Monday, January 16, 2012
Today (January 16th, 2012) I have done the amazing: turned 65. How did that happen? No matter. I am sixty-five and still writing, in fact writing better than when I was younger. I think it is because I have had more of life on which to comment, more experiences both good and not so good. I have strong opinions (no shock to my family or friends) and those tend to worm their way into poems or essays. I guess I'd be more surprised if my writing got worse as I got older (more mature?) but still it surprises me to look back on other years' poems and see where I've come from there.
I got a present from my friend Gayle Portnow, a children's book by my favorite poet, Richard Wilbur. The book is The Disappearing Alphabet. I've heard he has been doing children's poetry books but hadn't seen one. It is great. He does't depart from his formalist stance, but injects humor with the natural (iambic mostly) speech patterns. I like seeing this side of him, enjoy his take on the world of kids who read and rhyme. The illustrations in the book are wonderful, and surprisingly were done on Adobe Photoshop. The illustrator (name escapes me at the moment) is talented and really "got" the flavor of Wilbur's imaginary world where letters of the alphabet might disappear, wreaking colorful havoc.
I may have said this before, but I do love my birthday. Always have. My father took special interest in my birthday and made sure it was a moment in time for me each year of my life until I was married. I think he thought my husband (husband #1) would take over where he left off (not at all, as the guy mostly ignored all holidays and special days, creating a few horrible birthday experiences). But I digress. I recall Daddy's little notes to me, his surprises, his singing off key with made-up silly words for lyrics. I never knew what was coming on this day. Little surprises showing up at school, or under my pillow, or on the front step. He'd try to hide who was doing all the "secrets" but I knew. Certainly it was not my mother who had no where near the imagination for this kind of tomfoolery. Her contribution was always her famous Midnight Chocolate Cake with white icing. I can say my taste buds are tingling right now for that cake. Too bad the recipe is lost. Too bad she is not here to bake it for me. In fact I cannot recall the last time someone made me a birthday cake. But the memory tastes almost as good. the other cool thing about my birthday was getting to choose a place to eat out, rare in those days as we lived pretty close to the bone financially. I frequently chose a restaurant called The Dragon Seed in Kittery, Maine (not there now, as it got closed LONG ago (allegedly for having a whore house upstairs). Anyway, it was a great place to eat out. Yum. And once I got to be a teen, there was always a new dress. I recall the royal blue wool dress with a scooped neckline and a white "dickey" insert. I wore that blue wool dress until I was well close to 30. It was the perfect color for me and I felt very elegant in it.
I always got tons of birthday cards. Some were handmade, some store-bought. I loved reading the messages people wrote inside and the occasional five dollars or so tucked inside. Now it is very different. We greet one another by email and rarely send out physical cards. I have received a few e-cards today already and can say I love the animated features of these. I am grateful to have friends who take the time to "care enough to send the very best" of the interactive card world!
It is also different when you celebrate birthdays as an adult. Who bakes the cake? IS there a cake? Who shops and shops to find just the right little thing to amaze and delight you? Practically speaking, do we even "need" presents? I don't have an answer. One thing that has seemed a bit off kilter in the world of birthday celebrations is that we reward the person who was born (it is quite a feat I will admit... my years midwifing and as a labor and delivery nurse have taught me that alone with the giving birth thing I experienced myself) I sometimes sent my mother flowers on my birthday. I wish now that I'd done it every year. I do stop for a moment and give thanks to my mother for going through the childbirth experience which was not at all easy on her. I thank my father too, as he was the primary reason they had kids. He WANTED to be a father more than anything.
The bummer thing about turning 65 is going on medicare. Oh I'm not drubbing medicare. I am grateful we have such a thing. We need to keep it going, expand it. But it is a bit daunting to think I am eligible. 65? Really? I guess I am saying that this birthday takes me a bit by surprise.
Speaking of surprises... I wonder what today will bring. I'll just wait and see.
Update... I forgot to post this on the day I wrote it. Let's just say, the birthday surprise was a day of messages from loved ones and friends and out to dinner with my hubby and grandson. Low key day, almost as if the day was embarrassed to address my age. Hmmm. But here I am, fully 65 and signed up for medicare. I have my red, white, and blue card and everything. I don't see new grey hairs, no wrinkles to speak of, and I am as energetic and engaged as ever. So... I LAUGH at 65, embrace it. It is, after all, better than the alternative!