Approaching my 25th birthday, I had a midlife crisis. Having always been precocious, the early advent of said crisis shouldn’t have been a surprise. But it was.
At 25, so I thought, I had to grow up and be an adult. I needed to pay my bills on time, get my oil changed, quit wasting money, and become a responsible (unmarried) matron.
Appalled at such a future, I threw myself a birthday party – the last blow out of my misspent youth before donning sensible shoes and alphabetizing my spice jars.
At the time, I lived in Milwaukee with the ex who was not yet a husband. We had a house in the city on a tiny lot in a solid, staid working class neighborhood. Knowing the party had a potential to get out of hand, we invited the entire neighborhood thinking if folks were invited they were less likely to complain.
I woke up the morning of my birthday, stood in the bathroom gazing into the mirror and absently reached for my birth control pills. As I prepared to swallow the pill, the insight that it was ridiculous, wasteful and potentially damaging to my body to take a pill I didn’t need. The ex who wasn’t yet a husband had been certified sterile by a number of doctors. My first act as a 25-year-old was to throw my birth control pills in the bathroom trashcan.
Folks began arriving in the late afternoon. It was one of those open invitation parties – y’all come and bring your friends. They all came and they did bring their friends. It was very soon a full blown, rock the world party. Given the number of people, we could have been much louder. We were loud, mind you, but not as loud as you might expect with a 100 people in a backyard that was roughly 20×20 feet.
The cops arrived shortly after the ex who wasn’t yet a husband dumped my boss (rolex, expensive Italian shoes, and clothes) into the hot tub.
We quieted a bit.
I told folks that I did not want gifts and most complied. However, one guy I didn’t know (and still can’t figure out who invited him) gave me a gorgeously wrapped gift. Nonplussed, I opened it. Inside were 25 rolls of toilet paper because, he said, “You’re full of shit.”
I have no idea how he could have known ahead of time that I am like I am. But since I am full of shit, those rolls remain one of the most memorable birthday gifts I’ve ever received – from a complete stranger in the midst of absolute chaos on a small Milwaukee city lot in a staid working class neighborhood.
The party ended. The neighbors weren’t too mad. Well, they were mad, but they got over it.
About that time, not knowing anything about plants, I decided a little landscaping was in order. I planted morning glory seeds. It was August in Milwaukee and, of course, nothing happened. That was, I believe, my first failed attempt of many at morning glories.
By November I was impregnated by a sterile man and became a sober, responsible, married matron though I never got the hang of sensible shoes.
Other than small family affairs, I haven’t had a birthday party since.
As posted earlier, HMOKeefe and I had plans to spend a week in Berkeley Springs to celebrate my birthday. In retrospect, I remember being a tad puzzled that we were due to check out the morning of my birthday. But in the weeks leading up to my birthday, I was working between 64 and 75 hours a week. I didn’t have a lot of time to ponder things too much.
As it turns out, some lowlife wandered into the barn we were renting and stole my camera and one container of HMOKeefe’s medications. Said lowlife left the jewelry sitting on the kitchen table and HMOKeefe’s much (much much) more expensive camera. When we were sure that the two items were indeed gone and not just misplaced, I got that oogy feeling you get when someone has invaded your space. The barn which had previously been too wonderful for words became a little creepy. We decided to leave on Saturday.
I arrived home to find that my mother had cleaned my house. She’s done this before, so I didn’t think too much of it. My son arrived in the wee hours of the morning. I awoke Sunday morning to a refrigerator full of tinfoil wrapped racks of ribs. I knew he was coming and I knew he was cooking dinner for my birthday. I wasn’t surprised at the sheer amount of food – like his mama, Chef Boy ‘R Mine prepares far too much food.
HMOKeefe and I left to go look at cameras at the mall. Daunted at the cost of replacing my beloved camera, we returned home to find balloons and signs hanging up and down the road as well as a car with Michigan plates in the driveway.
I left a quiet, orderly house to go to the mall and came home to boxes of beer, champagne, and sub sandwiches, people, and camera flashes popping.
They came from Michigan, and Texas by way of Michigan. From San Francisco and Huntington and Kentucky. (The Columbus folks were thought to be lost and wandering the backroads of Balls Gap, but it turns out a medical emergency kept them at home. Anna – take care of yourself.)
They got me good. I never suspected. Many (certainly not all) of my favorite people spent my 50th birthday with me. Other than my family members, most of these people I met online. The others through work. Paid labor and the intertubes have been very good to me.
My son cooked a monumental feast for my Monday birthday. On Tuesday, Fed Ex arrived with the live lobster. By the time everyone cleared out on Wednesday, the refrigerator was empty and the trashcans were full of wine, champagne and beer bottles.
On Sunday I was too flabbergasted to react. On Monday, I started becoming overwhelmed at the significance of what was happening. By Tuesday, I couldn’t talk about it for fear of sobbing.
HMOKeefe left a few hours ago and once again it is just me and the puppies. The full impact is just now hitting me.
I have never been so loved. I have never had such friends.
On the morning of my birthday, I discovered that my morning glories, seeded late, were blooming. For 25 years, I have planted morning glories and for 24 of them nothing happened. I wandered around the yard taking pictures of them with the camera HMOKeefe left me until I can get the wherewithal to purchase a new one.
I started making the connections.
The son that arose from trashing the birth control pills the morning of my 25th birthday party arrived and cooked for my 50th. The party of mere acquaintances I had for my 25th became a party of dear friends for my 50th. The raucous, police intervention party of my misspent youth turned into a not sober, but delightful fellowship of good friends. The morning glories I planted too late when I was 25 have become the morning glories I planted too late in my 50th year. The former did nothing; the latter are blooming. (I think there’s a metaphor there.)
And unlike 25, I am not having a crisis (okay, not any related to turning 50). I’ve been strangely excited about my half-century mark for awhile now. My 20s were good. My thirties were great. Forties were bumpy, but mostly terrific. I expect my 50s to be fabulous.
And thank you all. Those that were here and those that weren’t. I still can’t talk about this without tearing up. Y’all will probably never know what it meant to me.