July 18, Another year, another lifetime
In just over ten minutes it will be my 52nd birthday. I always find myself in a reflective frame of mind on the eve of this anniversary, as I suspect most other people do. Not THIS day, of course, I mean on the eve of their own birthdays.
I’ve had a few now of these days. Some are much more memorable than others. I remember turning seven like it was yesterday. I was so excited, I knew there would be a party with presents and cake and smiles and my kitten and best of all, my big-girls’ bike. I didn’t know that this bike would cause me untold difficulty – turning left was a doddle, but turning right was utterly beyond my kinaesthetic comprehension – or that I would spend every day in the coming months falling off until I realised I had to plan my journeys, near or far, meticulously so that I only ever had to make a left turn. Four more years would go by before I finally worked out how to balance properly so that right turns were possible.
I remember turning 14 too. It was the first time I had a birthday without my mother, who had died of cancer as the cold winter of 1975 blossomed into the first warm spring days. Daddy had passed away just over five years before and turning fourteen meant I was truly out there, on my own – not quite literally of course as my (much older) brother had taken responsibility for me and I was living with his family then. These things teach you independence.
Turning 18 was another memorable milestone – for a great many reasons. Just the day before I had finally left boarding school, which had become my home from home. I recall standing at the top of the school’s driveway waiting for the taxi to collect me to take me to the train station, being the last person to leave, with tears rolling down my face, so unsure of the future was I. The next day, on my birthday, I met my husband. Of course, I didn’t know then who he would become, but we hit it off instantly, becoming the very best kind of friends. I’ll tell that story another time!
Then came many years with small children, growing girls more excited about my birthday than their own, if that were at all possible. Natalie passed every single day between turning three and turning four asking ‘Is it my birthday tomorrow?’ – we repeatedly explained that Daddy, Donna and finally Mummy would all have their birthdays first before she would have another one. Clearly the milestone of passing Mummy’s birthday meant she knew she was on the home straight!
On becoming thirty we threw a party, since I hadn’t had one since I was seven. There was food, wine and a bouncy castle. Everyone had a go – even Aunty Doreen, whom I had never seen so much as giggle hitherto. It rained whilst we were all bouncing on it, big, fat globules of summer rain that drenched everyone and turned the bouncy castle into a swimming pool. Such fun!
When I reached forty, I had been playing in the summer mixed hockey league, with just the best bunch of hockey players imaginable – The Roosters – and they all insisted that I come out of goal for that evening’s match and play centre forward. I got to score a goal instead of saving it thanks to the generosity of my team-mates. It was so much fun!
Since then, we’ve made very little fuss about birthdays. They are days when people send cards or messages, full of good cheer and fond memories. Family usually phone and chat for a while. I usually get to choose what to have for dinner. It’s all very lovely and I adore every moment of the day.
But, maybe I think that there is still that little girl inside me that bubbles with excitement about just what might happen, all the possibilities that I still want to accomplish and the knowledge that someday soon, I AM going to achieve them all. Who knows?