But as I grew older the symbolism changed. Thirteen meant I was not a teenager. Then sweet sixteen and I never really knew what that signified. Eighteen was the legal age of consent and shortly thereafter I married for the first time. By my twenty-first birthday I had started my family. By 30 I was a single mother with 5 kids. What had started out as marking milestones was now becoming more of a habit. The cakes got bigger and the candles got hotter. By the time I reached 40 I was settled into what would become my middle age with my husband that would prove to be my last. We lived a very comfortable life. The kids left home and we adopted a grandson.
My 60th birthday found me a widow with a pre-teen son. It was at this time that I began toying with the idea of a "bucket list". Now be aware that I said "toying with the idea." An old woman with a teenage son does not have time to entertain many ideas at all. First get him through school and out into the world and then figure out my life. That proved almost an insurmountable task, but now it is finished. He has a home and a new son and needless to say, a woman to replace me. So here I set contemplating my birthday.
Let's take stock of the situation. I have no goals set on the horizon. I guess I do though. Take this morning. It is a blessing. I woke up, stood upright and am taking nourishment. I have my day planned. I am going to go buy Ziploc bags to bag up 25 pounds of flour that was given to me to take to Los Pobres. I am going to make a batch of cinnamon rolls to give away. This afternoon I have a lady to set with so her daughter can catch a break. I digressed there for a moment. Back to the birthday thing.
I guess what I am trying to convey here is that when I was young and my life stretched out on an endless path before me, birthdays were important. Now they are not. At some point they stopped being celebrations and became more of mileposts on the way to the grave. Every time I add a year to my age, I get closer to not having another birthday. The good Lord in his wisdom gave us only so many years. Some he did not give so many, but some he gave a lot. I am afraid I am one of those to which he has given a whole lot. I see my life behind me and I look ahead. I see no hope of a quiet peaceful death any time soon. The body keeps functioning and the mind keeps working and the grass keeps growing. And I keep mowing it.
I wish life had come with an instruction book. But if it had, would I have read it? If I had read it, would I have followed the instructions? I knew on some level that my first husband was going to be a mistake. But I forged ahead. Had I not, I would not have all my children. I can not imagine my life without my kids. And my grandkids. And my great grandkids. I have made lots of mistakes, but there is no getting the toothpaste back in the tube, as my mother used to say. Sorry is a word that is over used because in my life "sorry" just doesn't even touch it. But here I am, alive and well. One of my kids tells me "What doesn't kill you makes you strong." I expect I am one strong bitch by this time.
So, I will mark another year down the tubes and prepare for another to come. That is how we do it here on earth. Some day the good Lord may see fit to reach down and tap me on the shoulder. When that happens I am going to listen this time. And my kids will stand at my memorial and say nice things about me. Maybe. At least I hope so.
I remember how overwhelmed I was the day we buried my mother. That was a lot of years ago, but the loneliness is still there. Kids just have a special bond with their mother. My kids will be no different. I hope they can take comfort in knowing that I loved them all. I loved everyone the same; not one more than the other. Each one was special in a special way. At the risk of becoming morbid, I need to wind this up and go bake something.
So Happy Birthday to me! Another one in the books as we used to say after a catering job or when one of my wedding cakes went out the door. Enjoy this day. Enjoy your next day. Love your family and love your friends. Do a good deed along the way and smile at someone on the street. You have today. Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday. There is no tomorrow.