So this is sixty. Doesn’t feel much different than my fifties which ended yesterday. Well, I do have a bit of a back ache this evening, but that’s been going on intermittently for the last few decades and is, I suppose, due to the creeping joys of osteoarthritis which is also definitely in my knees. My knees complaining on stairs was one of the reasons why Tommy and I relocated from the Aerie some years ago. A four story house with forty-two steps from top to bottom became less and less of a good idea with each passing year, especially when whatever you needed was always on a different floor than you. We tried to solve that by having a set of common household items on each floor but then they would migrate and there would be four pairs of scissors in the dining room and none where they were actually needed.
The world has been reaching out to wish me a happy birthday today – one of the positives of this age of social media. I’ve had birthday greetings from every continent other than Antarctica. It will take me a while to get back to all six hundred of you who reached out but I will eventually put a ‘Thank you’ if nothing else on each message. The big celebration is this coming Saturday – it’s my thank you to all of those in this community who have helped me through the last four plus years of hell courtesy of widowhood and Covid. People have no idea how much they have done for me by just being a presence in my life as I’ve navigated through some mighty treacherous waters these last few years. It’s why I plan to spend at least my active retirement years here in Birmingham. I am much too embedded in this community to want to wrench myself out of it. Now if Alabama will stop regressing back to the 19th century at every opportunity.
As a birthday gift, I was taken today for my first mani-pedi. I rather enjoyed it and my nails certainly look the best they’ve looked in decades. While I was sitting in the chair with my feet soaking in lavender scented water (no Palmolive dishwashing liquid was involved – Madge the manicurist lied), I let my mind wander back over other milestone birthdays so I thought for everyone’s amusement, I’d run them all down.
1962 – Birth – I have no recollection of this but I have been told that I was indeed there. I arrived in the wee hours of the morning at Grace New Haven hospital as my father was on the faculty at Yale at the time. I read my mother’s letter to her mother about my birth some years later. I don’t recall much of it (and I don’t think it was preserved for posterity) but I do remember my mother writing that I was wide eyes and wondering from the very beginning, drinking it all in. I like to think I’m still that way.
1972 – Age 10 – I felt too grown up for a big friends birthday party so there was a family gathering with a couple of my close friends from the neighborhood. One of my favorite series of books at that age was Elizabeth Enright’s stories of the Melendy family of New York. In the last of the four novels ‘Spiderweb for Two’, Randy and Oliver, left behind at home as their older siblings head off for high schools in the city, are occupied with a prolonged treasure hunt full of rhyming clues. My mother stashed all my birthday presents in hiding places and created similar rhyming clues that we all had to decipher. I got stuck on the one about a ‘cradle where she used to lay’ until I figure out that it was referring to the cradle where my father’s sailboat would sit in his workshop for drydock repairs.
1982 – Age 20 – I was in the throes of directing my first full length musical (The Pajama Game) and my birthday fell on final dress. I still have a soft spot for the show (even if it is a musical about sexual harassment in the workplace) as it’s got such a great score and I remain friends with my leading lady to this day. I figured out I was actually pretty good at the directing thing and thought about switching from premed to drama but decided that I didn’t want to tie my life to a career that might depend more on luck than on hard work and ability.
1992- Age 30 – I was halfway through my fellowship in Geriatrics at UC Davis and my mentors there took me and Steve out for dinner at our favorite restaurant, Max’s Opera Cafe at Arden Fair. The two of us went out to Max’s a lot. The gimmick was that all of the servers were also vocalists, mainly the music vocal performance majors at the local colleges, and your waitress would have her moment with an aria or Broadway diva number between your salad course and your entree. Steve and I became such regulars that the pianist on the weekends, whom we befriended, had entrance music for us when we were led to our table. Mine was ‘With So Little To Be Sure Of’ and his was ‘Don’t Cry For Me Argentina’. I treated myself by buying a Hirschfeld print of Bette Davis.
2002 – Age 40 – This was my first birthday without Steve, who had died about nine months before. This was my year of running away. I spent as much time as I possibly could away from home on any excuse I could muster. I was dating, if you could call it that, a gentleman who lived in Michigan whom I had met a few months before on a cruise. We would meet up in various cities for the weekend and do some exploring together. For my birthday weekend, we were in Washington DC as the annual American Geriatrics Society meetings were there. For my birthday, he bought us box seats for the opening night of the summer long Sondheim Celebration at the Kennedy Center. The show was Sweeney Todd with Christine Baranski (good) and Brian Stokes Mitchell (not as good). Sondheim was in attendance but I didn’t get to speak to him. I treated myself by buying a second Hirschfeld of Judy Garland to commemorate my Mrs. Norman Maine columns.
2012 – Age 50 – Tommy and I were visiting my family in Seattle and he and my sister, Jeannie, cooked up a birthday party for me at her house with most of the family in attendance as well as some old Seattle friends (a number of whom had been at my 25th birthday party a quarter of a century earlier). Tommy and Jeannie spent most of the day ganging up on me and teasing me about various things (they were good at that when they got together). Tommy, as always, spent a good deal of time in the kitchen putting the food together but I believe he bought the cake at a local bakery. I did not buy a Hirschfeld.
Not much to report from Covidland today. I’ll get back to it later. Too busy reading birthday greetings.