I am 38 today. Ever since we discovered the brilliant Jay Hitt and his heart-rending "Twenty-Five Years Ago," I have used two rubrics to take stock on my birthday:
25 Years Ago
I was thirteen. My father excitedly informed me, a few weeks before my birthday, that he had two tickets for us to see Tina Turner at the Run-Down Theater in Supersecret Nearby Town. He had to explain who Tina Turner was, because it would be six more months before the spectacular second act of her American life began. But he told me everyone in the audience except us would be from the West Side of Supersecret Town, and that the atmosphere would be absolutely electric.
Then I found out that August 25 was the opening night of the Fireman's Fair in Other Supersecret Town. Now, in my defense, the Fireman's Fair was and still is the juvenile social event of the year around here: carnival rides, junk food, games of chance, an opportunity to sweat buckets in one of your spiffy new fall outfits while catching up with people you haven't seen all summer. I told my father that I would rather spend my birthday at the Fair with my best friend SdL than go to the show with him. So he gave the tickets away.
When it occurred to me to apologize, oh, ten or fifteen years later, my father said there was nothing to apologize for: when you're thirteen, your friends and your social life are everything. Of course, my father never wants me to feel bad about anything; but he had a point, and I try to keep that in the forefront of my mind now that I am about to have a thirteen-year-old in the house.
Tonight I am going to the Fireman's Fair.
Half My Life Ago
I was nineteen. I'm embarrassed to say I'm not at all sure how I spent my nineteenth birthday. On my eighteenth birthday, my mother made me a cheesecake topped with chocolate shavings, my grandmother brought me hot-pink cabbage roses, and I had my picture taken with both of those things--wearing one of my father's old undershirts knotted tight around the hips, my hair in an early attempt at the Millay bun, my face as pink as the flowers. Then I went out on the town with my friends, most of whom were leaving for college the next day. On my 21st birthday, I had a masquerade party on the stage of Supersecret Theatre at Supersecret College.
On either my nineteenth or twentieth birthday, I went skinny-dipping in the ocean with MB and TF. That's as close as I can get.