There was a time…

…when I celebrated my birthday with my brother and sister and Halloween, all rolled into one. My mother, that feisty, bright and whimsical champion of pristine waters and tall trees, never had much patience for the commotion and stickiness of small children and so, after some mid-winter concessions to another sort of commotion and stickiness, she had all her children with my father in the witching season. She cleverly invented the "every other year" rule and on those odd years there would be a big party with a motley assortment of disproportionate children dressed in costumes, bobbing for apples. The only other birthday rule I remember was that we had our choice of dinner menu and in this I rejoiced: saved like a prisoner on death row from that gray tuna noodle casserole, replete with canned peas and potato chips, I always chose Suzie Q’s fish and chips and devil’s food cake with white frosting.

Five years ago, I had the best birthday ever. A number of months before I had decided it was the right time to pull my meager self-saved retirement funds from a lackadaisical stock market and invest in real estate. At 50 years of age I was single for many years and not unhappy about that. I had been self-supporting and hard working since I was 16 and the time was ripe for a little luxury. I wanted a place of my own, a room with a view, a waterside retreat with maybe a crane or a loon or two.

On September 10, 2001 I found, after many exhaustive treks every single Friday afternoon for months, the little haven that would become my Wit’s End. I signed a sales agreement that committed me to withdraw my life savings in exchange for 300 feet of private lake front, enough water lilies to clog any boat motor and the largest flock of Sandhill Cranes in southeastern Michigan. Before I would get to the bank the towers fell and the market crashed but by the time of my 51st birthday I was the proud and happy owner of that little cottage.

You’ll recall that I have also enjoyed the company of the best women anywhere- smarter and funnier, stronger and more beautiful than all the other women in the world. We formed that motley group called BCMA (Book Club, My Ass) and curiously enough, many of us were born in that witching season.

The first year of Wit’s End they all came out and helped me clean away the crust and odor of previous owners from toilet and frig and we cracked open the champagne around a giant bonfire. Over the past five years we have always had a seasonal bash of some sort, with pajamas and pumpkins and bonfires and Audrey’s Cloud Cake (the devilishly bittersweet chocolate gateau with mountains of fresh whipped cream that is the grown-up version of my childhood favorite). These are some of the very best memories of my grown-up life.

Subsequently and unexpectedly and probably with some kind of wonderfully divine intervention, I met Rich in April of 2002 and starting that October I spent the actual day of my birthday on Maui. For four years we would be on the island for business pleasure, the Xterra Triathlon. I would "snorkel up" early in the morning and see what flashes of color and life the good Lord had spread for me, under the sea. More than once I’ve thought, "Now THIS is some birthday gift!"

Birthdays are nothing less or more than milestones and markers along the way as we grow and change. I usually like them, mine in particular because, well- you know, I can relate to it so easily.

The vote is still out on this one. Today, coincidentally, I will close on the sale of Wit’s End. It is all happening with an exchange of notarized and FedEx-ed paperwork and not with the pop of a cork. That golden pond is going to be a beautiful memory, a symbol of prosperity and independence that I achieved for myself.  I can’t care for her or appreciate her from this distance and relief from the more arduous facts of life will now come, for me, at the Florida bungalow. And no, I’m not on Maui. Rich is-all together now?- out of town on new and different business. (He did surprise me by catching an early flight for the black-tie event over the weekend; we were a vision in tux and velvet and yes, high heels…)

My sister sent me a most wonderful housewarming/birthday gift- one of promise and hope: a beautiful assortment of exquisite spring bulbs from White Flower Farms to go in the courtyard. My step-daughter called last night from California with good wishes and thoughts. A new friend called and asked me to go to Greektown with her for dinner. I bought an Amtrak ticket to go to Audrey’s in a couple weeks for the BCMA party (I’m certain she’ll make Cloud Cake). And just a moment ago- as I was finishing this up- the Snarl called, singing and laughing at the top of her lungs. She yelled "Go to the zoo and let the sea lions sing to you!" and she promised to be online tonight for a live video chat.  My goodness, that child is full of life.

Come to think of it, maybe the vote IS in on this one.Witsendend

24 responses to “There was a time…

  1. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Darling!

    I hope you share it with Zoe, because I could not be happier than if she was a bit (or a lot) like you. Plus, you know, I’m sick of being pregnant.

    I hope your day is full of many more spectacular moments, and I hope you don’t ruin a single one of them by wondering whether or not you’re worthy, or about what may come next. *hugs*

  2. Vicki, have a wonderful birthday (I don’t know the exact date) and celebrate the sale of your golden pond home, whether you feel like it or not. I undoubtedly will free you up for greater vistas (in FL or other exotic places).

    Too bad Rich is where he is – without you. I can definitely vouch for it being a perfect place to celebrate any grand occasion!

    Re your comment: you would have loved the soap there. At the Park, it was Aromatherapy soap and in Paris it was lemon grass! Had I known you like it, I would have saved some for you, but I wouldn’t have known where to send it, since you have thus far, denied my request for your new address. Boo, hiss!

    P.S. This is an excellent post.

  3. Happy Birthday! I just saw an email from you pop up! Isn’t that funny timing?

    I am a little weepy about your selling Wit’s End. Must be PMS, right?

    Hmmm, I need to look up train fares, don’t I?

  4. Oops, I misread. Dan – not Rich!

    I won’t ask how many, because I still think it’s not as many as mine. Or maybe just one or two more… but who is counting at this point.

    You caught my post at a moment before I had everything in……

    I’m certain you made sure that Wit’s End went to someone who will love the house and lake and all the wildlife just as much as you do! Now you can make the bungalow a haven…. and the sea lions. Do they have sea lions in Florida? If so, you’ll be closer…. and Sterling…. my hearthrob… you’ll be able to see him again.

    I’ll make an angel food cake with fluffy white frosting and eat it just for you!!!!

  6. Happy birthday. Thanks for a look into your past. I started reading your posts as soon as I started blogging a year ago and have followed along with your mom and Bud.

    Have a happy birthday. Enjoy every moment!

  7. Happy birthday, Vicki! I will toast you with a glass of wine at dinner tonight. Hey, I have an idea! How ’bout you post that cool picture where you are wearing a garland of leaves on your head? I know Bonnie wants to see it again.

  8. Miz Mary, you have a memory like an elephant.

  9. Vote? I was hoping to steer clear of political blogs. Way too much political propaganda on TV.

    My mother’s birthday was yesterday. I couldn’t visit in person but I did send a card. BTW, the weather here in Ann Arbor is a bit too frigid for October. But sunny today.

  10. HAPPY BIRTHDAY VICKI! I believe the Snarl is right – go to the zoo and let the sea lions sing to you. Much love and a big hug. Kristen

  11. Wish we could have been together for our birthdays, but it sounds like you had fun anyway. I played 18 holes, was treated to lunch, drink a frozen margarita, napped and went to a reception.( I also ordered my own cake ) A good day. Congrats on the sale of the cottage. I have good memories there like the night we stayed up all night to see the meteor shower and the fog never lifted, my store bought birthday cake, bonfires, boating, etc. It was a good time. Now you are making new memories which will be different, but just as good. give the baby gorilla a hug for me and tell him I’m coming to see him in Dec. Love, Toni

  12. How like you to give me the gift of hope on your own birthday.


  13. Happy Birthday, Old Friend, and many, many happy returns. Miss you like crazy. Hope that all is well. R

  14. You are a blessing to your family, friends, and communities, dear Vicki, and you deserve the happiest birthday ever. What a joy it is to know you!

    The Sandhill Cranes flying over Cedar Lake brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye.

    Lastly, because I feel so sorry that the Tigers lost to the CARDS on your big day, I am moved to compose an ode.

    To Our Vicki or When I Said I Wanted To See More Of You, That Is Not What I Had In Mind:

    You promise a photograph
    But do not deliver.
    There is an old picture that
    Could make some shiver.
    (And move gentlemen
    To endure heart’s quiver.)

    Our Vicki celebrating the Autumn of life
    In a pose quaranteed to cause no strife.
    For upon her head is a garland of leaf,
    And, down below, not even a sheath!

    Skin like butter;
    Hearts aflutter!
    So sweet and fair;
    Book Club, My Derriere.
    (Bonne anniversaire!)

  15. Bon anniversaire! I love your sharing of memories, and the moving on that we all have to do in life. It’s normal, and natural, but I usually grieve for a while over it.

  16. Late to the party, but full of birthday wishes that are always on time. Hope you had a wonderful day, and I agree that Snarl’s suggestion for a chorus by sea lions is a fantastic idea. If you could record that, I’d love to hear it!

  17. Ain’t that all just too sweet? Nicely written, Al, and a happy happy birthstone to you.

  18. I’m a day late to the par-tee! But happy birthweek!

    We celebrate for a full week in my fam. Since it took close to two full days for both of my kids to be born, it seems appropriate!

    Happy, happy!

  19. Happy BD. Hope it’s a bright great year.

    (btw A lakefront property sounds like a good way to have spent one of them. 🙂 )

  20. Happy belated birthday!!!!…it’s nice to know you too are born during the month of October. I knew I liked you for some reason. I might be in Chi-town next month…actually, its nota might it’s a very strong probability helping the bro move into his new place, perhaps we can see each other? I’d love to see you again seeing how all I have is the home #.

  21. Ah, happy birthday (a day late, but still happy)! What a great post — marking milestones and staying open to wonderful, as-yet-unknown adventures and accomplishments. Thanks for sharing this! 🙂

  22. I hope your birthday was fantstic.

    I so look forward to our posts.

  23. Happy birthday my sweet! This calls for more wine. Send me your address please 🙂

  24. Oh my, I am late on this one. I found this note at the bottom of 207 E-Mails. My alltime record. A very happy very late birthday to you. I have this feeling like you escaped in the nick of time. All hell is breaking loose and Chicago is the best city in the world! I hope I get to see you sometime soon. XOMarcy

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