Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Who Put The Happy In My Birthday?

It began yesterday. People with well wishes jumping the gun. And a delightful card that showed up at my office depicting all the things and people I love in this world and beyond.

This, for a girl who spent some years purposefully hiding her birthday so that nobody would notice. I blame this partly on the fact that a birthday so early in the year meant suffering through birthdays at the hands of people ridden hard by the holiday monster. I mean, really, who wants to concoct another celebration and come up with yet another gift in early January. Cake, too? Can't we just say we're exhausted and make it up at another time?

The other reason I hoped to escape birthdays was the confusion about happy celebrations and excitement for the sake of it. I spent a good portion of my 20s working through codependency. I worked 12-step programs and attended Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings. I learned why happiness didn't seem natural to me, but confusion and chaos felt normal. My 30s I'm glad to say approached normalcy and happiness rose to the top of things worth fighting for. Now, I say, bring it on.

Not to say that birthdays weren't special days in my family. There were birthday dinners and favorite cakes. My grandmother turned out this lovely creation called an Italian Cream Cake, my hands-down favorite: a dense white cake with pecans, coconut and cream cheese frosting (topped with more coconut). Lordy. I have so many fantastic memories because of my grandmother and I miss her dearly. So when this little card showed up at work reminding me of my favorite things, my eyes fell upon the center of the card where a red heart with the word "Grandmother" in the center stopped me for a few moments. I searched my brain for how anyone would know what to put on such a birthday greeting, and remembered a little questionnaire I filled out shortly after I accepted my position. Who did I most admire? My Nanny.

Today was a birthday approached with reluctance at first, then full-on acceptance, sprinkled with moments of pure joy. Here it is by the numbers:

The shades of red nail polish I own, all with their own merits. Though I rarely paint my fingernails because I'm so hard on my hands and the polish doesn't wear well, I can't give them up. I contemplated if the extra minutes to paint my nails would be worth it as a celebratory birthday gesture. Decided to skip it.

The number of electronic birthday salutations I received this year, which is 32 more than I received last year. Long live social media, the marvel of my life in 2009.

The number of times a memory of my grandmother reduced me to tears today. There are days when the longing to be with her is palpable and it makes me wonder if she's one of my angels in close proximity at the moment I'm having that thought.

The number of cents left in my checking account. Let's not go there.

The number of dollars I was given as a gift card from one of my favorite stores as a birthday gift to come in and shop. What?! Free money on your birthday? Not a bad thing. I must spend enough money there that they decided to give a little back. I figure it this way: a new outfit makes you feel brand new. More than new shoes or a new hairstyle. Feeling good on your birthday is worth a week's worth of lunches and coffee, especially when you start with twenty bucks free and clear.

The age I would be indefinitely, if the universe ever gave me the option. Also, the number of roses it takes, when presented en masse, to make me giggle like a young school girl for at least a good hour.

The number of flowers my son can draw on my birthday card to make my heart beam with joy.

The number of sugar highs I experienced today as a result of tiramisu (a favorite dessert), chocolate cake with white frosting, followed by chocolate cake with fudge frosting an hour later, a chocolate caramel candy after dinner, and another chocolate birthday cake at home with the family. That's a new personal record.

All in all, a very, very happy birthday.