Birthday on the Brain

Thursday Thunk

Each Thursday, I post some thoughts or bits of books or poetry I am working on.

—I call them “thunks.”

This past weekend was my birthday. I don’t make a big deal about it usually; becoming much older much faster than I anticipated as a once young boomer does not make me want to release balloons skyward or dive into a thick slice of birthday cake that takes a full marathon for this now older boomer to burn off.

But this birthday was memorable for three reasons: 1) our three children arrived for the weekend, 2) two of them are moving far away soon (one to another hemisphere), and 3) last and least important, but jarring to me, I am one year away from a milestone birthday that is five notches below a highway speed limit. I dare not speak its name. (Yes, Mom, I know having a birthday is “better than the alternative.” Kate’s quip #534.)

I won’t give much thought again to those two digits until next year, because 1) why waste time fretting over two digits (unless I am well over that speed limit), and 2) I will be preoccupied with remembering how much fun we had as a family this past weekend.

It was so fun to be with our progeny (and my mom and one of my awesome sisters)—to laugh, explore Market Street here in Corning, New York, share meals together, and play games. We love these three humans, two of whom have produced their own amazing humans we adore. Our kids support each other and like to hang out together (as do their significant others)—we are grateful for that. I appreciate that they took the time to be with me during their own very busy time.

Anyway, as I scrolled through photos of the weekend, I tried remembering how I celebrated the day—or simply existed—in recent years.

Despite my being the chef ninety percent of the time in our home—my husband’s version of cooking is #takeout—I’m not a person who easily remembers what I ate 48 hours ago, never mind what I did on a birthday 365 days ago.

However, I recalled last year’s celebration perfectly because it was unusual: Tim and I were in Virginia Beach visiting friends. I insisted we take them out that evening to a French restaurant they had never tried (because #mybirthday and #youpickyoupay. It was delish, by the way).

When I tried to recall the day in 2020, I remembered spending most of it sitting alone at Canandaigua Lake reading a book and eating lunch.

Kershaw Park, Canandaigua Lake, New York. Image: author.

The thing is, it never happened! It must have been another sunny day that summer. For when I checked my electronic calendar, it held a lone entry: “12:30 pm: Ford.” Ford is my grandson, and I often took care of him during his first two years.

Lest you think I’m a terrible grandmother for not remembering I was with him on my birthday, please note that I took care of my grandson on my birthday, which means I would rather be with him than sitting by a lake reading a book and sipping prosecco (clearly, grandparenting has upended my priorities).

Next, to truly verify my whereabouts that day, I looked at my photos. (The iPhone’s superiority over Android when it comes to organizing photos by dates cannot be overstated—this statement is directed at my husband who despises all things Apple.) I scrolled back in time and lo and behold, the entire day was before my eyes! I quickly forgave my scrambled brains and congratulated myself on a crazy amount of camera use over twelve hours.

Maggie, our oldest daughter, showed up at my door early that morning with a Starbucks shaken passion iced tea (my favorite) and a beautiful succulent. For some reason, I took a photo of her with a book delivered that day from my sister Ann (for the curious, it was Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano, and I devoured it on vacation two weeks later). I then opened a special delivery from the kids: a set of Henckel knives (my other set was deteriorating and dull due to constant use, inconstant sharpening, and a poor consumer decision at Aldi).

At noon, I headed over to Ford’s for a few hours, where he tried to walk in my shoes, eat my necklace, talk to Sully on Monster’s Inc., and throw his new cookie monster toy on the floor after a brief love affair. A digital record exists for each of these Ford events, plus more.

Upon arriving home, I was serenaded by my friend Whitney in my front yard—this being friendship in the time of COVID, we hadn’t seen each other in person for months, and I’m pretty sure we ended up in tears. Whit captured the moment and sent the photo to me.

Just before dinner that evening, my granddaughter Olivia and her parents Facetimed me from their home in Brooklyn. I have several photos of Liv clad in a hot pink tutu performing an interpretive dance with gusto.

What is missing from my album is my meal that evening—no doubt #takeout likely from Ristorante Lucano in Rochester, one of our favorite places—but there is a photo of red roses (from Tim) next to a champagne flute of Veuve Clicquot (a gift from the Brooklyn kiddos) #priorities.

Truly a great day all around, despite the memory being initially vaporized in my brain. In a convivial mood after all that fun, I likely shared the bubbly with the husband (#norecollection).

They say our memory is the first to go as we enter old age (I disagree: the first casualty is a firm chin). But I happily discovered this week that if I continue madly photographing every waking moment, then having to rummage through my brain’s jammed filing cabinet won’t be necessary! All my memories can be floating up in the cloud for easy retrieval. (My mom once asked me, “I know our photos are up in the cloud—but how do we get them down from there?” #getaladder.)

Oh, gosh, I just remembered that I need to purchase more iCloud storage. (And a ladder.)

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