I may not remember the day I was born, but I distinctly remember my twelfth birthday. First and foremost, I remember the hot sting of my older brother’s hand across my backside. Twelve smacks. “One for each year, baby sister,” he’d said. When I showed my mom the puffy red hand mark on my right butt cheek, she threw him out of the house for the rest of the weekend. I mean, literally…she pushed, pulled, and kicked him out. Not an easy task considering the family genetics. Have I mentioned I’m the only girl in a family of four kids? Also, my mom is a badass…and she did this very motherly act of love for both my brother and for me.
On that same day, I remember staring into the mirror. It would be the last year of my childhood. Thirteen was on the horizon. ThirTEEN. If I could just make it one more year, life would really begin. I just knew it. What would I look like in another year…as a TEEN? Heck, what would I look like at twenty? Hopefully not much like aforementioned brother who at ten years my senior was twenty two. I specifically remember peering into blue-green eyes and wondering, “What will a birthday be like when I’m old? You know, like thirty? I’ll have lived a whole life by then.”
This memory makes me laugh out loud for several reasons. There is the obvious—I thought thirty was old. Then there is the real knee slapper—I thought I would have this whole life thing figured out, checked off, and accomplished by thirty.
This week I will celebrate my thirty-fourth birthday. I think my twelve-year-old self would be relieved to know I’ve made it this far. As for what I look like, I definitely have the “mom-vibe”, but it’s justified. After all…I am a mom. She’d be glad to know I’m still quite adventurous, opinionated, and passionate. The highlight, I’m sure, would be the fact that I remain close friends with several BFFs I shared my deepest and darkest secrets with in the summer of 1993, and I’ve added to that list of soul-sisters. She would likely be disappointed I’m not a world-famous horse trainer, in addition to the fact that despite Lenny Kravitz’s split with Lisa Bonet, he did not marry yours truly.
Twenty-two birthdays will soon have come and gone since that day in front of my mirror. Among the many memories there are two particular events that have truly touched me. They have changed not just my birthday, but my life.
About this time thirteen years ago, I prepared to travel to Coors Field in downtown Denver to meet my fiancé’s best friends’ fiancé. You get that? Hubby’s brother from another mother, yeah…his soon-to-be wife. The heat was on. Mark and Mark have been card-carrying best friends since their big-wheel days. If I didn’t like this gal, I was in for marriage trouble before our marriage even began. I was mildly terrified. We said our hellos and embarked on safe chitchat. “How’s your wedding planning?” Somewhere around the third inning, the boys switched seats so the girls could sit together. When the extra innings were finished, well into the late hours of the night, the two of us were still talking.
We haven’t run out of things to say to one another in all the years since…except for that one phone call…about four years ago.
About this time four years ago, I prepared to travel to California for my college roommate’s wedding. She was the last of our tightly knit fabulous foursome to get hitched. She’d stood by me the day I married, and I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to do the same for her—on my birthday of all days. A week before my departure, I received a phone call.
I cried the entire flight to California. Sometimes words can’t speak for you. Sometimes your heart says it all silently through falling tears.
I was on my way to celebrate one of the happiest of days in the life of one friend, and I would be half way across the country while another friend lived one of the saddest of life’s days as she buried her newborn baby. Both would happen on my birthday.
At twelve, I never thought of all the things a single day might mean. At twelve, my birthday was…mine. At thirty, it became so much more—so much more of life to celebrate and mourn.
A birth. A wedding. A funeral.
No, at thirty-four I still don’t have life figured out…checked off…or accomplished. Twelve-year-old me would probably be disappointed. I’d tell her, I’m getting closer to figuring it out. I’d tell her there is one thing I know for sure…
Life is about love. I’d tell her that a single day can hold just as much hope as heartbreak, and both are signs of a love of life. I’d tell her life is not lived by checking things off, nor by the accumulation of years. Life is found in the collection of single moments so full of love they can carry a person through a lifetime—however long or devastatingly short that may be.
This year, when I blow out candles, I will close my eyes and think of all the celebrations the day has possibly held—all the life that is remembered and celebrated, all the love that has been lived on the day I was born.