Yesterday was my birthday. I turned 44. It was my favorite kind of day, quiet and unplanned. My husband and kids waited on me hand and foot. “Are you having a good day?” they kept asking. And I was. I wrote and read, took a long walk, swam and joined the kids in a water balloon fight.
Every year on my birthday, I love to rejoice in the ordinary. Let the day unfold and see what special memories arise.
Last year, my son and I walked down a country road and took tons of black and white photos. It was truly a gift watching him discover a passion for photography.
He took these photos that day:
For my 40th birthday Lee and the kids took me to dinner at an old inn with thick white tablecloths and older men at nearby tables dressed in navy sports coats. When dinner ended, we walked down the road to the old New London Barn Playhouse that’s held Summer Stock theater since 1934. The musical playing was Cats. It was my third time seeing it, but the first since discovering that it was based on T.S.Eliot’s poem The Song of the Jellicles.
We sat in the front row of the once hayloft balcony. The performers were so close, maybe just 20 feet below, that it felt like they were singing to us alone. Sitting in the darkened theater with my husband and children, joy fluttered in my chest and I wondered, Could it get any better than this?
And then it did. Toward the end of the musical, Grizabella, the old glamour cat, stepped to the front of the stage and began to sing Memory, the song based on T.S. Eliot’s poem Rhapsody on a Windy Night.
See the dew on the sunflower
And a rose that is fading
Roses whither away
Like the sunflower
I yearn to turn my face to the dawn
I am waiting for the day . . .”
As the notes left her mouth, the children, sitting on either side of me, clutched my hands. I couldn’t take my eyes of the luminous woman standing in the glow of the spotlight.
Not a sound from the pavement
Has the moon lost her memory?
She is smiling alone…”
And then the theater went black – a power outage. The aisle lights went out. The fans stopped turning. The audience collectively sucked in their breath. But the singing never stopped.
Engulfed in darkness, the lyrics washed over us.
All alone in the moonlight
I can smile at the old days
I was beautiful then
I remember the time I knew what happiness was
Let the memory live again…”
And then on her next high note,
Grizabella was suddenly awash in a slanted, yellowy light radiating from the back of the theater. (Later, we’d find out a quick thinking stagehand used the entry ramp to position the headlights of his Chevy!)
It’s so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun
If you touch me
You’ll understand what happiness is
A new day has begun.”
Had it ever. If this was the start of 40, bring it on.
Leaving the theater we saw that the entire town had lost power, and the four of us walked hand in hand down the main street lit entirely by the glow of dazzling starlight.
Do you have a favorite birthday memory?