I’ve noticed that lots of writers do poems or prose pieces when they come upon significant birthdays and since I hope to be a writer if I grow up, I thought I’d mention that I turned 60 this month. A herd of my compatriots, all born in the Year of the Horse, 1954, have done or are doing the same. It’s both exhilarating and excruciating to be the center of attention so that it will be with both regret and relief that I watch time gallop on until I am the one picking up duty-free whisky for someone else (Eileen), or practicing making penuche frosting for a birthday cake request (Nina), catering a weekend at the ocean (Susan), popping by with flowers (Anna), making me some gorgeous earrings (Madelaine),treating me to a mani-pedi (Chris, the unclassifable), or contributing to the whole Facebook blizzard thing.
Festivities began early in the month with a small group of us who rented my two favorite cabins at my favorite ocean resort, The Sandpiper at Pacific Beach. What with five women, I knew there would be too much food but we had a professional caterer (Susan, wittiest woman I know and my copy editor)to organize everything. In the car on the ride down, we had A Conversation about Bacon that went, to the best of my recollection, like this:
Susan: I thought about getting a pound of bacon but then thought better of it.
Elena: I love bacon, especially at the ocean on a cold morning.
Gwen: I get Hempler.
Susan: Thick cut cooks up the best and did you know bacon should be baked in the oven, not fried on the stove?
Elena: I don’t eat enough bacon.
Gwen: A pound of bacon is a good thing to share with a group. Else one might eat the whole thing alone. . . in a locked room.
A shout of laughter was followed by a silence in which I, at least, recalled times I had closed myself into a room to eat something I did not want to share.
Our first morning at the ocean, Gwen disappeared early in her Murano and returned with a stack of newspapers (Susan needed crossword puzzles) and a pound of bacon. My wish was someone’s command, I guess. Being the center of attention has its rewards but it can be excruciating for a reasonably healthy human being. I enjoyed not having KP duties or having to cook, but I dealt with the near constant deference to The Birthday Princess by getting the giggles a number of times, usually over things that were not inherently funny at all. If I think about it I can still laugh til I cry over the following:
Nina was telling the story of the time her then eight year old daughter (and my piano student) Jocelyn went to Sweden with family friends.
“Was that a non-stop flight Seattle to Stockholm?” I don’t know why I thought I needed to know this. “They must have had to stop at least once somewhere—like Minneapolis or something.”
“That’s right,” Nina said. “They had to pick up all the other Scandinavians who were going to Sweden.”
My actual birthday was yesterday, Tuesday, the day I paint with (a different) Susan and Madelaine (aka Hillaire Squelette who did the cartoon for my memoir.) We’ve been painting every Tuesday morning for five years. Five years. Yesterday Susan gave me a gratifyingly odd card, which she had been holding onto for years to give to someone when the occasion fell on a Tuesday. It’s a picture of two enormous feet coming through the end of a contorted pipe.
“I can do that,” it reads. “But not on a Tuesday. For that is my day of thrust in the opposite direction.”
There’s an idea for the rest of my life. Though I wouldn’t care to put myself through a pipe, I like the idea of thrusting in the opposite direction one day a week. . . at least one day a week.
By Susan Mrosek The Pondering Pool