I like to believe my birthday is magic. I tried to explain this to Kyle and if he didn’t get it, he at least did a really good job of smiling and nodding. But I’m totally serious. My birthday is magic. Maybe yours is, too. It’s not that the 14th of August is out of the ordinary exactly. It’s just that every ordinary thing is better on my birthday. The cup of coffee I drank yesterday might be the exact same size and brew today. But today it’s my birthday coffee. Food tastes better; it’s birthday food. Kisses seem sweeter; they’re birthday kisses. Clothes fit better…you get the idea.
And on the other hand, my birthday is a kind of melancholy thing. Every year I find myself wondering if being a year older should really mean something. Like, what is the great significance of this year that’s passed? I should feel different. I should be suddenly MORE or BETTER. And maybe that’s why birthdays, even the magic ones, always secretly feel like a letdown.
The other two in the morning when I couldn’t sleep, I propped my laptop up on the end of the bed and Googled, “on turning 25,” scouring the internets for a pithy list of all the things I should now know that I am about to a non-24-year-old. I did read this very comforting article. There’s some good advice in there and it made me smile.
When I was little, I liked to play house with my friends. Probably like lots of you, for my friends and me, playing house mainly consisted of making up elaborate identities for ourselves and then putting on clothes and lipstick that reaffirmed our belief in those identities. In case you were wondering, my name was always Lisa and I was always 25. Lisa was a very glamorous 25 year-old and she really had life figured out. Lucky Lisa. 25 feels like a strange turning point somehow. Maybe because it’s the last milestone year (I can rent cars now…what’s left? Nothing but the senior menu at Denny’s, that’s what.) Maybe because it’s the first year I’ve understood the possibility of not being young. I guess the thing is, as a child, 25 was the pinnacle of a far-off adulthood I couldn’t wait to have as my very own. 25 was IT. And here it is. I want to go back, look little Elizabeth square in the face, and ask, “Now what, smarty pants?”
Every year on my birthday, I re-read one of my favorite poem/stories of all time, Eleven by Sandra Cisneros. In it, she writes.
What they don't understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you're eleven, you're also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one. And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don't. You open your eyes and everything's just like yesterday, only it's today. And you don't feel eleven at all. You feel like you're still ten. And you are--underneath the year that makes you eleven. Like some days you might say something stupid, and that's the part of you that's still ten. Or maybe some days you might need to sit on your mama's lap because you're scared, and that's the part of you that's five. And maybe one day when you're all grown up maybe you will need to cry like if you're three, and that's okay. […] Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one.
Maybe you feel like this, too?
All of this rambling leads me to the thing I’m realizing about birthdays. I counted on my fingers and realized that today is the EIGHTH birthday I’ve spent with Kyle. We have this great day planned and I’ve spent weeks scoping out the places we’re going and the things we’ll do there. I’ve been saving this amazing bottle of wine for tonight and I’ve been internet-drooling over the cupcake menu at Blue Frost. But if everything goes wrong today, if the car won’t start, if the cupcakes are stale, if there’s a hailstorm, if the Redbox is all out of copies of The Artist, if the zombie apocalypse descends upon us, it’ll be a birthday zombie apocalypse. And it will be magic.
Here’s to another ring inside the tree trunk.