No one knows exactly how it happens, but it does. We spend an easy two decades just bopping around, flitting from idea to idea, from that self to this, sort of, kindly put, finding ourselves. Then we hit 30. That magical decade when we are found: Career, Spouse, Homeland. You know the drill. By your 30’s one is expected to know it all. By 30 I had three underfoot, a divorce pending, a new relationship and career underway, and a burning desire to write, write, and write some more; and so, while children grew, outgrew, and moved over and out, I kept at it. All of it. Before I knew it my 30 years had doubled.
This birthday I faced sans mother. She knew she would not make it until October, but we still talked venue, and menu and guest list: yes, we planned. There would be 3 parties we defiantly decided. The first in LA, where life never stops and my darlings make their home and dream up their passions. Another in NYC where she resided near most of her beloveds. Plus this would be an easier party for her to attend we thought. Last party would be in Vermont. If there was any way possible she would come to all, and toast me as only she could. With a funny poem. An outlandish story. A full recycle bin of bottles and “dinner out on the town” as she loved to say even though I hadn’t lived in anything close to a real town in over 30 years. We wrote three guest lists to include her old friends and a zillion of mine. She’d say a zillion and I wouldn’t notice because, yes, I say it too.
Splinted throughout my mom’s last year, she’d bemoan the fact that she hadn’t really taught us about prayer. She would say, “All I did was teach you how to have fun.” (My eldest son gave a beautiful eulogy challenging this notion, and stating that beyond prayer, she taught us about dedication, about family, and giving, qualities far more important than kneeling, but that’s a side note.) Yes, fun. Actually not an easy quality to teach, but this came naturally from watching her quick smile, her delight with living, her joy with new situations. Fearless.
She’d be thrilled with whoever walked through the door. She’d chat it up with everyone. She’d work the room. Not because she was a great listener but because she was infected by curiosity and storytelling and communion of any sort. And I’d watch. And I’d smile because with her in the room a party was always greater than not.
But she didn’t make it… So, I had to don her gold on my own. Wear that easy smile. Laugh that big laugh, the one that echoed into conversations clear across a crowded room of party goers. A tall order. A week ago I felt felled by the strain of such a command performance without her. Uncertain I could actually pull it off. Be the mirth. Be that party loving me without her nearby, without her constancy. But somewhere between my love baking for an entire day making the yummiest chocolate and pink frosted three layer cake, getting my hair done at the salon, finding that gold dress in my closet, and applying the red lipstick, I felt sure, yes certainly certain, I could do this. I had to do this. Each bright face that walked across my threshold amplified more and more joy. Effortlessly I turned 60. With ease I said yes.
Love. Love. Love. This is 60. I’m not looking back. She’d never stand for that.