Birthdays


It’s my birthday. I realized it last night when The Daily Show announced the date.

If it wasn’t for money being short, I’d be obnoxiously satisfied with my life.  There aren’t many rules and most of them are fluid.

The ironies that made me laugh when I was young are barely different now. (The Three Stooges were a favorite only because Dad banned them from the house.)

Humans mouthing Corporate Speak as if their edges have blurred  and people ganging up on weaknessthose things still knock me sideways.

Bank of America reminded me Monday how near the edge I am — even during my birthday week.

When I asked the teller if I could put a sign on the bank’s outside doors to let people know our food banks were running low, her face settled like a key in a hole.  “Bank of America won’t let you hang up a sign,”  she said.

Things have been marginal in the village for a while. The hardware store closed a few years ago, followed by two restaurants, a couple of realtors and a fitness center. There’ve been others but recounting the disappeareds doesn’t help.

Besides, it’s no different in your neighborhood. The locally-owned supermarket is penned on all sides by box stores. Artists sit in empty shops and the man who owns the health food store has aged this year. Our cashiers are teens whose parents are unemployed. The young guy folding clothes at the laundromat stares self-consciously at his feet. Neither he nor the cashier got their  college loans for next semester.

In all that economic want, our village sports three banks. One. Two. Three. In a rural village that can’t support a hardware store, we have a cornucopia of banks. The biggest is Bank of America though its stock is falling.

I stared at the teller and the blinding plate glass windows behind me. All that empty, pristine space.  Scenes from The Matrix danced in my headshards splattering like a crystal xylophone.  In another birthday year, I might have thrown a rock. I might have picketed. I might have railed at the stunned number-cruncher behind her knee wall.

I’m not a dewy-eyed optimist, but I like my birthday. I like the tasks that come with aging. I like the flow of breasts sagging and butts drooping. When I was little, I wanted to be Jewish. “How lucky,” I thought, “to celebrate for eight endless days and nights.”

That early disappointment in Chanukkah’s shortcomings  was surpassed the day I turned ten.    “Eve’s Curse” clamped my life in an iron jaw. It was ghastly. I knew what it was but thought of it  like Death–something for others, never me.

Being a girl wasn’t in my cards. I still smelled like a mushroom-y kid, for pete’s sake. My bath water still turned gray after a day in the barn or on the baseball field or climbing in the trees.

The next day – the day before I turned ten — JC called me a “girl” and I spent my birthday in detention for bloodying his nose.

But the deepest cut of all was to come. As Mom’s German chocolate cake melted on my tongue, Grandma snorted. She’d heard my whispered birthday wish. “The Cleveland Indians aren’t gonna’ let a girl be a ballboy,” she said, cuffing my head.

Ten years later, as I popped a slip of chocolate mesc in New Orleans and jumped into The Gulf, The Paris Peace Accords were being signed. Though it skipped my bedraggled mind  that day, I haven’t forgotten it since.

This birthday is something else. Barack Obama’s first interview as our President was with Al Arabiya. Conyers subpoenaed Rove again. Children around the world are being born and  named Barack.  George  Mitchell is on his way to the Middle East. Pastor Warren’s narrowness will fall of its own strictures.

The world is shifting and when we aren’t holding our breath, we’re clasping our hands in glee. I’m so pleased to have made it this far.

Happy birthday to me — for the next eight days.

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