Birthdays can be difficult, even depressing for some people, but I’ve always enjoyed mine. Better than the alternative, right? It’s also a good excuse to spoil myself for a week or so. If I see a book or a purse or some gourmet chocolate I’d like to have, I buy it. I think it’s important for adults to enjoy their birthdays; we so often get caught up in our work and responsibilities that we forget the fun stuff. At least I do. The past half year since the fire has been overwhelming at times, even after moving back to my house, that I’ve neglected taking care of myself. But on the third weekend back, the weekend before my birthday, I finally felt at home. I had unpacked enough personal belongings to feel at home and rediscovered some favorite objects that had survived, and I felt content, almost as if I had never been away.
Almost, but not completely. I’m still getting used to my house again. Doors open in unexpected ways and light switches are not where I remember them. I reach for glasses in the wrong cabinet and I’m still learning how to use the new oven. My closet is finally organized, which helps my morning routine, though sometimes I get to work and realize I’ve forgotten to cut off the little plastic tag that the clothing restoration people attached to every garment they treated. I guess that’s one way to keep track of how often I wear something. If I take out a top or skirt next year and discover a tag, I’ll know that I haven’t worn it in a long time and should probably get rid of it.
This year is the first time I’ve had a real empty nester birthday. After my daughter went to college last year, I thought my nest would be empty, but my son was going through some difficult times and visiting quite a lot; a month later he asked to move back home. Now he’s on his feet again, more or less, and living close to campus. No kids at home now, just two dogs. A month or so ago, I thought I would throw a combined birthday-welcome home party, but in the end, I let it go. The house is 98% finished, but I didn’t feel settled enough to play host after two weeks. Some furniture is still being repaired and the fireplace has no mantel. The yard looks awful after a summer of drought and neglect, but then, many other yards look bad, too, if the owners followed the water restrictions. I’ll have a get-together next month, before the winter holidays begin.
My birthday was quiet but nice. It landed on a Monday, the dreaded back-to-the grind day for many, but I work with a lot of good people and they made my day special. A colorful helium-filled birthday balloon floated upwards from my desk, making it easy for everyone to spot where the cake and goodies would be. Cards and a few gifts were waiting for me, too. Colleagues took me out to lunch twice during the week. That evening I talked to each kid, opened some birthday cards, and tied the balloon to the hall closet door knob where I could see it. I figure as long as the birthday balloon is still, I should be able to celebrate. The following weekend I met friends for brunch and I may have done a bit of shopping afterwards, mostly for the house not myself. It’s a real pleasure to buy little things for my house again. The biggest gift is being able to spend my birthday back in my own home. Just walking around the house brings me joy, and I see the birthday balloon, still floating in the hallway a week and a half past my birthday. I may have to pay the bookstore a visit after all.