My grandparents’ house always smelled of boiled potatoes and was full of dark wood: the floors, the trim, the furniture — all old, loved and comfortable. The butler’s pantry held a mysterious metal breadbox that dispensed a seemingly endless supply of cookies. (Just don’t eat the Archway ones with the jelly centers because they were Nana’s.)
At the appointed hour on any given weekday, anyone who was in the house gathered in the front room where the TV sat on a metal cart. I had to carefully pick my seat. There would be no jumping around.
“Shhhh, quiet now,” an adult would say. “Our stories are on.”
“Like sand through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.”
I didn’t understand the stories, but would spend the next hour happily swiping my hands through the pillars of sunlight streaming in the windows, the dust magically swirling about as if it were alive; as if it were dancing.
“Like sand through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives” came to mind last week when I experienced a universal, unavoidable and annual event.
I had a birthday.
I’ve approached most of my birthdays with joy. I have lived another year! Learned more lessons, loved more. What’s not to celebrate? Even in the middle of a several-year, horrible birthday stretch I (warily and) happily raised a glass of adult and bubbly beverage. I greedily and unapologetically dug into the flaming cake. I love birthdays.
Except that one. It wasn’t the age which is not a milestone, not a midpoint of a generation and carries no perks. No, it wasn’t a number … it was me.
Thanks to a medication side effect of little appetite, cake held no appeal. Another made a Prosecco toast inadvisable. Snow stuck me at home, and my family seemed more excited about a football game and what I could contribute to the snack table than they were to toasting me.
No usual day of celebration. I had a pity party instead.
Like sand at the bottom of a mid-life hourglass, I have a heap of experience throwing pity parties.
I silently watched a Property Brothers marathon.
I did laundry.
I didn’t even get out of my jammie pants (although I did throw on a sweater on the off-chance someone might take my picture).
I sighed, a lot. A few times during the day I whipped myself up into tears as my previously held view of aging disappeared and all I could see was sand rushing through the hourglass of my life.
The people in my house noticed, but any attempts to make me feel better only succeeded in making me feel worse.
I hid behind a screen and tapped open Facebook.
LO! There was a party going on … and I was the guest of honor.
So many happy, kind and jubilant greetings! One of my friends even posted a symphony that reminded her of me.
I know that they were just words on a virtual page from people who were reminded that it was the day of my birth by the Facebook brain, but all of those people are on a list titled “Friends” for a reason.
It was the best damn party that I never could have planned and exactly what I needed to help shut down the pity party.
That birthday is now another grain of memory sand from my own story, but the feeling of it reminds me of those magical swirling pillars of sunshine: stagnant then animated by a simple act that created a sweet memory I will hold dear all the days of my life.
Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. For more of her writing, go to thehistorychicks.com.