Tag Archives: birthday

Almost 12. Already.

at the end of 11 years old.

at the end of 11 years old.


At the end of 11 years old part two.

At the end of 11 years old part two.


Next week, well, to be precise, in just a few days, my daughter turns 12. I am, as I always am around this time of year, a puddle of feelings. Friday is, unbelievably, the 10th anniversary of my father’s death– a loss that seems very long ago and still fresh and not quite believable to me.

Last year, right after my daughter turned 11, I wrote that 11 was going to be a big year. And I was right, it has been a big year in outward ways that signal bigger kinds of changes too. My daughter grew tall and filled out. She is now taller than D, her former babysitter and our close friend. She is tall as or taller than my partner, taller than most other girls in her class. For this particular daughter– as a girl in an urban setting with her own particular interests and strengths and struggles and understandings of the world, 11 has held many milestones besides height. She is different and consequently I have shifted and am still shifting and adjusting my expectations and my understanding of who my daughter is. Not as a person really, but as a person in the developmental scheme of things.

Over this past year she became not only willing but sometimes anxious to run out of the car while I double parked to pick up something from the store, the dry cleaners, carry out food, etc. Last summer she and her friend made lemonade and baked cookies and collected a small TV table and some folding chairs as well as her working toy cash register– and went out on one of the most oppressively hot days of the year and set up a lemonde stand/ mini-bakery. Without my partner or me. She and a particular friend of hers have loved going the two blocks to play, without an adult in tow, at the toddler park that she practically grew up in. We have some rules related to safety and she carries a cell phone, but she plays in that park on her own. That fact represents for me the two threads of where we are right now. Young enough to want to play in that park, old enough to go without me.

This past set of changes are bittersweet and thrilling and unknown. Watching her change before my eyes is touching and deep and then raises all kinds of question marks about my own future and identity. For now, I’m very much a mom, but it is very different from before. I’m a little off balance in a way similar to but so different from the off-balance of having a new baby in the family.

As a mom I think strategically. But it’s no longer about those infancy questions about how I’ll get a shower or feed myself, or the toddler questions about how I will get some time to myself but quite the opposite. I see certain struggles of hers and I figure, I now only have about xx years (still figuring out how many) to really get in there with her and have some influence. But now she and I and she and my partner share jokes, confidences. And now, 12 nipping at our heels.

The other night, she grew sullen and upset about something between us. I had some real attention and I sat her down and said, warmly, openly– tell me, tell me about all the disappointments (in me– and related to what we were talking about)– “I want to hear all of it”, I said. And I meant it. She had a kind of loosely knit set of things, and she talked to me for real and I listened. She has been a child who always wanted me very near, who complained if I wasn’t near enough. But the other night among her complaints she said, “…and I want more priveleges, like going home after school alone…”

She had never walked to or from school without an adult, nor ever wanted to do so– but she suddenly felt constrained and injured by the lack of this. So yesterday she walked home from school with her friends and spent an hour and a half alone with two other 11 year old girls, before the first adult walked through the door. And today she rode a city bus across town with her friend to go to the friend’s house before her mom came home from work. Ready or not she’ll be 12 on Monday. And I cannot imagine, and I can– whatever will come next.

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Birthday gift

Yesterday– Monday– was my birthday.  Many lovely things happened over the weekend in celebration.  On Sunday, I did what I’ve done a few times in the past few years.  We invited a handful of people to meet me anytime they wanted over the course of two and a half hours– at my very favorite neighborhood coffee shop and we reserved the big table up front, reservation being a thing allowed only to old regulars like myself– and we sat for hours with different friends who came and went and talked to me and to my daughter and partner and to each other.  I drank two great iced decaf Americanos with half and half and talked to people I love.  If you are someone I love and weren’t invited, please don’t take offense– I didn’t do a thorough job with the guest list.  I invited people I don’t see enough, people who live really, really close by– and a few people who are really special to me, but not my regulars.  

Later, Sunday night, one of my oldest and best friends and her partner and son cooked a truly incredible dinner for me and we all talked and caught up after many months out of touch. 

Monday, on my birthday, for whatever reasons, I woke up too early, feeling so sad and needing a big cleansing cry.  I got a small cleansing cry a little later in the morning and I went to work.  I felt instantly better at work, in the nice cool air conditioning and with a purpose (work) and time to get organized.  It was far from my most productive day work-wise, but, I got a few things done in spite of myself.

At work no one knew it was my birthday.  My job is still relatively new.  And I’m a woman past 50 with an 11-year-old child, and even when I was younger without an 11-year-old child, I wasn’t someone– and I am definitely not now someone, to go to work in a fancy dress, saying, things like “oh, why am I dressed up?  it’s just my partner is taking me out to (name chic restaurant) for my birthday.”  I like other people to know it’s my birthday– but I had no natural lead-in and I couldn’t quite bring myself to just announce it to my colleagues.  So I enjoyed my birthday at work, in silence.

Elsewhere there was plenty of fuss.  My daughter baked an incredibly fabulous chocolate cake all by herself.  My partner spent three days making me feel so special and gave me a card with a beautiful note that she wrote.  People I love called and texted and emailed and even sent a card or two through the regular old-fashioned mail. And then last night our neighbors who are two of our closest parent buddies, just back from two weeks vacation, invited us to join them and their four daughters for dinner and my daughter contributed her delicious cake. So there was plenty of celebration.

At lunch time I walked over to an office building about 5 blocks away with the crashed hard drive from our old computer where there is a document recovery place.  (Now keep a positive attitude and maybe I’ll get my lost data back.  For 200 and not 700 bucks.)

Even though there was plenty of fuss, it turns out that sometimes, as you get older–the real gift is not the fuss, or the gift in a box, but the connection.  While I was out on my lunchtime walk, two things happened that touched my heart and with them, I was certain my birthday was complete.  First while walking back from the document recovery place, one of my best friends, out-of-town because her father was dying, called me and cried and cried into the phone.  For a long, long time.  Her mother began years ago, and now continues to torment my friend about her being a lesbian and this harshness and meanness continues through my friend’s father’s final days.  

My friend apologized to me several times for calling me on my birthday and needing me to listen to her.  But mostly she just really needed someone to listen while she cried and I was really happy and honored to listen.  I’d been out walking in the heat and stepped into a Payless Shoe store into their air conditioning– and sat down on a stool meant for sitting while you try on shoes and we talked for 20 or maybe 30 minutes.  Or mostly she talked and I listened.  It felt like a real gift to me.

Then, I headed back to the office.  I stopped in Starbucks, bypassing a man outside on the sidewalk selling our town’s newspaper of the homeless.  He had made eye contact with me on my way in, and I had nodded that yes, I’d buy a paper when I came out.  So when I left with iced Americano in hand, I was already committed.  I walked up to him and asked him to hold my coffee while I fumbled for my wallet.  He asked me how was my day going and I said, slowly, thinking it over, it’s a good day.  It’s actually my birthday.  For real?– he asked me.  Yeah, for real.  Really? he asked again, a little disbelieving.  Yes, really it is.  Well, happy birthday, he said.  I mean really, happy birthday.  We talked a little.  I told him that I was working and glad to be working again after having been unemployed for some time.  He told me a little bit about himself. 

He showed me an article about him in the newspaper he was selling.  The article says he was recently reunited with his children and thanks the people who helped him along the way.  He offers encouragement to other homeless people to work hard and that they can get their own place and get off the street.  He writes about homeless people who have reunited with their own children as he did. 

Somehow he managed during the course of a short interaction to say, happy birthday about four times.  And he said to me, maybe three times– Hey– you’re real pretty– you really are.  (A comment that was and felt sexist when I was younger and now, at the age that I am, feels or at least from him, felt, like something different– an affirmation of the beauty of women with gray hair and some pounds to lose?)    There was a kindness there on both sides–him toward me and me toward him.

I know that with this story, I tread dangerously close to all the white middle class racist stereotypes that would hold onto the lie that a white middle class working woman in the middle of a busy workday, stopping for a kind, human exchange with a black (formerly) homeless man is something for him to be grateful for.  Or even the racist notion that the same white middle class woman, mingling with a poor black man is enriching to us white people in a strange, distorted patronizing way– like being a tourist in a foreign land. 

But for me, it was a small moment where two strangers dropped that stuff about class and race and gender that divides us– the stuff that cannot really be dropped at all– but was dropped anyway, for a just a minute– and connected.  He stopped me because he wanted me to buy his paper.  I told him it was my birthday because I wanted him to wish me a happy birthday.  I wanted to talk to him as myself and not as another passing white woman.  And then we talked for real for just a minute.   

I paid for the paper and wished him good luck and I walked away.  Then a few steps up the block, I circled back and asked if I could take his picture and post it on my blog so I could remember him and my birthday wishes from him.  So here he is– my one-time birthday friend.  Thank you, Mr. Phillip Black.  I forgot to ask, but Mr. Black, Happy Birthday to you too– whenever it comes around.

Mr. Phillip Black
07.16.12

A Birthday, An Adoption, A Yahrzeit

In that order.  I won’t look back right now, but I think I write virtually the same post at this time every year.  Maybe you haven’t read this blog for long, or maybe you haven’t remembered enough for me to be embarrassed for the repetition.  Or maybe, with things in life, like birth and death and adoption, it’s ok to repeat oneself.

May is a big month for me.  A month of no particular significance in my life until after I was 40 years old– but a big, huge month for me now.  On Sunday, my daughter, born in 2001, will be 11 years old.  I am already thinking a lot about that age and what it means– to her and to me and to us.  I am thinking about her and what I’d like to write about her and what I want to wish for her in the coming year.

Her birth and her adoption were obviously two different events– and I was there for one and not the other.  It is still unfolding year by year and I am still learning –as is she– what these facts mean to her– and what they mean to me.   In some ways the facts of her beginnings and then the facts of the family she got– have given her an interesting and broad perspective.  I know she loves the family she got and we so love her.   This year it was also more open and visible than in the past, that this part of her story– adoption– is a hard thing to carry with her.  I don’t think I’ve written them– but there were two different nights this year when I came home to find my daughter laying on the bed, crying and crying, openly and brokenheartedly– with my partner laying next to her, just tender and listening as she cried about her birth mother never having chosen to meet her.

Nine years ago today just three days before my daughter’s second birthday, my father, who was quite ill but not expected to die, died very suddenly and unexpectedly.  I was already grieving about him, because he was so ill.  But he when he died  I had not said goodbye and I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.  But I did.  I had to.  So we have a yahrzeit today and a birthday later this week.   I am full of so many feelings and I am at work and doing my regular things and at home a candle is burning and I do very much, miss my father.

Sampler; Week of November 28 and Happy Birthday

Today is my wonderful partner’s birthday.  We have an unbelievable number of very usual, and very important things to manage this week and the past few.  Lots of schoolwork for my daughter, a school play, lines to learn (my daughter’s) and complicated costumes to pull together– the play happened yesterday.  (My daughter played President James K. Polk.  She was absolutely awesome, awesome I tell you!)

Daughter-- as President Polk, up front on darkened stage. November 30, 2011

My partner’s mother who is 87 had knee surgery earlier this month after one false start and setback last and my partner has returned home and her mother has been in a rehab facility in her home state of Indiana for the past two weeks. Now my partner has a boatload of work to do– talking to social workers and home care providers to arrange her mother’s discharge and return to her own home.   Today.

Monday night and then again last night after the school play we skipped Hebrew school to spend time with our friend/ partly-a-daughter F. (I’ve written about her.  She lived with us for a year when she was 18 and was having a tough time in life, a very tough time.)  She is like a daughter to us and pulled through those hard times.  She and her husband and baby were visiting from their home in England and we all stayed up way too late visiting them after the play yesterday.  Too late to wake up rested, but what’s a pair of mothers and a daughter-auntie to do but visit?  Which of course, we wanted.

We’re in the thick of getting ready for a trip for which we leave tomorrow morning and the trip involves some complex planning o make it all work this weekend and oh did I mention that I am helping my own mother with some very detailed, time-consuming paperwork, co-hosting a political fundraiser tonight at which I was asked to introduce Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin who is running for the Senate in Wisconsin, 2012?  And that I have a pile of laundry the size of a VW bug to do?  There are other issues, real issues, about how my daughter really wants, on a regular basis, not to go to school but that deserves its own post.

It’s interesting, all of it.  And good things are happening amidst the hard.  But I wouldn’t say it’s going easily.   I mean it’s not just all good-natured- laughing- cheery- too-busy.

It’s not smooth sailing here lately.  And it wasn’t this morning, that’s for sure.  But we did start with birthday presents, birthday wishes and oatmeal.  For my girl– my partner– my daughter’s beloved mommy.  With candles.

Happy Birthday oatmeal. December 1, 2011

The girl and the birthday girl.

And to my dear, good partner– my sweetheart, I say this;  Wait ’til next week or maybe the next when I have time to catch my breath and I’ll probably write you a post about at least 10 things that I absolutely love about you for all to read.  They’re all right there in my mind, and right on the tip of my tongue but I don’t have time to say.  In the meantime, I love you.  xo