A milestone birthday is creeping up. It doesn’t feel like I have been at this life for almost 70 years. Most of it has been spent looking ahead at what’s next - going to school, getting my driving license, graduation, new jobs, vacation, marriage, kids, and then what my kids needed and finally the much anticipated state of retirement. I experienced a wild euphoria with the gift of free time, that I had never allowed myself in the first three quarters of my life. This euphoria drove me to travel, join, volunteer, reconnect, and look ahead to what’s next. During this transition process, I have come to realize that keeping my life interesting is more about staying in the moment than looking ahead. I cherish every new encounter and acquaintance, and am rebuilding my social network to support this final quarter of my life. However . . . milestones stimulate reflection and that is good for the soul and often provides mysterious direction for the future.
The first birthday party I recall was when I turned 6 in first grade. My mother organized a house party and I recall we played games - Drop clothespins into a Milk Bottle, Pin the Tail on the Donkey - you get the picture. Sounds like fun and she meant well and I probably begged for the party, but the truth is, it was awkward. Tenth party was better. We played the same games. It’s what birthday parties were in those days.
Sixteen. November 23, 1963. If that doesn’t strike a chord, on November 22 that year, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The party went on, but it was gloomy at best. Even at that tender age, we were sharply affected by that event and were distracted from the typical teen activities of the day, trying to make sense of it. I was forever a news junkie after that event and can’t recall who even came to the party that night.
I am grateful to be approaching 70 healthy and happy. However big parties are not my thing. From about 30 on I did not allow my birthday to be celebrated much more that a special dinner. I just wanted to pass through life . . . But now I celebrate each year that passes and look forward to another. My family threw a surprise dinner party at a fine restaurant for my 40th where a pink orangutan delivered helium balloons. I tactfully informed them in advance of turning 50 that I did not want such hoohah! And it passed quietly. It pays to speak up!
Another surprise was organized by my husband when I turned 60 - a full summer weekend of immediate family from out of town. Since it was a good three months prior to the actual date of my birthday, it was a complete shock. My kids, my mother, my sisters all cooperated in the elaborate assemblage of the 17 people who were closest to me in my life, most of whom had not yet visited us in Rhode Island. It was very heartwarming event and I recall that birthday with fond memories. Can it really only be 10 years ago? It seems like a lifetime since that day, so much has happened.
A big party at this stage in my life seems redundant, so I have put the word out that I will be commemorating this milestone birthday in my own way - finishing up a project that has been in process for almost 40 years. I will self-publish a children’s book that I have been working on since my teaching Kindergarten days, Beginning With Xs and Os: The Evolution of the Alphabet. The text is finally finished and an illustrator has been hired, so I must get back to the moment - there is still much to learn and do to accomplish this task by November 23. No turning back now!