Turning 30-Ah-Who-Cares-What

My new shiny red slice of freedom, old school style. (With my three-year-old’s slice of freedom in the background.)

I’m turning 30-ah-who-cares-what tomorrow.  Honestly, who really cares what the number is.  Well, I guess the DMV cares about my age, but that’s only because I just had to identify myself for my new MN license.

I’ve decided that my new age is “Adult.”  Really, that’s about good enough.  Nobody asks for ID if I buy alcohol, nobody looks at me strangely for being a parent, but nobody’s looking to put me in a nursing home.  Let’s see… I believe that makes me…adult.  Once you turn 21, the importance of the number dissolves.  The only time adults really make any to-do about a birthday is when it ends in a something-0.

This isn’t a big something-0 year.  No black t-shirts tell me that I’m over the hill.  There’s no milestone where I’m suddenly supposed to feel sad and old.  For the record, I don’t plan on a crisis at 40, either.  Life’s too interesting for that.

Even though this isn’t a milestone birthday, I felt inspired to do something to commemorate my birthday this year.  Last fall, while brushing my teeth in the bathroom, I made a solemn vow to myself: I will go kayaking for my birthday.  Knowing we were moving near Lanesboro, MN, I envisioned a solo kayaking adventure: an afternoon with no kids.  Just me, water, a paddle, just enough excitement, and some time for my thoughts. That was my plan months ago.

The clock just flipped over to 12:01, so it is officially now my birthday for the next 23 hours and 59 minutes.

So, here are my plans for the day, that is, after I go to bed and get up in the morning: do the dishes I should’ve done last night, but instead watched the Olympics.  Wash the laundry I didn’t get to last week because there were too many other fun things to do (like going out for lunch while my mother-in-law from Montana spent a week visiting us). Clean the bathroom that was on my list for yesterday, and clear off the two pesky counters that I’ve meant to clear off since we moved in. Oversee the kids getting their chores done.  And of course, feed kids nutritious, delicious meals that fully utilize the boatloads of produce in our fridge.

Anyway, not on the list is kayaking.  It’s probably not happening this weekend, either. My Saturday plan includes a list of food and prep for our Baptism Birthday Bash extravaganza on Sunday.  And I’m ok with that.  The work is for a good cause.  It’s our baby girl’s baptism, and Sunday also happens to be my husband’s birthday.  He conveniently has his birthday just three days after mine, so the birthday party is part mine, too.

Kayaking?  Penciled in the agenda for next weekend.

That’s really how it is, though, on your “Adult” birthday.  Being “adult-years-old” means that there is a good chance that your plans and desires are inextricably entagled with the plans and desires of family and coworkers (which, for me, are one and the same). This is the age of compromise.  I’d love to go snorkel Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, but that really just isn’t feasible right now.  I can, however, take the kids’ new snorkel sets to the St. Charles pool.

So, yes, my birthday plans got bumped.  And nobody (including me) really cares what my official age is, but that isn’t to say that I’ve thrown in the towel.  Reaching the age of Adult does not mean “curl up and die.”  I’m really quite happy to be alive.

I think one of the most fruitless, ridiculous things people can say is, “I’m old,” especially when they’re not.  It’s a waste of time.  I’m never going to be younger than I am right now.  Why would I want to waste that wishing it was 10 or 20 years ago?  When I hear someone long before retirement talking about how OLD they are, I just can’t help but wonder if they’ll be wishing back their 40s and 50s when they’re in their 80s.

So today, it’s my birthday, and I’m not old.  I know it.  The gray hairs that I douse with hair color every so often beg to differ, but who cares.  My legs still run.  My pants still fit.  I’m thankful for my health.  I have a cousin my age with cystic fibrosis.  Her life is a constant battle for health.  She spends weeks, even months, in the hospital at a time.  I’m in awe of her perseverance, optimism, and emotional strength.  She fights endlessly to just have a normal life.  How can I be anything but grateful for my own healthy life?

If I had a soundtrack for my birthday, I’d play “Blessed” by Brett Dennen.  By name, the song sounds like it might be a pious church hymn, but it’s actually a little acoustic guitar ditty that instantly makes me want to groove in the kitchen, even before my cup of coffee.

I welcome the sun
the clouds and rain
the wind that sweeps the sky clean
and lets the sun shine again.
This is the most magnificent
life has ever been
here is heaven and earth
and the brilliant sky in between.
Blessed is this life
and I’m gonna celebrate being alive.

Welcoming clouds and rain is what really strikes me, contentment in the storm.  Any fool can be happy in the sunshine.  I am blessed.  I was blessed with three puddles of pee on the floor today.

Later in the day, I was blessed with an outdoor performance of the play “Cold Winter Mountains.”  That play on my porch, set in the arctic (then the desert, the rain forest, and the ocean) featured three of my favorite child actors.  They performed stirring roles as penguins, cheetahs, poison tree frogs, kangaroos, and killer whales and more.  The play dissolved in the 4th Act over a disagreement over the handling of stage props. “I need the basketball hoop DOWN! That’s my burrow.”  “Well, I don’t like it tipped over.  I need it UP!” Ah, actors and their drama.  I am blessed to have them in my life.

What more could I ask for on my 30-ah-who-cares-what birthday?

A Birthday Epilogue

Turns out, my birthday was far more grand than I ever asked for or expected.  The day after my birthday, my husband and I went out to celebrate our mutual birthdays.  It was our first date in 15 months: the last date we had was our anniversary last year when we took along our then three-week-old baby girl.  On our honest-to-goodness REAL date, I downed a great plate of spicy Mexican at Rubio’s in Winona, MN, we shared a bird bath-sized margarita, and took in the view from the lookout at Garvin Heights.  We rode home in the pickup with the windows down and the radio cranked up, side by side on the bench seat.

Happy birthdays to us…Mexican style.

When we approached my brother’s house where my niece was babysitting our kids, Jarred told me, “I got you a present.” I responded, “Yeah, going out was great.”  As we pulled into the driveway, he said, “No, I got you a present.”  And there, under the light of the garage, shining like a beacon in the night, was a SHINY RED BIKE, complete with a bow.  For me?  For me! It’s the quintessential red bike, looking like the kind that a kid would’ve found under the tree on Christmas morning in the 1950s.  A big thank you goes out to Rosie, who had the bike for sale, and to my husband, Jarred, for thinking of me and getting it as a surprise.

I of course had to immediately take it out for a victory lap spin around the block, out in the dark, under the street lights.

Jarred tucked the bike into the minivan before loading up the kids.  As I drove the kids home, I rested my hand on the cool metal of the gleaming red fender the whole way back, a ten-year-old girl with a new bike.  And after I tucked the kids in bed, I took it out for a cruise on the moonlit road in front of our house, because I’m gonna celebrate being alive.

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