Monday, June 4, 2018

Turning 35, or How I Grew Up and Learned to Take Care of My Own Self

We rented out our first condo when we bought our first house.  Then we sold the condo.  The closing was March 1st.  The heavy duty cleaners were coming on February 28th.  Between the paperwork and the decision making and the scheduling, the 27th was the only day available for dealing with the mess the renter had left behind. 

The 27th was also my birthday.

My girlfriend called TBG and ripped into him, big time.  How could he allow this to happen?  How could I possibly spend my birthday this way?  Her outrage filled his head, an outrage that doubled and tripled and quadrupled in size as her rant went on and on.  She was calling him out, demanding that he take better care of his wife, implying that she was more concerned with my well-being than he was.  He told her to mind her own business, hung up the phone, and called me.  

"Are you okay doing this?"

I'd considered it, of course.  I love my birthday.  I always want it to be special.  I relied on friends and family to make it so, and they rarely disappointed me.  But that year there was no choice; the work had to be done and I was the one to do it.  We no longer owned two homes... as long as I could get the dessicated Christmas tree out of the bottom floor without ripping the molding off the door frame.  Pouting would get me nowhere.  This was adulthood - real life screwing with my birthday, a girlfriend adding to the bordering on toxic mix.

I decided to put myself in charge of every aspect.  After arming myself with all the cleaning tools in the land, laden down with all manner of bags and boxes and brooms and ladders, I drove to the bakery.

Yes.  The bakery.  The woman who decorated every birthday cake for every child I'd ever feted was ready for me.  YOUR birthday?!?!! It will be gorgeous!!!  I reviewed my plan for the day - dust and schlepping and garbage and rubber gloves - and she replied "Followed by a bubble bath and champagne!"

And there it was.  The perfect plan.  Hard work, necessary work, family supporting work followed by total indulgence.  With my strawberry shortcake birthday cake ordered, I drove to the condo, our first Own Home, and cleared out the detritus of a rental gone bad.

If there is a prettier site than neatly bundled trash outside a newly stripped to the baseboards two story apartment I don't know what it could be.  I stood there, in the alley, under the gloomy clouds, in the freezing wind, and admired it for a lot longer than one would imagine it might have been able to hold my interest.  But it did. It was a gift I'd given to myself.  I sang the birthday song and went to pick up my cake.

She'd decorated it with a bathtub, a champagne glass, and lots of bubbles.  I toted it carefully home, kissed the kids and the babysitter, took the wine out of the fridge, and lowered myself into the tub, bubbles up to my neck, a flute of Schramsburg in my hand, soft music on the radio.  A long soak later,I put on my softest, comfiest clothes, opened the door to the dinner delivery (in 1987 this was a BIG DEAL), and put out the prepared food on the fanciest plates we owned.  

It was the perfect birthday.  I had to rely on no one else.  Everything happened on my schedule.  All the foods were those I liked.  All everyone else had to do was stay out of my way and let me celebrate.  

That birthday set the tone for all the ones that followed.  I didn't worry that no one had read my mind, figuring out before I did what I wanted, how I wanted it, where and when I wanted it.  I just asked myself and made it happen.  I didn't need a friend to motivate me, although shutting her up was certainly in the back of my mind.  I didn't need someone to save me and my birthday; I did it all by myself.  


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