It’s raining out and Hoover, (the cat) made the executive decision this morning to wake me at 5:30 am on my birthday to be fed and then to promptly dismiss me as he lies stretched out at the end of the bed.  Unable to recapture any amount of sleep, I tried to remember 56 years of birthdays…my version of counting sheep and here’s what I came up with.


            My earliest recollection is a memory of little red-headed Paul, standing on the front porch steps of our house in South Portland, my Mom leaning down, party invitation in her outstretched hand and asking him if he was sure he wanted to attend a birthday party with all girls.  Shaking his head up and down vigorously, he arrived with the best present a little girl would want – a container of pollywogs.  I thought they were grand and bonded my young heart to him for life.  Then there was the year my parents bought me my first adult Schwinn bike and hid it under a sheet in the garage.  Sending me on a mysterious mission to the garage, I searched for a surprise but was stumped until my younger sister, even more excited than my parents, blurted out to look under the sheet in the corner.  I still have a photo of my virgin ride, wobbly at best, up and down the driveway while my family watched, pleased as punch with this shiny, red, three-speed beauty.  Paul with the red hair is in the picture, hands on his hips and a grown up serious expression on his face, patiently giving me pointers on how to balance this wonderful gift, and not to crash.


            There were lots of birthdays as a child I would secretly cross my fingers in hopes my older brother wouldn’t choose “my day” to get into trouble.  On more than one occasion however, my parent’s focus would shift to him…. one year in particular I remember a Cadillac coming to a stop in front of the house, a man moving to his trunk where he extracted my brother’s mangled bike and my brother opening the passenger side door and stepping out rather sheepishly.  He had careened down a hill, no feet and no hands (a thrilling experience by the way) and crashed into the man’s open car door.  My brother had a knack for trouble.


            When I turned 25, a young male friend reminded me that I was a quarter of a century old.  I was devastated, as I just couldn’t imagine being THAT and an old maid by my calculations.  Before the day was over, however, I received four deliveries of roses from friends, and little did I know I was soon to fall in love with a boy, now man, who kissed me in college and I swore to my roommate that I would never wash my face again.  We were married the following year.


            My sons were famous for Pepperidge Farm cakes turned into instant birthday cakes, my first 6th grade class threw me an “Over the Hill” party on my 50th complete with marbles (in case I lose my own!) and the best of times have become swirled with the darkest of times as I sit here searching my newly 56th year old memory.  My Mom calls me every year at the hour I entered the world, and retells me the story of the day I was born.  It has become our tradition and I find myself waiting for the phone to ring with just as much excitement year after year.  It’s a tradition that I now extend to my own grown sons.


            I’m pretty happy about turning a year older, believe it or not, because it provides me with an opportunity to reinvent myself all over again.  I get to pack away in my mind all the things I tried in the last year that didn’t work so well, and look ahead knowing that the path I choose to travel can be spectacular, all by my own design in the coming year.  That’s pretty magical all in itself, if you think about it.  Naturally, I wish I could find a magic cream to remove any wrinkles from growing, have plastic surgery to remove my double chin and perhaps a bit of liposuction and breast implants.  I also wish I could eat birthday cake without wondering where it will land on my hips and could I please have a handsome, muscular man…shirtless of course, appear at my front door to sing me Happy Birthday?  I’d like the extra money in my budget for a convertible, maybe even a motorcycle, and wouldn’t it be nice if I could find a cottage on a lake to live!  I want to wear a Danskin and stilettos and I want disco to come back.   I want to have wild, unbridled, 18 year old sex again too if I get to wish.


            That’s the best part of birthdays, no matter what the number is, and if you need a fire extinguisher for all the candles on the now sheet cake you need to FIT all the candles is to wish and to dream while all the while having people wonder what it is you are thinking of!  Happy June 8th!!!