Tuesday, August 11, 2015

When I'm Sixty-Four

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a valentine
Birthday greetings, bottle of wine?
If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door?
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four?
-- Paul McCartney, John Lennon

I don't remember my first birthday, do you? Somewhere I have a photo of me on that day, a toddler with dark, curly ringlets staring at her first birthday cake, its candle alight. I suspect those first birthdays are probably more for mom and dad than they are for the birthday baby, as they celebrate one year of a new child -- especially a first one. But by the time I was four, birthdays had become a big deal, time to celebrate with my cousins. This photo makes no sense because no one in this picture deserved eight candles at that time!

And I would always celebrate with my very best childhood friend, Nancy. I remember this one, vaguely. Nancy and I were in our party dresses and she was so excited about her present, she helped me open it!

And of course, we had a party!

There was a party when I was five, too. The cousins were there and the neighbor kids. It was so many moons ago. But there were the party hats, the blowers, the ice cream. It was tradition!

I remember those times, the parties, the cake. When I turned nine -- or maybe 10 -- we took my friends to see Judy Holliday and Dean Martin to the movie "Bells are Ringing." This was largely because I wanted to be Judy Holliday. She was funny and pretty and could sing. Then we came back to the yard for cake my mom made and had a grand time. (I'm not sure anyone liked the movie as well as I did, but I didn't know Suzanne then. She would have appreciated it!)

Celebrating in 2011, with the Cleveland cousins!
The thing about birthdays is that as we age, we change not only our bodies, interests, intelligence and possibly friends, but we also change what I call our "birthday needs." It used to be all about the cake. When I was 18, my mom made me a styrofoam birthday cake because I was on some kind of weird diet (as usual) and she wanted me to have a cake with candles to make a wish on. I need to scan that photo, too! I made the wish but apparently it didn't stick because when I look at that photo, I think I looked great then. This year? Too much cake in my history!

Now, so many moons later, the focus has changed again. Not that the cake isn't wonderful and loved because face it, who doesn't love cake? But there's hygiene to consider! Four years ago, when Rick and my friends surprised me at 60, I suspect no one was thrilled to have me blow out the candles! My lung disease may not be contagious but it sure scares people and I tried to blow carefully with no spit. No spit is always a good goal for birthday blowing but when you are a coughing girl it is almost mandatory!

Tall candles (back maybe six, seven years ago when celebrating with Mark and Jan) are always helpful!

Then we went to the individual dessert phase!

Presents changed, too. First it was dolls and toys. And books. The desire for new books has never changed and never will! Then when we were older, clothes and jewelry. Things for the house. Trinkets and pretties. And of course, who doesn't love trinkets and pretties? But now I find we tend to exchange different, equally wonderful and treasured gifts. Lots of them are "consumables." An interesting condiment. Good wine. Socks, a personal favorite. Art supplies. Gift cards to our favorite spots. Gifts from the heart, made with love (like the handwarmers that I opened last night that were made by childhood friend Nancy, from these photos.) We've all realized that we "of a certain age" are cleaning our closets, taking carloads to Goodwill and are running out of space, even with the clean-outs. Sometimes what means the most is spending time with a friend -- a lunch or dinner out, a road trip, time to share and savor.

Nancy "helping" me open my birthday present at age 4.
Because like it or not, healthy or ill, we all know that each birthday celebrated is one closer to the countdown of no birthdays. It could be tomorrow, next year, five years or ten years or twenty. Those of us in our sixties -- it will be 64 for me this week -- see that end game a bit more clearly than our twenty-and-thirty-something friends. Yet it takes only a maniac driver, a bungee cord failure, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time to end those celebrations forever.

It changes our perspectives and we realize that the greatest gift of all is the opportunity to live the lives we are living as well and as happily as we can, no matter how old or physically challenged we might be. And yes, I know -- that can be a challenge when days are hard because we don't feel well or are concerned as we care for another, when the work days are long. We must try as best we can to keep our emotional houses in order and not sweat the small stuff, or to find at least one or two good things from every day to hold onto, whether it is the purr of a cat, the unexpected encounter with a friend, a walk in the garden. We learn that in being kind we are treated kindly; that in sharing what we have, others will share with us. In savoring our happy days and moments, we find there are more to savor and even if there aren't all that many, they will be better for the savoring.

For some of us, birthdays will be different, perhaps sadder, because we will be missing some who always celebrated with us in earlier times -- our moms and dads, sisters and brothers, friends who live far away. They may be different, simply because of schedules. For the first time in my life I will have a birthday without either family or Rick at hand. He will be on the seat of a bike and several days later we'll have a delayed birthday -- all the more fun for extending the celebration. I, however, will be celebrating with the one person in my history who would have loved that Judy Holliday movie so long ago, my friend Suzanne. I doubt we'll watch "Bells are Ringing." But then, it's Suzanne, with the home movie theatre and tens of thousands of DVDs recorded and dubbed over time. So, anything is possible!

If I have learned anything over these years, and I think I have, the lessons are those not simply those of building career or a bank account. Those things may help us have a good life and ensure a relatively secure future but they don't make one in and of themselves. I prefer to think of my life as having built relationships, all of from which I have learned. I have discovered passions, some of which I have worked to perfect and expand upon and others that were fleeting but helped me grow. I've learned to relax, to remember that stress makes me sick. I think of how well I have been in the past two years of retirement, how I've been able to take care of my health and make my life even better. I will try hard not to let myself go there again. I'm far from perfect but I have tried to stay curious and interested and learn new things, not be judgmental and smile a lot.

It usually works! So, make a wish! I'll tell you mine. I wish I could live happy and healthy and surrounded by people I love for a lot more years! (And maybe I'll toss in a bonus wish to return to Europe because it's my birthday!)



The French Hutch said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR JEANIE! How I enjoyed all to these photos of you through the years. I can see happiness and fulfillment in that big beautiful smile of yours. Birthdays do change over the course of a lifetime, the sweetness of youth with dolls and frills for gifts to a beautiful bottle of favorite wine and the gift of friendship. Blessed are those of us who enjoy the later ones..............

Happy, happy birthday sweet friend,

JimDeLine said...

Another nice piece by a great writer and friend. I'm assuming that now you do double check that the bungee cord is always up to safety standards, don't you?

Sue in the Wood said...

Happy Birthday! How wonderful!
No, I don't remember anything until I was about 18 months old, but then it was mostly day-to-day things during WWII!

Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Happy Birthday, Jeanie! Thanks for the gift of this wise and moving post! I so agree with you that it's the relationships we build throughout are the key to a fulfilling life. Hope today is wonderful for you -- as well as the delayed celebration with Rick. It's always fun with birthday festivities can go on and on!

Janet said...

Happy Birthday, Jeanie!!! I love seeing all your old photos and hearing the stories that go along with them. So cute when Nancy helped you open your present. You always make me think about things and this post really did that. I have #72 fast approaching, and I can tell you my perspective has definitely changed. I'm not morbid but I realize there are only so many years left to do all the things I want to do! I better get busy!!

Anonymous said...

I am on a train to Toronto where we will soon meet . I look forward to it!! In the meantime know that I still love you at 64. And I will still feed you and the rest of the song . Love always , riCk

Joanne Huffman said...

Best Birthday wishes - fun, friends, family, art, theater, and dining...Enjoy yourself and do something scandalous.

tantemary said...

Rick still loves you, life is good :-) (I read the comments!)

Happy Birthday, dear friend! This is a wonderful post and like you, I've recently been viewing some photos from the past. We all look much better in hind sight than we thought at the time!

Have a marvelous day and continue that program of good health! Your last photo is gorgeous!

Kitty said...

I love your birthday musings. May it be a very special day, week, year. You deserve them all! Love to you and Rick.

Anonymous said...

How beautiful you look in all those photos.
That is a wonderful wish for me too.
Happy birthday and aloha from Hawaii.

Betsy@My Salvaged Treasures said...

What sweet childhood birthday memories! Happy 64th birthday to you! Eat cake and drink wine. Cheers!

Retired English Teacher said...

I love, love, love this post. I love how it captured the essence of YOU! I've been thinking about that smile of yours. It truly does light up your face. You have the most genuine smile. Maybe, that is because you have decided "to smile a lot."

I'd say at age 64, you have learned the important lessons of life. Live as happy as you can with the days you have left and surround yourself with people that you love. I hope you get to Europe too. Truly, this post gave me the best uplifted heart today. Cheers, my friend. I celebrate YOU and your birth.

Shelia said...

Happy Birthday, Jeanie! Oh, how I've loved seeing all of these sweet precious snaps of you as a little girl. What a little doll, then and now! I just love your smile and your spirit!
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

Kailani said...

So you are 37 days older than me! :)

You are lucky to have so many birthday pictures of yourself. Not sure why, but almost none of me. Oh wells. Very lovely, wise post.


anno said...

Great pictures, Jeanie, reflecting a life well-lived with beauty, generosity, enthusiasm, and love -- may all your wishes come true!

Happy Birthday!

Arabella said...

Happy birthday! What a lovely post, I think your readers get the gift. Great photos and what fantastic childhood memories, may you have many more great memories to come.

Victoria Zigler said...

Happy birthday!

This is a beautiful post, and I hope you get your birthday wish.

If the second wish comes true, and you find England being part of that trip to Europe, be sure to let me know; especially if you're going to be in the South-East of England.

In the meantime... I hope your birthday is a happy one, which will become another wonderful memory to cherish later.

Jemma@athomewithjemma said...

Fantastic photos and a heartfelt, beautifully written post.
Wishing you a lovely Birthday!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Happy birthday, Jeanie! I hope that you have (had?) a day that is as wonderful as you are! And I really hope that your birthday wish comes true! There is so much wisdom in this post! I'm glad that you are in such a wonderful place in life and are feeling healthy! That's a huge blessing that one should never take for granted. I hope that there are many many more birthday cakes and celebrations to come. I'm glad you got to spend your special day with a friend - and it will be nice to extend the celebration when you see Rick later this week! :)

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Oh Jeanie, those were the days in black and white memories. The puffy dresses at the birthday parties; today what do little girls wear to a birthday party? I'm guessing sweatpants or those tight things too old and inappropriate for them...but these were the days. HAPPY ALMOST BIRTHDAY! We are so blessed to have breath ticking each second as the clock ticks with us. Count your blessings. I AM! Anita

Arti said...

Happy Birthday, Jeanie!! Yes when that song first came out, didn't we all try to imagine what we would be like when we're 64? And now as we see that mark not as a distant future but more an imminent reality we marvel at what life is now, definitely something we could not have foreseen. Your post is wonderful as always but here you have the first draft of a visual memoir. I wish you many more pages to fill in the coming years!

Tammy Chrzan said...

Your older photos are absolutely gorgeous!! What classic beauty you have displayed!
Happy Birthday!
I hope you have a wonderful weekend!
Tammy x

shoreacres said...

I laughed and laughed when I realized that 64 is in my rear-view mirror, and I never even thought of that Beatles' song when it came along!

I think it's wonderful that you'll be having a second celebration with Rick. I'm firmly convinced that we all should have birthday seasons, just like the Christmas season or Easte season. One day just isn't enough, especially for some one like you, who knows how to make the best of every celebration!

psychelyn said...

Happy Birthday. You have wise thoughts about counting birthdays. You must be leading a wonderfully, joyful life. It shows in your pictures, ypu are vibrant and happy from childhood to present. I wish your wishes to be granted and more bonuses and blessings to come. I'm so pleased that we met at least in the blogosphere. :)

Jennifer Richardson said...

So full of life:):):)
Grinning at the bundle of living you've always been.
A spark! I love your firefly ways:)
So much happiness to you as you do your 64th soar around the sun.
I believe it's going to be a beautiful ride:)

Marilyn Miller said...

Oh Jeanie, What a special birthday remembrances and thoughts. I love your summary of the years. I know it was a special day, but of course you must keep on celebrating just because you can.

Tracy said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belated dear Jeanie!! I'm sorry to be late to the party! But what a great party here... LOVED all the pictures, and your stories! :o) I don't remember many childhood birthday, not from when I was very little anyway. I do recall a big stuffed Snoopy--I think that was my 8th birthday. I was never big on celebrating my birthday, even when I was younger. I'm not good at being the center of attention... LOL! I enjoy celebrating other folks' birthdays though! A good meal, some wine...I'm happy. Anyway, hoping you've been having a FABULOUS week celebrating YOU!! LOVE that last pic of you--your smile is just the BEST, so infectious!! :o) ((LOVE of LOVE & BIG HUGS)) P.S. I'm a big Beatles fan, so fun with the song reference...

littleRamstudio said...

Wishing you many happy returns of the day Jeanie, with each and every one filled with cake and friends near to hand.
Your post brought a tear to my eye, a perfect mix of memories, joy and just a little sadness.
If you do find yourself in Europe don't forget to visit York!
Heather :)

~*~Patty S said...

Hope you are still celebrating your beautiful life dear Jeanie.
Things do have a way of changing don't they.
What I would give to have a piece of the Butterkreme torte my mom used to always make for my birthday. There was apricot between the layers of yellow cake and butterkreme (said in a German accent!) too...she always decorated with toasted sliced almonds = YUM!
I think I've said it before...you have such great photos of your childhood and what a darling girl you were AND are still.
May all your wishes come true!
Happy Happy Birthday month and year to you!

vicki (skiourophile) said...

Belated Happy Birthday - and there's nothing wrong with a life happily measured out in cake!

Anonymous said...

I so enjoyed this! I think u got 8 candles for your 4th birthday cause your mom gave u 2 candles per year! Birthday parties just carry wonderful memories. And I know more people who decide no parties and no gifts as we get older, but I think our one day a year should be celebrated, and I love how u celebrate life!
- cousin bonnie

Tamara said...

Happy Belated Birthday Jeannie. This is a lovelly reflective post - I agree with your reflection that a happy life is more about how we care than how much we have in the account. I never really reflected on Birthdays until I started travelling with my dear friend. She couldn't celebrate birthdays until after she turned 60 - before then she worried that birthdays were 'defining her'. Me - I think birthdays are to be celebrated - because that's one day in the year when you are the centre of attention and you deserve it - hope your birthday with Rick was great too...

Popular Posts