Birthday 55: A Season of Change and Celebration

My 5th birthday, full of anticipation, wearing a Koolaid mustache!

I can’t recall a time when I didn’t love hearing my birthday date, July 6th, said aloud!  Doesn’t everyone feel thatway? I don’t think it matters how old one gets, just hearing someone say your date can transport a person to, hopefully, some of the happiest moments of their lives. My birthday was often celebrated on July 4th, adding a little patriotic flavor to my identity!  I was a star-spangled girl! It was summer, and we were freer to just run in the sprinklers and dance on the lawn. Birthdays meant a homemade cake, a song just for you, a few goofy sister-made cards, and a happy mother with a good meal usually served in the basement, for it was the coolest room on a hot July day! Presents, usually small and personal, were a bonus.

On one birthday, while our family was vacationing in our rugged mid-Michigan cottage, my beloved grandmother came up to the woods on a surprise visit. She brought with her the softest, most beautiful pink baby doll that I had ever seen.  I loved dolls. I recall my elation at holding that box, wrapped in delicate pink flowered paper, and at holding that baby doll that I would tenderly love for many years.  On another birthday, 17 years ago, I went into labor and bore a robust baby boy…another beautiful birthday bundle that will be loved forever. Presents come in all packages, just like knowledge and wisdom, you may not know when it will arrive or how it will be wrapped, but it’s yours!

Birthdays, beyond the presents and cake, tend to make a person wish or reflect, maybe make a resolution as they move forward. I have my resolutions. But more than that, I have been awakened to the truth of time and what is real. The days of big dreaming (like what I want to be when I grow up?) are pretty much over. There is no going backwards, either. Menopause, so dreaded and joked about, is as important and troublesome as any other stage in life. It’s a vehicle, sometimes a terrible ride that leads us to clarity and a better understanding of who we are.  It is a seasonal gift, an awareness of one’s own reality and the paper it’s wrapped in.

I have learned so much in my 55 years of life, and still so many questions remain unanswered. Thank God there are still mysteries to unravel! Aging can be difficult, but in a society that glorifies youth and perfection, I am still proud to announce my age. I’ve earned the number and discounts!I’ve always disliked the ’29 and holding’ birthday comment.  I WAS 29 (and pretty darn cute), and I WAS 39 (with a newborn baby), and I WAS 49 already. I’m good with 55. I earned it! I figured I survived growing up in a big middle-class family in the 60s, walked with confidence and boldness through the 70s and the feminist movement, was ‘green’ before organic was cool, marched, picketed, sang, wrote, and debated enough social and political reform to save a nation. I’ve driven thousands of miles and can read a map better than any GPS, was the ‘fastest runner’ already, and have felt the thrill of performing, applause, and publishing.  I don’t feel any need to revisit or relive those triumphs and rocky roads. I don’t have to prove anything. The gift that passing through menopause gives is this uplifting removal of pride and defensiveness about what you have done or who you have become. I’ve taken many of these cues from my 82-year-old mother who ‘rolls with it’ better now than she ever did when she had great legs and energy to turn a house upside down on cleaning days!

A star-spangled 19th birthday with my sister Clara.

I’ve earned a four-year degree and have used my knowledge to help others.  I loved and lost more times than I can bear to count, been broke and, no doubt, will be again, been too far from ‘home’ with no way back, have raised three children through the high school years (good God, really there should be some type of an award or grant for that!), been on my knees crying out for help, and been the voice that has soothed others out of darkness and confusion. I am loved, have a proud legacy to leave with my children (and a few great recipes), and have an intelligent, loving companion for the next 30+ years who I know will wipe my ass when I can’t! It’s been tough and wonderful at the same time. But wrinkles on my neck? Laugh lines?  A belly? Forgetfulness?  Really?  Ha! Small beans! Such problems are trivial when we consider the bigger picture. I could dwell on the degrees I haven’t earned, the places I haven’t seen yet, the loves that have been lost, the opportunities missed. But what’s the point? I know that I have walked a path that no one else has ever step upon, my own life experience, that has molded my world into just what it was suppose to be, and it’s lovely acceptance of my truth.

On this birthday the picture is sweet, the gift is clear.  The presents have been coming in for the last few years through the challenges of ‘mid-life,’ wrapped in everything from romantic flowery fabric, sandy shoes, garbage bags, panty girdles, long phone conversations, bi-focal lenses, and tissues stained with tears; safely wrapped in the arms of my devoted family. I have been in the season of change and now I celebrate these gifts, these lessons that have helped me develop an appreciation for my life, the whole lot of it! Just like seeing that pink baby doll from my grandma, I am elated and filled with joy at receiving this gift of wisdom! Menopause, appropriately named “the change in life” has indeed changed me. Not for the worst, as society would have us think, but with a better understanding of who I have become and where I am on this brief journey.

I feel bolder than I did at 17, but not as foolish.  ~ Empowered, but not as controlling. ~Freer, but not as wild. ~Beautiful, but not as seductive.  ~Passionate, but not as angry. ~Older and uncertain about what the next years will bring, but not as frightened.  ~Just smarter and ready to do what I must to ensure I’m a vital part of this life I’ve built with my family.  As I bask in summer celebrations, I feel blessed on this mid-life birthday and wish for nothing more. Though a little crinkly-papered package to open is always a sweet surprise!

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5 thoughts on “Birthday 55: A Season of Change and Celebration

  1. Susan says:

    Lovely commentary on where you are. I can remember anxiously watching the news on my birthday just to hear Walter Cronkite say, “…and that’s the way it is, January second, 19xx.” Always gave me a thrill! Blessings on you all.

  2. Jill says:

    thoughtful, intuitive, relatable (is that a word?), captivating, poetic, moving, brilliant…as usual. happy 55th!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Happy Birthday my dear friend. Thank you for sharing your life’s journey. You have always been a very special friend who I thought about many times over the years. You are very blessed to have such beautiful and lovable children. They would say that they were the ones blessed to have a beautiful and lovable Mother such as you. Your friend, Carol p.s. Love the part about the “arse”….made me laugh!

  4. Carol says:

    The “anonymous” is from Carol Willis

  5. Anonymous says:

    Love your stories. It is as if I am taken there, in the moments of your life. Like a good book, that takes you on a journey, anxious to turn the next page to see where the story leads.

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