When you are a woman of a certain age, you can't help but do some reflection every time another birthday rolls around. I just had one, so that's what I am going to do. Reflect.
Growing up, birthdays were a big deal.
My Dad was always on hand with his ever present camera to record the events, and he wasn't above staging a moment or two.
Though I have to say, he didn't have to stage this one. That expression on my little five-year-old face in this last picture, as I look at my current love, says it all. I look like a little spider spinning my web! I have plans for this kid. One learns early!
Four years later, here I am holding forth on my 9th birthday and clearly I have a new man next to me.
At ten, I have become more pensive among what look to be opium poppies in our back yard!
By 16, though, I have clearly had it with the posed birthday photo ops. You can tell by the expression on my face. I look like I am saying, "OK, look! Here's my new dress. Can we be done now?" My mother clearly has the posing down, though.
(By the way, my Dad bought me that outfit, hat, coat and all. As you can see, he was big on red, white and blue)!
However, I learned well from my Dad and carried on the tradition of birthday photos and continued making a big deal out of birthdays for my own children.
In fact, I instituted "Birthday Week."
So what is Birthday Week?
We didn't just celebrate the birth-day, we celebrated every day of the week leading up to the birth-day with a gift. When the kids were at home, each day they would get a wrapped gift which would lead up to the big present on the actual birthday. Even when the kids were grown up and off to college, we still had Birthday Week. I would send them a big box with seven gifts, each individually wrapped, and they were supposed to open one each day. Our son was five years older than our daughter, so he was probably 25 or 26 when I stopped doing it, and I would probably still be doing it, except for an incident involving our daughter.
As I said, when the kids left home, we would still have Birthday Week. I would send them a big box with seven presents in it, and each present would say Day 1, Day 2, Day, 3, etc. and each present was supposed to be opened in sequence one day at a time. I usually choreographed some rhyme or reason for the order, and there was an accompanying note or card explaining the gift. When the kids were older the present on Day 7, their actual birthday, would usually be money.
Our son was very good at this. He would wait and open one present each day and let us know how he liked it. However, one year, during our daughter's birthday week, I happened to be checking our bank account and noticed the check I had sent her, the Day 7 present which was supposed to be opened on her actual birthday, Day 7, had been cashed -- ON DAY 1 OF BIRTHDAY WEEK! She didn't bother to open the present for Day 1, she went straight for the cash! Needless to say, I got my nose bent out of shape big time for that and Birthday Week was canceled -- FOR BOTH KIDS - FOREVER! Even though our son was already going on 27, he resented his sister for that for a long time.
But that was then.
Now we can make a big deal out of our grandchildren's birthdays too. Not sure about Birthday Week, though!
When I was young, I couldn't wait for my birthday. Time would just drag in between each one.
But now that I am - ahem - "a woman of a certain age" - a birthday doesn't mean the same thing it meant when I was young, and time is no longer dragging in between each one. It is speeding by.
And yet have you noticed that time also has a strange way of moving just slowly enough that each year that goes by, you don't notice that you are aging? But each birthday that passes puts a new wrinkle on your face and another pound on your body until one day you have wrinkles, have put on 30 pounds and when you look in the mirror, you go "Yikes!" What happened? Or you look at photo albums and suddenly notice you don't look like you once did.
However, some of that was a choice some of us are forced to make. As you have heard me say on this blog many times, like Catherine Deneuve, I chose to save my face and not my butt (she said you can't do both and she didn't use the word butt), so fortunately, though I have a big butt, I have few wrinkles on the old face.
But even with that, when I look at pictures, I have to ask myself:
How did I get from this
When did that happen?
OK, that was rhetorical. I know the answer. I got old. But when we are living our lives, running around like crazy, raising kids, working full-time, trying to have a life, we don't stop to notice...time passing. Inside, we think we are still that young person who graduated from school, said goodbye to her parents and went off to live her life. And then it does. Time passes.
As I said, my Dad was a camera freak. He documented every first day of school, every holiday, every event and, of course, every birthday, so I can look at those pictures now and remember a happy childhood. I can also see how I have aged.
So, with that, it's easy to feel a little sorry for yourself on your birthday, especially if your children's cards didn't arrive or you don't get a phone call. I could whine that no one ever gave me a Birthday Week. I could get depressed over regrets. I could lament the wrinkles, the rolls of fat, the high cholesterol and that, as a woman of a certain age, I am virtually invisible. And when I say invisible, I am not talking about no longer getting wolf calls as I walk down the street. I'm talking about the kind of invisible where I fall off the treadmill at the gym and nobody notices. That kind of invisible.
And speaking of regrets. I don't trust people who say they have no regrets in their lives, because if everything that had happened to them hadn't happened, they wouldn't be where they are now. All that stuff. Blah, blah, blah. I don't buy it. If they weren't very nice to people, are estranged from their families, lived dissolute lives of drugs and selfishness or never did what they really wanted to do, then I think there should be some regrets in there, even if their lives are OK now. If you don't acknowledge regrets, then you will never change and grow.
Yes, I could say if I hadn't been married three times, I never would have met Hubby and had our daughter. But I certainly regret getting married too young and missing out on normal college stuff and the opportunity to live in Europe. I regret letting my kids down from time to time and moving so far away from my family. I regret signing up for the Columbia Record Club. I could go on and on...but I won't. Let's just say, I could get hung up on regrets as I get older and spend my birthdays feeling bad.
But I am not going to.
Birthdays still mean something to me, but what a birthday really means to me now that I am "of a certain age" is this.
A birthday is a time to reflect, to look back on my life, to think of those regrets and if I can right them, then I should and will. But it's also a time to be grateful that I am here for yet another year. I may not be the young girl I was (though she is still inside me when I am not looking in the mirror), or the thin-ish girl I was, but I'm grateful that I still enjoy life, that I can do 45 minutes on the elliptical and 20 laps on the track, that I can get into skinny jeans and don't care if I am supposed to wear them or not, that I have a loving husband and successful children and that a glass of wine always awaits.
And you know what? A birthday is a day to celebrate ME!
I'M STILL HERE!
This last birthday, I had a wonderful day with Hubby. I got to do whatever I wanted which included some trash TV and wine, an expensive dinner and wine, and Hubby finally bought me a diamond ring after 32 years of marriage. Long story which, you know I will share some day, but not now. The long-distance kids sent cards and a gift (well, one of them sent a gift), and they called me, so that was fine. It was a lovely day and I was grateful.
I was grateful for yet another birthday which represents another year of life on this earth, and I had better appreciate it because the alternative is unacceptable!
So for every birthday from now on, like Rare Earth sang, "I just want to celebrate another day of livin'!"
Thanks for Reading!
See you Friday
for my review of
The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)
and the latest on
"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before
I Die Project."
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