…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.