expanse of white and brambles disappears  into the woods behind the house.  A lace coverlet dotted with tracks.  Hints of  nocturnal secrets.  What a perfect day to just…

Turn on the faucet.  Open the basement door.  Listen for leaks.  Eye the  water  in the catch-pans and check under the sink.

Oh Dear Fates,  the drain thawed in the middle of the night!   And within a half hour of that sweet gift,  my day’s employment was canceled.   Financially sound or no,  I’ve been handed a whole day to labor and laze  as I please.  And if that isn’t gift  enough,  my son has pledged  to wash  the pile of pots, pans and dishes  that grew  like a new continent  in just a few frozen days.)


Staring at my naked self in the mirror is a  once a year odyssey.  My head turns side to side.  Surprised.  Quizzical.  Wry.  “Where?   How?  When?”   Ineluctably, the mind’s eye launches a survey  of  changes, causes and effects:

  • Sags and bags
    • Children,  always beside me.  Kind, robust  men and a sweet,  rollicking woman.
    • Work.  Hard. Laborious. Satisfying.  And  save for the sounds of stone on stone,  steel on wood, flesh and bone,  often silent.
    • Love.  Hard. Laborious. A balloon  capable of  heady inflations,  aimless drifts,  hissing collapses  and soul-rocking explosions
    • Losses and gains
  • Wrinkles and creases.
    • (See  “Sags and bags”)
    • Sun, glorious & punishing
    • A Cornucopia of  Indulgences
    • Oceans, deserts, rivers,  mountains, cities and farms
    • Vegetables,  dirt  and skin dyed by fresh-picked fruit and the hungry I’ve known
    • Sawdust, diapers, worry, love, anger and  fear.  The stuff of life.
    • Laughter.  Uproarious, unbidden.
    • The melting away of the fat that pads our dermis and longings.

No matter how surprising  is the image I see each year,  my shoulders shrug of their own volition and both thumbs  “go way up”  in salutation.  “All mine,”  I chortle  involuntarily.

But wait.   If birthday wishes  require no special effort,  then perhaps  a tad less or more here or there?  A  tuck of the temper?  A  nip of the tongue?  Cosmetics,  darlin’s.  Flimflam.  The real reason for my special  fireworks is:

  • This is the day on which all my progeny depend.  (True, Narcissus, of  nearly all the flora and fauna  in  the  world.  Get over yourself.)

Hmmm.  Then,

  • This is the day  that changed my little part of the world.  (Puh-leeze!  A speck in time and space.  A busy little speck; but a speck nonetheless.)


  • Without this day,  the rest of my life would be moot.

Or, as my mother liked  to say,  “If my legs were longer, I’d be taller.”

But the time has come to turn from the reflection.  No matter how enthralling the navel may be,  its revelations can be circular.

On this day, I might:

  • Take a walk along the river.  To preserve my sense of time and place.  To rescue my sense of humor.  (A four hundred million year old river —  that’s eight zeros while most of us settle for  one  — and a primordial ice floe  inching  past  my very eyes); or
  • Take a cigarette break on the front porch in my pajamas and with one eye closed, squint through the trees till I see the  slivers of ice and water below;
  • Eat a healthy, grainy  breakfast to celebrate the bounties of life and the gifts bestowed on me;  or
  • Fill a big bowl with  the “Columbian Coffee” and “Rocky Road”  ice creams I bought myself yesterday;
  • Edit and structure this ditty of a column; or
  • Fling it into the ethernet without  fuss and fumes;
  • Read hundreds of emails from a zillion worthy causes;  or
  • Settle in with “The Gods Must Be Crazy” and  “Harry Potter.”
  • Get to work on a freebie website promised to a not-for-profit; or
  • Be astonished by the abundance of  people, places, events and things  that have twirled and stomped through my doors these fifty eight years.  And,  like any other day,  pray my grip holds when the ride starts to spin.

To all the well-wishers and well-beloveds in my  lucky life,  many, many thanks.

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