My mom has this fear of dying the week before her birthday. Sure, I inherited her flair for drama about things like this. But really, this is not an example of that fine quality. She says that when people die dramatically just before a birthday, news reports always round up.
She can point out specific examples of this that go back years. Like when a woman in Chicago sadly died when icicles fell from a downtown building and crashed into her car's windshield. She was out in the city with girlfriends, celebrating her birthday.
"A woman died downtown today," my mom recalls the anchor saying, "one day shy of her 30th birthday."
"SEE?!," I remember my mother saying into the phone. "It's like I say. You can't even die with the dignity of that last day of being 29."
And so, please God, if I kick it before all the dishes from this party that are currently soaking in my kitchen sink are dried and put away, please let the nice lady in the blond bob and huge lapel pin tell the world I was still 39.
My parents threw me this party that no one was sure I'd want to have since I haven't exactly embraced this whole WOOHOOOO, 40! time. But I am not a lady who will pass up the opportunity to throw down pink sequins and create a signature cocktail. Not even for a birthday year that feels bigger than I am.
So my mother laid out a spread -- pulled pork sandwiches, quesadillas, salads, cupcakes from Dinkel's. I rallied guests to help mix up batches of what my dad insisted on calling the Forever Young (for the record, ladels of it will make you feel Wayyyy Old in the hungover hours, so be wise and hydrate like you never did when you really were young). There were fifteen people in the my home who I really adore and for a few hours, there wasn't any worry of what I age I was...about to turn. It was just fun and these were just my friends and family and those were just sparkly dollar-store glasses and plastic rings and tiaras and wands nested in a hot pink boad I definitely do not pull out of the closet enough.
Oh, and there was a new pair of shoes for the occasion. Ridiculously high, crazy-neon suede heels that make a downstairs neighbor insane and make short ladies look delightfully leggy. Those shoes may have made the rounds to a few other ladies' feet late in the evening.
There was laughing and raunchy stories and bottles of prosecco popped after gallons of the Forever Young faded. After my parents slipped away and my friends left, I stretched out in bed with the gift bags left there for me where the coats and purses once were.
There were many thoughtful and unnecessary and wonderful gifts. In one envelope marked "for your spirit," one friend put a gift certificate for five yoga classes (ahhh) and in another marked "for your habit," she tucked a gift card at a favorite shoe shop. There were delicious smelling bath stuffs, a big floppy Samantha-esque sun hat, a credit at the shop where Lil E pores over Lego watches while I study cases of carefully-made bangle bracelets and handmade clutch purses.
I felt an ache of loneliness. I wished the Not Boyfriend was beside me while I laughed at the cards and untied the ribbons. I would have loved my girlfriends to stay just a little longer. My apartment felt empty. Lil E had checked in on a call, asking loudly over the sound of my 40th Bash Soundtrack blaring Gotye and then Michael Jackson, followed by Nicki Minaj and Nine Inch Nails, how it was going, what we were doing and if we were having fun. But that felt more than hours earlier.
It wasn't a bad ache to feel. Those people who'd been in my living room, drinking gin from a dispenser and eating my mom's cooking know me have known me for years, some decades. They know me from camp, high school, grammar school, the first parents' meeting of preschool. Life and parties and weddings and divorces and births and our kids' kindergarten graduation have happened and things are pretty much the same between us as they were when I was 37, 27, 17, 7.
That ache is familiarity and love and wanting more time together in the future. It also may have been a bit of gin and pomegranate juice working itself over on my emotions. But mostly it was lovey-gooby stuff.
I was exhausted. But I thought about the icicle lady just before I fell asleep. I prayed for her 29-year old soul. Then thanked my lucky stars for my 39-year old self and all the good people who are with me, even after they are gone.