Jun 17, 2010

June 17, 2010

Today is my 46th birthday. (As well as the birthday of Barry Manilow, M.C. Escher, Igor Stravinsky, my friend Nicolle's mother and, if rumor is correct, Jesus.) I post this not so I can solicit birthday wishes --though those are always nice to receive-- but because in the past few years, birthdays have become an odd and reflective experience for me. Definitely of the love/hate variety. Like any woman approaching a (ahem) certain age, I’m ambivalent about marking the passage of time. And yet at the same time, a big part of me never expected to live this long. My mother was 42 when she died, and until I turned 43, I could never imagine myself outliving her. Every year, every month, every day since 42 has been a gift.

How have I passed today? Well, by this point a birthday on a weekday is just another work day, and that’s pretty much what this has been. Took Maya to the dentist this morning, stopped at the mall for lunch and to buy a Father’s Day gift for Uzi, picked up Eden from the bus stop, dropped both kids at Uzi’s office, and hoofed it over to Culver City for the faculty meeting that kicks off the ten-day Antioch MFA residency. I felt completely dorky telling anyone it was my birthday, so I didn’t mention it. Buy my two kids think that having to work on one’s birthday is an absolute crime against humanity, and they’re cooking up something special for tonight. I know this because when I called home to say I was on my way, there was an unnaturally joyous, “Wow! Mom! Great!” and then a request to meet them at Topanga State Beach at exactly 6:40 p.m. instead.

It was only 5:15 when I called, so I’ve stopped in Venice at what used to be the Novel Café (and now looks the same but has an entirely different name) for a coffee and macaroon to pass the time. I got the smart idea to put some cinnamon in my coffee but the shaker released a whole lot of cinnamon all at once, so now I’m drinking a cup of cinnamon with coffee. It’s not bad, actually. Might even become an annual birthday drink, who knows?

I’m sitting at a round tiled table right in the window like a writer on display. Just outside the window two beach dudes are sitting on wicker chairs talking to everyone who passes by. One of them is wearing a pirate’s hat. The other looks like Thomas Hayden Guest with dreadlocks. I’m pretty sure it isn’t Thomas Hayden Guest with dreadlocks. He also has some pretty gnarly tattoos up both arms that look like a cross between Chinese symbols and death-metal threats. People are biking past, walking home from work, driving by with Lakers flags stuck to the window frames of their cars. It’s like a big, colorful celebration of life at 6 p.m. on a bright Thursday evening, and reminds me of when I lived on Washington Square and used to sit outside on the brownstone steps and watch the whole world go by.

I’ve got another twenty minutes before I need to get back in the car and find out what’s waiting at the beach. With Maya in charge, it could be anything at all. It’s so rare to have twenty completely uncalled for minutes these days, I’m not really sure how to spend them. Or actually, I do. It’s the novel café. And I’m supposed to be writing my first novel. So here goes. Twenty minutes. Birthday pages. Let’s go.


Leslie said...

The year I turned 40 was the year I, "outlived," my mother. That was a hard year. Harder, though, was the year my daughter was two...the age I was when my mother died. Suddenly, I began to mourn her loss in a tangible way, instead of just longing for the idea of, "mother," that I'd had up to that point. Hope your day....and the year to come will be filled with far more sweet than anything else! Happy birthday!

Carrie Wilson Link said...

A belated happy birthday wish for you!

The cinnamon coffee? I think if you decide to go big with the birthday drink, you can do better than that.

Hope the surprise was wonderful!


An Unlikely Retirement said...

Happy birthday, Hope. I am now two years older than my mother ever was. You are right - each day is a gift.

Just One Foot said...

Happy Birthday, a bit late, I'm afraid.

I, too, hope the surprise was so amazing and wonderful (or so simple and perfect) that you just haven't found the time to post what it was.

I still have my mom's 'death age' on the horizon. But this year I've made huge strides in believing I will outlive her. I'm planning for the fun things I'll do in my fifties, not sitting around clinging to a hope that I'll actually see them.

I'm happy for you, and your simple, wonderful birthday. I sure hope it was a special one. :)


Anonymous said...

Happy Milestone Birthday Hope... on this July 12th, my daughter's b'day and on the date of your mother's death. Very odd coincidences that I picked up your book today. As I'm reading your book, I am shaking and I feel like crying and I feel angry, but I also feel like you understand.

I know today may be a hard day for you, as my mother too died and I relive the day each year. Know that what you have written has touched my life and I thank you for that. ...Kim

Hope Edelman said...

Kim, it's so kind of you to post today. Yes, it's the 29th anniversary of my mother's death today. I can't believe it's been that many years already. But as I wrote to my siblings this morning, that gives her plenty of time to be doing good things in the Elsewhere. I'll be planting flowers today, as I often do on July 12th. And now will also be thinking of your daughter--happiest of birthdays to her today.

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