Today begins another trip around the sun.
The snow in our backyard is melting, revealing layers upon layers of dog poo — the remnants of a long, cold, record-setting season — measuring the winter of our discontent like rings on a tree.
But it’s the first day of spring, my birthday, and there are buds on branches.
I am always a little shocked when my day rolls around to realize how old — and conversely, how young — I am. The passage of time is tricky that way.
Some memories are still so close, I can almost touch them…
… Resting my head in my mom’s lap, fingers weaved through the holes in a handmade afghan, watching “Laverne & Shirley.”
… The feel of a basketball beneath my fingers, dribbling in the back alley until the daylight gave way to dusk.
… Reading Judy Blume and VC Andrews in our apartment laundry room, tucked into a storage cell with a flashlight, lulled into my secret book-worlds by the hum of the washing machines.
… The bedroom my sister and I shared, decorated with comforters and curtains from my Granny, divided down the middle by masking tape — her side, cluttered with clothes and make-up and gifts from her boyfriend; mine, obsessively clean, with sports ribbons tacked to a bulletin board in neat rows.
… Riding my bike — the one I won in a Jim Dandy coloring contest — to Hooks to buy my mom a carton of Merit Ultra Lights, and to treat myself to a sour apple Jolly Rancher with the change.
Other memories — the most important — are etched in my heart…
October 15, 1994: For better, for worse. (And honestly, he gets the worst of it. I’m crazy, emotional, up and down, dramatic, and often fetal. Thank God he’s got a strong constitution and a taste for good Scotch.)
November 6, 1996: Samuel Joseph
February 9, 1999: Augustus Charles
July 17, 2000: Mary Claire
May 22, 2002: George Anderson
And still so many others (memories, not kids) are yet to come.
I’ve noticed at 44 that my body is demonstrating undeniable signs of aging. The laugh lines around my eyes, I embrace. They tell a lovely story. But the scar on my neck? The one from the coffee I spilled on myself as a toddler? It was never really visible until I started growing my midlife neck wattle. Now if the light hits it just right, it’s all I can see, that turkey-inspired skin. I don’t really love it. And the size and shape of my backside? Well, let’s just say I had a dream this week that I grew so large, I had to walk through all entrances sideways. Perhaps, though, that’s a side effect of Oreos versus years.
Birthdays are always a time of reflection for me…
What have I done?
And there is so much left to do.
Yesterday, I struggled — full-on-tears-and-snot struggled — with the fact that I’ve been writing my whole life and that I still remain traditionally unpublished. (Thank you, Rachel — a million times over — for talking me off the ledge.) This gig is hard. Really hard. It’s not working-in-a-coal-mine hard or being-deployed-overseas hard, don’t get me wrong. But it’s emotionally draining. It’s sometimes tough to remember that when a gatekeeper says “no,” it’s about the work, not about me. The two often seem interchangeable. A writing life brings about the highest highs and the lowest lows. I’ve gotten so close to publication that I can taste it, and the rejection remains bitter on my tongue. There are days, experiences that lift me and others that stomp me into the dirt. We love it! We hate it! You’re almost there! You’re still a million miles away! We want it! We’d rather chew our own arms off than take it!
And really, isn’t that just life? Don’t we — in whatever capacity — all experience the roller-coaster? And wouldn’t it be tragic if the ride never launched?
And so, I enter year 44 with turkey skin under my chin and pen in hand. It is, no doubt, what I was sent here to do (write, that is… not resemble a large bird). Like a good soldier, I will continue to do it. Word by word. My soul, after all, knows it’s not even a choice. It’s a calling. 44 years ago today, it was bestowed upon me. And for that birth gift, I remain forever grateful.